NY Philharmonic Lawsuit

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by brianrost, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Not sure if this is OT in this forum, but an interesting article from the NY Times, 7/22/05:

    The New York Times
    July 22, 2005
    Violinist Dropped by Philharmonic Goes to Court

    For Anton Polezhayev, a promising violinist with a few midlevel competition victories under his belt, winning a coveted seat at the New York Philharmonic at the tender age of 26 was deeply fulfilling.

    But, he says, as the months of his probationary period went on, he watched a parade of seven violinists win permanent jobs or march past him in the section. They all had one thing in common: they were women.

    And one day, orchestra officials abruptly told Mr. Polezhayev to pack up his violin and leave after the 2003-4 season. He had failed his probation despite, he says, strong reviews of his playing.

    So Mr. Polezhayev, now 29, did something rare in the seemingly genteel world of classical music. He sued, charging the Philharmonic with sex discrimination in denying him a job and accusing it of a pattern of preferring female violinists.

    He named as defendants the orchestra; Carl R. Schiebler, the personnel manager; Glen Dicterow, the concertmaster; and Lorin Maazel, the music director. He is demanding a permanent job, back pay and unspecified damages. Whatever the merits of his case, the matter sheds light on the internal dynamics of a world-class orchestra.

    The lawsuit was filed yesterday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan just as the orchestra was arriving in Colorado for its annual concerts at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

    Philharmonic officials declined to discuss the case, saying they could not comment on a pending legal matter.

    But Fiona Simon, the chairwoman of the orchestra committee, which represents the musicians and was involved in the decision along with other members of the string section, scoffed at the notion that Mr. Polezhayev's sex had anything to do with it.

    "He didn't get tenure because he wasn't doing his job," Ms. Simon said. "None of the rest of it is in the least bit relevant." Ms. Simon, a violinist, said that women received no preferential treatment at the Philharmonic.

    Other orchestra administrators, without knowledge of the specifics, said they had never heard of such allegations.

    "I just think it's about having the chops," said Rita Shapiro, the executive director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington and a 20-year veteran of orchestra administration. "You'll get the job if you're good. I think gender is immaterial."

    She added, "It's not even the culture in our business to differentiate whether the person is a female or a male player."

    Violin sections in American orchestras generally have the largest proportion of women, especially at the Philharmonic, where 20 out of 33 violinists are women, according to the orchestra's Web site.

    Filing such a lawsuit in the close-knit world of top American symphony orchestras would seem an efficient way to incinerate a career. Mr. Polezhayev said in an interview that he would have been blackballed in the future anyway for failing to pass probation. Several orchestra administrators said, however, that failing to get tenure was relatively unusual and did not necessarily mean that all hope of a future job was lost.

    "They are damaging my career and embarrassing me in front of my colleagues and pretty much putting a black mark on me forever," Mr. Polezhayev said. "At this point, I feel it's more important to stand up and do something about it."

    Mr. Polezhayev joined the second-violin section in September 2002. In informal conversations during the spring of 2003, he said, Mr. Dicterow told him there was no problem with his playing, and Mr. Schiebler said his work was "perfect." But the following February, he was fired with no explanation, Mr. Polezhayev said.

    The lawsuit said his complaints about "discriminatory practices" might have helped motivate his firing.

    "Everybody says Anton is incredibly talented," said his lawyer, Lenard Leeds. "We can't figure out the reason why the Philharmonic won't give him tenure, except for gender discrimination."

    Mr. Polezhayev was born in Leningrad. He emigrated with his parents - both musicians - in 1990, and lives with them in Sea Cliff, N.Y. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music and played in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra before joining the Philharmonic. He took part in several competitions, winning the Grand Prix International Violin Competition of Pierre Lantier in Paris and taking fifth place in the Paganini International Violin Competition in Genoa.

    Mr. Polezhayev has shown an ambitious, and savvy, edge. In a January 2004 article in The New York Times, about a month before he was denied tenure, he was quoted as saying that he wanted "to keep moving - to a first violin chair up front, a principal, first chair, maybe even concertmaster." He said that winning competitions was "excellent for publicity."

    Some wind players complained that he once acted rudely in turning to look at them during a moment of bad intonation, but Mr. Polezhayev dismissed the story, saying it was untrue and spread by a few malicious opponents.

    * Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I simply can not imagine that happening. :)
  3. Bull. It's hard to say whether his case has any merit, but the amount of ignorance it would take to say that is somewhat appalling. Of course it matters, and of course it happens.

    Granted, it's been the history or "culture in our business" to discriminate against women. This is the first time I've ever heard about this in reverse, but I wouldn't be so quick to deny it. It's possible they have been trying to help change things and have inadvertently short changed a male.

    Speaking of gender discrimination, has anyone heard about Marin Aslop becoming music director for the Baltimore Symphony? Supposedly the musicians are extremely dissatisfied with the choice, despite the fact that she is the first female to become music director of a major American orchestra.
  4. Ben Joella

    Ben Joella

    May 31, 2004
    Boca Raton, FL
    Bad intonation, or looking at the source? :)
  5. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    New Yorkers complaining about rudeness? Now that's funny!
  6. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    complaining and rudeness goes well with guilt and shame...
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    It could very well be his chops (or lack thereof,) but out of the number of symphonies and orchestras I've seen, there's maybe 1 male in the violin section for every 8 or 9 females. Can't say I wouldn't be surprised if he had a very good point.
  8. I was under the impression that most orchestras hold screened auditions. I read somewhere that in one orchestra, female candidates were instructed not to wear high-heels, or wear any perfume which might give away their gender to the auditioners.

    Another thing - if Mr. Polezhayev is successful with his law-suit, and gets a "permanent job" (with the orchestra, I assume), I wonder how he will be treated by the other members of the orchestra? I can hardly imagine him being hailed as a hero - more like a prima donna, I would think. Perhaps they'll make life so uncomfortable for him that he'll resign anyway… (then perhaps he'll sue them for making his life a misery, unfair dismissal, laughing at his accent, looking at him in a funny way, hiding his bow, taking his parking space… etc. etc.)

    - Wil
  9. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    That sort of thing comes up in every wrongful discharge case where the award of the job back is part of he remedy when the plaintiff wins. Plaintiff's lawyers love it when an employer does it. It gives the plaintiff a "twofer" case.
  10. As opposed to the Met, I don't believe for a minute that the NY Philharmonic does not know who is playing.
    I have no vested interest, and no opinionon the issue. I just have to smile and think turnabout is fair play.
  11. bassbuz


    Jun 21, 2005
    I don't know anything about this lawsuit, just the article posted, but this quote of his doesn't make him sound like much of a team player Whether you've got chops or not, that would do it. It's about fitting in day to day, not sticking out and not pissing off everybody around you (if possible).
    about the female thing, of course they're going to blame it on that. give me a break.
    no motto as of yet.
  12. Ohhh yes - Bassbuz has the right idea. Chops DON'T ever automatically = great orch player. Plenty of friends have chops but are impossible to get along with due to such endearing traits as extreme arrogance, stubborness, not being musicians, "my $h!t don't stink" syndrome, not practicing, not counting, not blending, falling asleep, competive vibes with everyone in vicinity, etc.
    As if the poor saps think everything is their practice room. A rather self gratifying exercise in annoyance.
    From the article:
    "They are damaging my career and embarrassing me in front of my colleagues and pretty much putting a black mark on me forever," Mr. Polezhayev said. "At this point, I feel it's more important to stand up and do something about it."


    This Poleman has personally ensured his very own black mark in the black mark hall of fame.

    BTW, friends, why hasn't anyone discussed the recent bass player NYP suing to get his tenure??? It would seem a natural progression to discuss both as I'm sure this gentleman's choice to sue may be motivated by the winning of the section bassist in the same suit.
  13. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    Just my slightly late opinion....I'm friends with Anton's brother and talked to him about it. As much as it seems he might have a good case (and I do think he does), I've been told more often than not that during your probation period, an orchestra can fire you for any or no reason at all. I don't particularly think this is right or fair, but it's just a part of the business.
  14. It is the norm in the business world, music or otherwise. It's the employer's escape route if some problem with the employee developes like they don't work well with others, have annoying personal habits, have tardiness problems, show up drunk and/or stoned everday, etc. (I'm not thinking of anyone in particular, just being hypothetical) that override their actual job performance. It's impossible to know without a doubt during an interview or audition whether or not someone will really work out or not. That's life in the big city. I think lawsuits are bad news in most cases like this. I think its best just to suck it up leave with dignity and learn what to do differently next time. Even said, this comes from someone with no children and no mortgage. The sad thing is that many times no real reasons are given for the dissmissal, since any specific issues could be contested by the employee in a lawsuit - i.e. Firing someone for substance related issues is illegal without giving them the chance to get treatment first. This creates an atmosphere of parannoia among the other employee's and doen't teach the guy who got canned anything either. In my opinion it is bad for society and the economy.

  15. bassbuz


    Jun 21, 2005
    we're also forgetting that holding auditions is a pain - money and time-wise. I think that if they decide to let the guy go, they have reason to. Because, in fact, he's not getting fired. they're letting him go. another option could have been tell him what's wrong, extend his tenure period, and see what happens. I don't think i'd like to be the guy (worse the woman) sitting with this fellow.
    people are refused tenure all the time and end up with great jobs elsewhere. he sounds like an excellent fiddle player. I'm not worried about him getting a job. maybe just not in my neck of the woods.
  16. Justin K-ski

    Justin K-ski

    May 13, 2005
    Intrestingly enough anton's brother Simon is a bass player. He's in my studio with Mr. Levinson at juilliard pre-college. I had never even heard about this.

    It's going to be intresting to see where this goes. However, I have a feeling that if a woman made the same accusations she would be hailed as a hero for women's rights. Reverse discrimination is all too common in this day and age.
  17. Most orchestras go "one-further" and place carpets on stage so people can wear whatever shoes they want, and noone will hear them clicking away.

    Regarding tenure; It's been suggested by veterans that more people who lose tenure do so because of personality problems and "votes-of-no-confidence" than for anything else... this article makes it sound as if this is the biggest problem in this case, too. But what can we know, just from reading an article? Orchestras have the "release for any cause during probation" in the contract for just this reason... they surely have a cause....
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I have noticed that sections in orchestras seem to have more and more women - but as is being pointed out here - maybe it's not a case of discrimination, but rather that women are naturally better "team players" ?

    I have no exeprience of "life in an orchestra" - but I have been a member of the institute of Personnel Management in the UK and this is something that is frequently discussed.

    So, men are more likely to be competitive in their jobs and more importantly confrontational - which is what is being highlighted in this case.

    Whereas women tend to avoid confrontation and would much rather work together to achieve consensus as opposed to worrying about who is right and wrong.

    I have worked with a lot of women in business and there have been times where I felt I was just being honest and "calling a spade a spade" - where a woman manager has said it would have been better to bring this up quietly outside the meeting, rather than risking provoking confrontation.

    I think men see this as "pussyfooting around the issue" whereas women see it as "working together to achieve common goals"?

    We're just different - but I can how the female approach might work better in a large section who have to get on...?
  19. bassbuz


    Jun 21, 2005
    actually, the orchestra world is, from what I've seen, one of the last bastions of male chauvinism, sorry. My sister has been on the other end of your kind of reasoning. She has preferred to shut up rather than lose what she's got. Put up with harassment from the older guys to unwanted advances on tour from the younger ones. I also know of one girl who wasn't renewed because she didn't play along and was part of a more guy section (brass). a girl that stands up for herself is still called a b----. Please. don't go down that road at high speed. there's a reason why there's a carpet. it's not so guys don't get discriminated against behind a screen. Many of you guys are talking about guys they know in the symphony or guys that know guys there. ask. many times. get many opinions. When I didn't get the job, wasn't because the girl got it. It's because my playing sucked. :scowl:
    I have yet to see reverse discrimination for real out here.

  20. And all this is going to be discernable from the sound coming from behind a screen?