Ojai Music Festival calls on Eugene Mayor to help OBF secede from UO

9/22/2017: Bob Keefer has the latest in the EW here:

Thomas W. Morris, artistic director of the Ojai Music Festival in California, has urged Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis to help the beleaguered Oregon Bach Festival secede from the University of Oregon and become an independent non-profit organization.

In a letter emailed today (Sept. 22), Morris wrote that the sudden and unexplained firing of OBF artistic director Matthew Halls on Aug. 24 harms not only the Oregon Bach Festival but hurts the image of Eugene itself. …

Uh, thanks for trying to help Mr. Morris, but the City of Eugene couldn’t even manage to keep the Jacobs Art Gallery open, or run the Mayor’s Art Show.

Also see this RG letter from longtime UO supporter Tom Bowerman:

I agree with the bulk of written commentary about the University of Oregon’s dismal explanation of Matthew Halls’ dismissal. My position began to solidify on reading UO’s written explanation, which seemingly explained nothing.

There is a pattern here and it has consequences, especially regarding some of the fiscal and reputational costs to the university. My thought in reading the UO’s explanation was: How much does the public relations team get paid for type of work? And the settlement costs?

Couldn’t these costs, across the broader pattern, in the millions, be better spent on education quality? …

And the UO PRO has now updated the PR log with some recent requests from journalists for more Bach docs.

9/18/2017: Did OBF’s Janelle McCoy run a harassment investigation on Matthew Halls?

If so it would probably be a violation of UO policy (see below), which requires that those receiving “credible information” of racial harassment report it to AAEO, which then decides on the investigation, etc. And yet the most likely interpretation of this new NYT report regarding the grits joke and the implications for the Bach Festival of the subsequent firing of Halls is that Ms McCoy decided to investigate Mr. Halls herself:

Mr. Mobley said he had thought no more of it until several days later, when he got an email from Ms. McCoy asking about the conversation, which had apparently been overheard and reported. “These insensitivities should not be tolerated,” she wrote in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Mobley replied to her that while the broad outlines of the story were true — Mr. Halls had indeed spoken in a drawl — it was “not quite put together correctly.” He noted that he and Mr. Halls often teased one another.

“Trust me,” he added, “it’s been a couple patrons and audience members who’ve unknowingly said pretty insensitive things. Not Matt.”

The story was picked up by British media outlets. But Tobin Klinger, a spokesman for the university, said that the conversation with Mr. Mobley had not been a factor in Mr. Halls’s firing. And a lawyer for Mr. Halls, Charese Rohny, said that Mr. Halls “was never presented with anything that required a response” regarding any inquiry before he was fired.

Given Klinger’s truthiness record, his statements get a weight of 0.00, and reporters are making public records requests to try and find out what really happened. UO has not been listing these requests on the official log – a new low in official UO transparency, and one which perpetuates the selective leaks, official innuendo, and unofficial rumors which have characterized this mess.

The last OBF request was Bob Keefer’s, for the Halls contract and termination letter:

The relevant policy is here. Some excerpts (emphasis added):

III. Responsible Employees Reporting Obligations

Except as provided for in the Student Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence Complaint Response (Student Complaint Response Policy), Responsible Employees who receive Credible Evidence of Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment or Sexual Harassment involving an Employee, Student or Campus Community Member are required to promptly report that information as follows:

1. If the Credible Evidence relates to Sex Discrimination of a Student, Responsible Employees should report any information received to the Title IX Coordinator or to the Office of Crisis Intervention and Sexual Violence Support Services. (Note: The Student Complaint Response Policy applies to information disclosed by a student reporting sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual violence. That policy may provide for different reporting obligations depending on the status of the employee receiving the report. Employees who receive reports of sex discrimination (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) against a student should reference the Student Complaint and Response Policy in order to determine their reporting obligations.)

2. In all other instances, Responsible Employees should report any information received to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (AAEO).

Employees should be aware that AAEO is tasked with ensuring compliance with this policy and state and federal law.  Therefore, while AAEO will work with employees, students and campus community members to ensure that they understand their complaint options, are protected from retaliation and are provided with interim measures as appropriate, AAEO employees are not advocates for individuals participating in the process.

The relevant definitions in the policy are:

A. Prohibited Discrimination is defined as any act that either in form or operation, and whether intended or unintended, unreasonably discriminates among individuals on the basis of age, race, color, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, religion, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or the use of leave protected by state or federal law. “Unintentional discrimination” is a concept applicable only to situations where a policy, requirement, or regularized practice, although neutral on its face, can be shown to have disparately impacted members of a protected class. The concept is inapplicable to sexual or other forms of harassment which, by definition, result from volitional actions.

B. Discriminatory Harassment is defined as any conduct that either in form or operation unreasonably discriminates among individuals on the basis of age, race, color, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, religion, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information or the use of leave protected by state or federal law and that is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it interferes with work or participation in any university program or activity, including academic activities because it creates an intimidating, hostile, or degrading working or university environment for the individual who is the subject of such conduct, and where the conduct would have such an effect on a reasonable person who is similarly situated.

H. Credible Evidence: Credible Evidence is evidence of the kind that prudent people would rely on in making personal or business decisions, which is not obtained: (1) during public awareness events (For example, “Take Back the Night,” and “survivor speak outs”);  (2) as part of an Institutional Review Board-approved human subjects research protocol focused on Prohibited Discrimination; or (3) in the context of a required classroom assignment. (Note: If a faculty member believes that a classroom assignment may illicit a disclosure that would trigger obligations under this policy, the faculty member should make clear to students that an account provided in response to a classroom assignment, without more information, will not result in the university taking any action in response to the disclosure. This means that the university will not investigate the incident, offer interim measures or otherwise take step to remediate the behavior.)

K. Campus Community Member: Campus Community Member means a person participating in a university-sponsored program or activity, attending or wanting to attend an event on university owned or leased property, an independent contractor or vendor, a volunteer, a person applying for admissions, a person applying for employment, or a campus visitor or a person living on university-owned property. The term Campus Community Member excludes Employees and Students.

9/15/2017: RG calls for UO Trustee Ann Curry to investigate Matthew Halls firing

“Bach Debacle”, here:

…  UO President Michael Schill could appease both groups of stakeholders by appointing a handful of university regents — perhaps headed by television journalist Ann Curry — to investigate. That, after all, is their job — to “supervise, coordinate, manage and regulate the UO,” a public university that, at least in this matter, is operating in a very private mode.

If, as the UO asserts, Halls’ firing had nothing to with the remark that he made to Mobley, the investigation can confirm as much. That would go a long way in restoring people’s lost faith in the UO.

Conversely, if it turns out Halls was fired because of the remark, the investigation would give the university the opportunity to come clean, hold accountable those who spun a different story and take the appropriate action to start anew with OBF.

Finally, if Halls — a private contractor, not a UO employee — was fired for crossing some ethical line, the investigation would bring that to light, too. …

And if the latter should be true, they could explain why whatever it is that Halls did was so bad he had to be fired immediately, but not so bad that UO could agree to keep it secret from his other current and potential employers.

9/13/2017: UO to pay Matthew Halls $90K for non-disparagement & gag-rule

The agreement is here. The RG’s Saul Hubbard has much more on this deal here.

It includes a promise by UO to give Halls 24 hours notice of public records requests. I’ve heard rumors of a request to UO for emails etc that might shed light on why whatever it was that Halls did was so bad he had to be fired immediately, but not so bad that UO had an obligation to warn his other employers and potential employers.

But so far there’s nothing in the Public Records Office log except the RG’s request for the contract and termination letter, which Hubbard posted earlier. So until new light has been shed on this, we’re stuck with the hypothesis that he was fired for disparaging comments about southern cuisine.

9/13/2017: UO to pay Matthew Halls $90K for non-disparagement agreement and 24-hour gag rule:

That’s from tweets from NY Times classical music and dance reporter Michael Cooper:

9/12/2017: Bach Festival’s fate passes from Blandy and the PR flacks to the lawyers

The RG’s Saul Hubbard has the latest – certainly not the last – on this unexcellent mess here, now with an unctuous libretto:

UO, through its flacks and lawyers: “The University looks forward to working collaboratively and in consultation with the Bach Festival Board to refine the framework through which OBF blends excellence in musical performance with innovative educational opportunities to create an inspired community of musicians and music lovers, … ”

Matthew Halls, through his lawyer Charese Rohny: “I have only the fondest of memories participating in this amazing community event, working in collaboration with some of the most talented and generous artists I’ve ever met, …”

Ms Rohny has a decent record of winning employment cases and collecting contingency fees from the losers, and presumably she didn’t take the Halls case expecting to waste her time.

For the curious, here’s the 2015 announcement for the OBF Exec Director job, which Janelle McCoy filled. Both she and Matthew Halls report(ed) directly to the UO SVPAA, Doug Blandy:

“The Executive Director and Artistic Director report to the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.”

9/10/2017: PR flacks Klinger and Gren can’t agree on what misinformation to spread about Matthew Halls firing

UO flack Tobin Klinger and OBF flack Josh Grens both do agree to claim that it would be inappropriate to disclose details about a personnel matter. (They claim inappropriate, not illegal, because neither Oregon law nor UO policy prevent disclosing most facts about personnel matters, with some exceptions for faculty, which Halls is not. For that matter Halls is not even an employee, he’s an independent contractor hired through Purchasing and Contract Services, not HR.)

Both then disclose various details about this “personnel matter”. Details which conflict with public records and reports in the Eugene Weekly, the RG, the Telegraph, and with each others’ statements. Neither attempts to explain those discrepancies.

My recollection is that UO’s VP for Communication Kyle Henley paid 160over90 $100K or so to develop a communication plan for situations like this. I wonder how much we’ll pay the next consultants?

It would be “inappropriate for me to comment on personnel matters”, but Klinger and Henley went into this situation with zero credibility with reporters. Their botched response to the original Bob Keefer story has harmed UO, the Bach Festival, and Matthew Halls. It’s time for Johnson Hall to “help them move in a new direction”.

Here’s the latest from the RG tonight, following up on the London Telegraph report from yesterday:

Matthew Halls was abruptly terminated as artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival following an incident in which he imitated a Southern accent while telling a joke to a long-standing African-American friend, the friend told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London over the weekend.

The friend, classical singer Reginald Mobley, said he was not offended by Halls’ comment, but believes Halls was fired when a white woman overheard the joke and reported it to University of Oregon officials, claiming it amounted to a racial slur.

… The British newspaper quoted an unidentified festival spokesman as saying that “it doesn’t appear” that Mobley was involved in the UO’s decision to terminate Halls. “Having said that, it would be inappropriate for the university to disclose details about a personnel matter,” the spokesman told the newspaper.

UO spokesman Tobin Klinger said in an email Sunday night that the spokesman cited in The Daily Telegraph story is Josh Gren, the festival’s director of marketing and communications. Klinger said the newspaper is “incorrect” in suggesting that the Mobley incident played any role in the “complex decision” to terminate Halls’ contract.

Complex decision? But Grens said in Around the O said it was all about Janelle McCoy wanting to do what the Ojai Music Festival did, with guest curators and Food Studies collaboration? Food Studies – as in grits?

9/9/2017: OBF singer Reginald Mobley criticizes woman who reported Matthew Halls for “racist” grits joke

In the London Telegraph, here: “The path to hell is paved with good intentions”

Read it all here, this is just a snippet:

The singer, who will perform in Purcell’s King Arthur with the Academy of Ancient Music at London’s Barbican next month, says that while he appreciates the efforts of some white people to confront racism, he warns it can lead to wrong headed assumptions. 

“A lot of our allies have become so eager to help the race and fix the scars they almost go too far,” said Mobley. “They think they are at the point where they understand racism more than those who have really encountered it in their lives and they make assumptions on our behalf about how we might feel, as if we don’t understand when something said to us or done to use is racist.

“It’s well meaning, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

“It also demeans and cheapens the very serious work done by civil rights activists and abolitionists to have the difficult nuances of racism and microaggressions taken seriously.”

For the record, here’s a link to the now departed UO Prof Ed Coleman’s similar comments about the response of UO law students, faculty, and the administration to Prof Nancy Shurtz’s stupid and offensive Halloween blackface.

9/8/2017: PR flack Tobin Klinger offers nonsensical explanation of SVPAA Doug Blandy’s letter firing Bach Festival’s Matthew Halls

Saul Hubbard has the latest in the RG. Read it all. It’s like something out of Duck Athletics. Halls was working under a handshake agreement, then got a huge raise, then they fired him.

You’d think UO PR flack Tobin Klinger would have learned something from his embarassing failures dealing with the Ducks’ craziness, or at least from the reaction to the discredited Around the O blog post he or some other anonymous strategic communicator put up on Aug 27, but no:

Tobin Klinger, a UO spokesman, said Thursday that Blandy’s letter was intended to “provide clarity” to Halls — not the general public — about the “full scope” of reasons for his termination.

As it happens the RG has the letter from Senior VPAA Doug Blandy to Halls. It doesn’t say anything like what Klinger claims about “providing clarity” to Halls. Instead it shows Blandy offering to conspire with Halls to hide the real reason UO is firing him from the public. Obviously Halls didn’t take Blandy up on that – though he hasn’t offered much of an explanation himself. But if Blandy’s letter was all the “clarity” he was provided, how could he?

So it seems Bob Keefer’s report in the EW, which suggests that Halls was fired because of a Jeff Sessions joke, still stands as the most likely version of the truth, for now. Although Klinger has not denied the hypothesis it was related to the hospitalization of multiple cellists after grueling rehearsals that were inadequately supervised by an orchestra physician who did not have the recommended board certification.

Interestingly, Blandy was fired as academic affairs head a month or two ago (replaced by Executive VPAA Scott Pratt, who is a significant step up in quality, despite the silly title) but Blandy is being kept on in JH, with pay until December, and apparently still gets to call himself Senior VPAA.

Blandy’s full letter and Hall’s contract – eventually put in writing – are in Hubbard’s story:

Say, I wonder if Blandy got a letter from himself offering to hide the real reasons for his termination? Or maybe he had his strategic communicator write it.

8/31/17 update: Was OBF artistic director Matthew Halls fired for a Jeff Sessions joke?

Ojai Music Festival writes to OBF & UO, discredits OBF executive director Janelle McCoy’s “guest curator” explanation for Halls firing. Bob Keefer posts the letter in the EW.

8/31/17 update: Was OBF artistic director Matthew Halls fired for a Jeff Sessions joke?

The Eugene Weekly’s art critic Bob Keefer, who broke the story on the abrupt firing last week, has more in today’s Weekly:

… An unconfirmed report from an OBF insider said Halls was the subject of a recent complaint to the UO that he had made an insensitive racial remark to an African-American singer at a post-concert reception during this year’s festival.

I tracked down the singer, internationally known countertenor Reginald Mobley. A long-time friend of Halls, Mobley said in a phone interview they were simply joking at the reception about a gala in which Mobley had performed in London that had been set in a “very antebellum, Gone With the Wind style.”

“Matt and I are old friends,” said Mobley, a Southerner by birth. “We always make fun of each other’s accents.” Halls, the singer said, quipped, “Do you want some grits?” in what Mobley called a “Jeff Sessions accent.” [UOM: SNL link here, in case you’ve been living in a cave.]

A woman at the reception later came up to Mobley and asked whether he had been offended by Halls’ remark. “I said, ‘No,’” the singer said.

Mobley was appalled at the notion that this could be the reason Halls lost his job. “Matt is the only Brit I know who is sensitive to race issues and microaggressions,” he said. “He has done nothing but great things for the festival.”

The singer said he was, in fact, deeply offended — not by Halls’ joking but by the university’s response.

The UO administration has of course gone after people for bad jokes before, and not just law professors – although I thought the Bias Response Team had been disbanded.

I’d claim that  the real mystery of this story is why Around the O and our well-paid army of PR flacks strategic communicators bodged the spin so badly, except for the fact that they always do. Read Keefer’s story for more odd twists.

[Note: My comment above is not aimed at UO’s bread and butter tactical communications people, who keep the university functioning with websites, campus information, etc.]

8/27/17 7:45 PM: Is the UO admin proactively dealing with Oregon Bach Festival problems?

And will they now do the same with the Ducks? An anonymous correspondent points me to this lengthy report from noted former NPR classical music critic Tom Manoff on the Oregon ArtsWatch blog, identifying the OBF’s tenuous financial and artistic situation:

The Shrinking Oregon Bach Festival

Declining ticket sales and choices accompany University of Oregon festival’s shift in focus and leadership


Editor’s note: this post has been updated to reflect corrections provided by the Oregon Bach Festival. ArtsWatch invited the festival to respond to the story when it was published and will publish a response if provided.

JUDGING by its 2017 program, the Oregon Bach Festival has made substantial cutbacks in programing in the post-Helmuth Rilling era. The German conductor, who co-founded the festival with the University of Oregon’s Royce Saltzman in 1971, retired in 2013. He was succeeded by the highly regarded conductor Matthew Halls.

The most pressing concerns are a decline in ticket sales, a reduction in the number of performances at the city’s major concert venue, and a substantial cut in the number of performances by professional musicians. It’s hard to know which of these developments are cause and which are effect. But either way, this year’s scaled-back schedule offers fewer choices for patrons and also raises questions about the festival’s future. …

One of UO’s strategic miscommunicators responded with this Fact-Check: Oregon Bach Festival_ Additional Context:

… Additional Information, formatted with quotes extracted from the original article alongside facts and context from OBF:

“The festival has a long tradition of opening night at Silva Hall, Eugene’s largest venue (2,700 seats).”

Silva Hall is 2,400 seats – not 2,700.

“While Halls’s musical leadership is one component in reviving the festival, important decisions are also now made by Janelle McCoy, the executive director who came to the festival in 2015.”

Janelle McCoy became the Executive Director in 2016, not 2015.

“During the transition from Rilling to Halls, OBF attendance dropped by over 50 percent: 2011 had 44,148; 2014 had approximately 20,000.”

This is incorrect. The 2011 festival had 14,502 paid tickets and 2014 had 11,360. This is a decrease of 21.6%. Most of the decline is due to fewer concerts being produced. The industry as a whole has seen a decline in ticket sales. …

But it now seems that, despite the official denial, the gist of Mr. Manoff’s critique was correct. Perhaps UO and the OBF leadership have reacted appropriately by looking for new artistic leadership that will stop adding to UO’s financial problems. And perhaps they’ll soon do the same with Rob Mullens’ problematic leadership of the Ducks?

4:30 PM: Anonymous UO blog explains firing of Bach Festival artistic director

UO has now posted a PR piece on their anonymous official Around the O blog, titled “Oregon Bach Festival looks to the future”. I don’t know why the administration dumps all over me for letting readers post anonymous comments, but it’s fine when they use public funds to do it. “Anonymous”  – can’t they at least use a screen name? – quotes OBF Director Janelle McCoy:

“There’s an emerging trend,” explains OBF executive director Janelle McCoy, “to plan a season from the perspective of a guest curator from a different field or genre and then invite conductors to participate, rather than programming from a single artistic voice. More and more organizations around the country, such as Ojai Music Festival, are using this model to expand the choices available to their audiences and participants. These choices may include disparate visions from a choreographer, stage director, or jazz musician, for example. We are eager to bring this approach to university students and faculty, as well as our patrons, musicians, and education program participants.”

Presumably she’ll give Keefer a chance to ask some follow-up questions addressing rumors that the firing is related to reports that multiple cellists were hospitalized after grueling rehearsals in preparation for this year’s festival.

12:04 PM: Bob Keefer has the scoop in the Eugene Weekly here:

“I have been let go by the University of Oregon,” [OBF artistic director Matthew Halls] told Eugene Weekly in a phone call Sunday (Aug. 27) morning from his home in Toronto. “And, as yet, I’m not sure why. It has not been revealed to me yet.”

Relative to 5 years ago, ticket sales are way down, costs are way up. (Those trends predate Mr. Halls). I’m guessing that Mr. Halls’ contract did not include the Mullenesque sort of buyout deal the Ducks have been giving themselves, and the Bach Festival does not have the power to extract more money from our students as the Duck cartel’s Eric Roedl does when Craig Pintens can’t sell football tickets.

Correction: A commenter notes that an earlier version of this post might have been construed to blame Mr. Halls for the sales and cost trends. They predate him, and in any case he’s the artistic director, not the overall director. I also don’t mean to suggest that the festival does not rely on student funds – just that it doesn’t rely on charging ASUO ~$2M for “free student tickets”. My guess is that the OBF subsidy is on the order of $600K, compared to about $5M for the Ducks. And of course the OBF might even help our “academic brand” a little, unlike the scandal ridden big-time Duck sports programs.

And I’d like to thank the Ducks for supporting UO Matters and using this post to help sell some Duck football tickets, via Google Ads. Here’s hoping Craig Pintens can use creative new-media marketing like this to finally end those subsidies from the academic side and start paying us back:

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142 Responses to Ojai Music Festival calls on Eugene Mayor to help OBF secede from UO

  1. just different says:

    Holy cow. I haven’t been following this–so what’s happening with Berwick Hall? I thought that a big reason for its construction was to provide a better venue for historical performances, since even Beall is too big for a lot of Baroque music.

  2. just different says:

    I don’t think it’s true that costs for the OBF were up under Halls. And UO does do some direct and indirect subsidy of the festival.

    • uomatters says:

      Thanks, correction noted.

    • Oldtimer says:

      Data a few years old, but Obf budget about 2.8m, w UO subsidy of about 1.5m, or more than 50 percent. Subsidy to athletics, direct and indirect is below 5 percent, not that either is sustainable, given UOs fiscal stress. I enjoy both, by the way.

      • uomatters says:

        Your subsidy estimate seems high. I think it’s only about $600K, or enough for 5 faculty, or 50 scholarships for low SES Oregon undergrads.

  3. Dogmatic Ratios says:

    Who is taking responsibility for firing him?

    • Marc says:

      Nobody, as yet. It’s the Kalends of September. We may be waiting for the Greek kalends….

  4. Bob Baldwin says:

    How about a new state law: no AD staff can be paid more, all inclusive, than the top-paid tenured faculty member at that state university. Reduce one, or raise the others.

  5. just different says:

    The transition is a strategic decision, made by OBF administrative leadership and the University of Oregon, and will keep the festival relevant in the ever-changing classical music industry.

    Translation: We have no idea what the f*ck we’re doing, so we’re going to shop around.

    • uomatters says:

      You’re making me think UO could save a lot of money on PR flacks if Google Translate would add PR Bullshit as an official language.

  6. C1133 says:

    The write-up from Manoff is not helpful at all, and must be taken with more than a grain of salt. He has long had an adversarial relationship with the UO and with the Bach Festival.

    Meanwhile: getting rid of Halls is a TERRIBLE idea. Who is responsible for this travesty?

    • uomatters says:

      The aging classical music aficionadi.

      • mindless husk says:

        How about telling us who in the UO admin really made this decision?

        If you are saying that the apparent decision of the audience and patrons to bug out is the cause, that is in all likelihood true.

        But what purpose is served by bringing their age into it?

        Yes, the classical audience is aging and fading away.

        So, apparently, is the market for a lot of things. Like liberal arts education? The American academy?

        Blaming the customers for losing interest in the business is usually not a constructive attitude.

      • Amy Adams says:

        A good deal of the “aging classical music aficionadi” was directly responsible for hiring Matthew Halls. This demographic, while enamored greatly of Helmuth Rilling’s vision and musicianship, greatly desires to secure the continuation of the Oregon Bach Festival, and saw in Matthew a very good and capable successor.

        • uomatters says:

          I apologize, I meant to say that the cause was the shrinking number of classical music aficionadi willing to attend the OBF, not their age! As for the question of who actually made the decision to fire Mr. Halls, I do not have any inside information.

          Regarding the athletics references, I was trying to make the point that the UO administration has tolerated irresponsibility and disrespect for free speech (Dana Altman, etc), dangerous behavior (working their players to the point of hospitalization with rhabdomyolysis), millions of dollars in losses (Baseball), disastrous, expensive and and poorly timed contract extensions (Mike Helfrich), continuing and increasing subsidies from our students (Eric Roedl) and long-term damage to UO’s reputation. It has then rewarded the Athletic Director who oversaw all this with a secret contract renewal and millions in raises (Rob Mullens).

          I am glad to see that the UO administration is taking the OBF’s issues more seriously than it does those of the Ducks, and I say that with no expertise or opinion on the competence of the OBF leadership (although the timeline doesn’t inspire confidence) or on Mr. Hall’s artistic abilities other than what I’ve learned from the stories linked here and some apparently knowledgeable commenters.

      • Simplius Simplicissimus says:

        That would be me (aging!). However, I stopped going to the OBF when I learned that Rillig had been “uninvited” from attending the festival, after he retired. It was the first indicator something was awry.

        • mindless husk says:

          I have heard rumors that Rilling was treated shabbily at the end. Can you say more about what you have heard?

    • Tom Manoff says:

      C1133 You obviously don’t know my history reviewing OBF. The vast majority of my reviews have been glowing, many of them included on the old OBF website. I brought the festival to NPR’s All Things Considered in a review of Arvo Paert. While my recent piece recounted the financial and programming issues at OBF, it strongly supported Mathew Halls as the keystone for the festival’s future. Sadly, the troubles I documented have now deepened to a possibly fatal level with this unbelievable action.

      • C1133 says:

        It also may have led to Halls’ firing.

      • mindless husk says:

        Do you think the current troubles — which I agree are grave — had to do with anything basically other than a failing bottom line?

        I hesitate to bring this up, but I hear a lot of rumors and questions about the entire transition from Saltzman and Rilling to Evans and Halls and now McCoy. Mostly I discount what I hear, but there seems to have been at least some unhappiness about how things have played out, along personal, not strictly musical lines. This perhaps has alienated part of the audience and patron base.

        Most of this played out against extreme leadership instability at UO, and then of course the Great Recession wreaked havoc with arts funding everywhere, as that document from Evans spells out.

        Maybe it would be better if the OBF, or what survives of it, were to become an independent non-profit, separate from UO — which doesn’t seem to be able to provide the leadership that such an enterprise probably needs.

        • Simplius Simplicissimus says:

          Does everyone here realize that the OBFs humble beginnings were a summer class taught by Saltzman and Rillig? This is part of UO history and letting it go? Only if we spin the ducks off also!

          How about making the program meaner and leaner? Halls was on to it IMHO when he made musicians use original instruments and strings and scaled things back into Beall Hall.

  7. mindless husk says:

    You didn’t see fit to post my previous entry, for some reason? But perhaps this will be of interest:


  8. Nope says:

    Eugene Art Talk had a story with a link to former Director John Evans’s long report a few years ago: http://eugenearttalk.com/2016/01/the-evans-report-on-the-future-of-the-oregon-bach-festival-oddly-censored-but-showing-the-fests-downward-trend/
    UO redacted the report, which adds to the interest. It still has the data on declining attendance.

    • just different says:

      I believe that Halls was hired in a direct response to the declining attendance in order to scale down the OBF from a big-spectacle extravaganza to an early music festival. And he did exactly that. But I guess it turns out that the retirees with the time and money to commit to a three-week festival didn’t really want Bach, they wanted big names in big venues.

      • mindless husk says:

        Excuse me, but there was plenty of Bach in the 40+ years before Halls. And generally, the “retirees with time and money” were appreciative and supportive.

        I personally liked what Halls was doing. (The statement about the future from Janelle McCoy strikes me as bizarre beyond comprehension.) But for whatever reason(s), the audience did not seem to appreciate the current Bach Festival. I doubt that it had to do entirely with the programming. But whatever. When you lose your audience or customer base, it is usually not a good idea to become bitter toward them. Because that almost always is a one-way street.

        • just different says:

          It sounds like we basically agree: The mainstay OBF audience really wanted Rilling-branded, big-budget, grand-scale events which were not at all historical Bach. Halls didn’t give them that, and from what you say the festival was also undercutting him financially, which only worsened the problem.

          • Amy Adams says:

            Matthew brought Michael Tippett’s “A Child Of Our Time” to the 2012 festival, a sumptuous modern treatment of American spirituals. He conducted Mahler here in 2015, the Rachmaninoff Vespers and the Verdi Requiem in 2014.
            He is not solely a Baroque conductor.

            And it is oversimplifying to say that Rilling had a grand-scale approach to Bach – it was more that he worked in Bach’s music as a modern scholar, a man of today who has heard Brahms and Stravinsky with modern instruments and symphonic-sized orchestras.
            (Oh, and the tuning. The B Minor Mass….in the key of B Minor. ;-) )

  9. SOMD Community Member says:

    I don’t understand why the main commentary on this topic keeps referencing the football team. The OBF and football games are different in so many academic and educational ways. It seems the idea here is to put them both in the “frivolous” column, which is uninformed and not helpful.

  10. Tom Manoff says:

    Mindless husk.

    Addressing your first question. Seats sold and money raised are the bottom line. But firing Halls and chasing shallow ideas and tacky programming are no way to restore the festival’s success. The answer was more concerts by Halls at Silva and strengthening his connection to Eugene audiences.

    • mindless husk says:

      Thanks for your reply. I agree with your prognosis, alas. I believe OBF felt that they were being prudent in pulling back financially this summer. With disastrous results.

      The connection to Eugene audiences certainly needed tending to. Even the “feel” at the final grand event in Silva (this year, the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, a staple of OBF) was different than in olden times. The Eugene audience was pleased and proud to be doing something “bigtime.” I don’t think it was just the high priced (and generally very good) orchestra. I was happy at both Beall and Silva, but obviously, 1700 tickets is better than 450. There was a warmth with the Rillings (of course, developed over decades) that just wasn’t there with Halls.

      Another thing: there was genuine religious dimension, if I may say so, with Rilling, which I believe was part of his appeal to a large swath of the audience.

      I don’t know what to do now. There is nobody at UO, to my knowledge, who can pick up the pieces. McCoy is sounding like a mindless disaster, a trainwreck of contemporary academic politically correct marketing cliches. Maybe she knows something that I don’t about the classical music business, but one could do worse even than my ignorance.

      This looks like a disaster to me. I hope the festival survives. It has survived trouble before.

  11. mindless husk says:

    The latest sounds like a parody of a Tom Wolfe novel. Truly beyond belief, literally incomprehensible. So Halls made a joke with his black pal, the splendid countertenor Mobley. Who is so angry at what happened to Halls that he vows never to come back.

    This is a complete disaster. UO deserves to become a complete laughingstock in the musical and academic world.

    Who is responsible for this idiotic decision? Deserves to be fired, and mocked forever. I doubt it was Janelle McCoy. But this would help explain the idiocy of her public statement.

    I wonder, does it go all the way up to Schill? It would be in line with his performance in the law school party situation. But a million times worse.

    I hope this all comes out. I’m sure there is more.

    • just different says:

      I doubt very much that Mobley had anything to do with Halls’ firing. It’s an incredible insult to the law students who were at Shurtz’s party to compare her blackface stunt to Mobley joking with Halls.

      • uomatters says:

        You’re right. My attempt at humor was disrespectful and racist. I apologize unreservedly. My joke was in no way fair comment, and I retract it unreservedly. I have posted a formal retraction here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7mIy97_rlo

        Please do not report me to Affirmative Action or the Bias Response Team.

        • just different says:

          Maybe you could explain which part of it was supposed to be a joke.

          • uomatters says:

            You can contact AAEO senior investigator Penny Daugherty here: http://aaeo.uoregon.edu/content/raise-concern

            I’m sure she’d be happy to set up a meeting with me.

            • just different says:

              I honestly don’t understand why you’re being so hostile about this. Whether or not you agree with the university’s decision about Nancy Shurtz, it is a fact that many law students, along with many others in the university, felt that her actions were insensitive and hurtful. As a result it was not unjustified for the university to take action. This is not at all the case with Matthew Halls joking with Reginald Mobley. Relying on “an unconfirmed report from an OBF insider” to insinuate that Halls was the victim of “political correctness” is irresponsible and inflammatory.

            • uomatters says:

              Hostile? Me? That’s a serious accusation – one that can get a UO employee disciplined, or even fired. If you really believe it, you should consider following the approved procedures for filing an official complaint with AAEO. In fact, under UO’s current Title VII policies I may be required to report it to them myself.

              Are there any classical music aficionadi out there who’ve passed the Oregon bar exam (preferably the harder classic version, not the dumbed down new one) and are willing to give me a little free advice on my obligations here?

            • mindless husk says:

              UOM: As your attorney, I would advise you that your best option is to appear on the Johnson Hall lawn on Friday afternoon. You will be given a speedy trial with the Stalin Chair of Advanced Jurisprudence acting as judge and jury. Your well deserved fate awaits you soon after.

  12. Marc says:

    Thank you for commenting on this Oregon Bach Festival débâcle (and, if you aren’t tenured, more thanks, and you ought to receive the laurel crown for bravery in the face of academic doublespeak).

    • Amy Adams says:

      Are you commenter “marcpuck”? Thanks to you, too, for weighing in.
      I hope people do not stand by and let the festival slip through their fingers.

      • Marc says:

        I am, yes. Different platforms, different usernames, different passwords– can scarcely keep track of ’em all. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, too, Amy– I see you at Fb. Are you akadams at EW? :-)

    • mindless husk says:

      uomatters would certainly be long gone if not for tenure.

      • Marc says:

        I presumed this to be the case but wasn’t sure. Sad to say, I read here during the height of the ‘blackfaced-law professor’ fever and then, life (or my life) being what it is I was distracted to other things.

  13. Terry says:

    Thanks, UOMatters for addressing this issue. The number of comments gives clear evidence that the community is very interested in this. Keep sharing news reports such as the ones you’ve linked, including Bob’s story in EW and Tom’s commentary on his blog. And urge you to keep digging.

  14. mindless husk says:

    Praise to Bob Keefer at EW. He used to be at the RG. I think everyone assumed this firing was about attendance, I did. I wondered though if there had to be a rat, it seemed so bizarre. Without Bob diggibg around, it might not have come out. (The part about the head of the board not knowing takes the cake though on botched coverup work.)

    I think I feel bad for Janelle McCoy, who is not, I would guess, behind this. Now she gets to try to pick up the pieces..

    Unless there is more that we don’t know — let’s hear! — this is about the rottenest thing ever at UO. One of the few really first rate things in Eugene and UO may be ruined.

    • just different says:

      Without Bob diggibg around printing unsubstantiated rumors it might not have come out been possible to cook up this wacko conspiracy theory.


      • mindless husk says:

        Oh dear.

        I await a forthright, honest, clear explanation from the OBF administration and the upper UO administration.

        Oh, including why even the OBF advisory board was kept in the dark for days after the sacking.

        As I said above, I suspect there’s more to this story.

        Let’s hear it!

        Meanwhile, my annual donation to OBF is due.

  15. mindless husk says:

    Oh boy. Now the letter from Ojai.

    JMc really stepped in it with her refetence to Ojai in her bizarre statement, apparently without even checking it out with them.

    This story gets more and more surreal. Let’s hear what really is going on. Is JMc just the fallgirl?

    Where does it lead? The provost? The diversity police? Schill?

    I hope the OBF board demands answers. Bob Keefer and EW keep on it (unlike the hapless RG.)

    Let’s hear!

  16. mindless husk says:

    Perhaps time for OBF backers to consider a private organization, away from the UO bunglers and liars. Over the years, too much trauma for OBF with UO. This latest takes the cake. Time to think about new things. OBF may be dead soon with the current setup.

    I feel bad about harping on this story, but OBF means too much and this fiasco is just outrageous.

    • Marc says:

      OBF should have gone that route before they managed to convince the N.s that a building on campus was the way to go forward….

      • mindless husk says:

        I think you are referring to the new Berwick building? Yes, I imagine they may be having second thoughts. Absolutely.

        I hope the big music donors are reading the riot act to UO.

        • Marc says:

          Yes, the Berwicks of Berwick Hall. I’ve fantasized about winning the lottery: would be prepared to give a hundred million of it to OBF with the proviso that they are re-founded as an organisation distinct from the UO.

          • uomatters says:

            Foundations typically plan on spending 4% of their endowment for current operations. Long-run stock market returns have averaged ~7.5% real, but typical investment strategies reduce risk with bonds and real estate, so earnings average about 6%. The extra 2% grows the principle to account for inflation and ensure the real dollar payout doesn’t decrease over time.

            Assuming that the OBF has been losing about $600K a year, that means that it could be an independent self-sustaining non-profit with a $15M endowment. This would be on top of any needed capital expenditures, such as repaying UO for any unfunded portion of Berwick Hall construction costs and the value of the land, though presumably UO would offer an installment repayment plan for those.

            It sounds like a great model which UO’s academic side would benefit from, particularly if it would serve as a precedent for the far more heavily subsidized Duck athletic enterprise.

            • Marc says:

              I’ll go out and buy that lottery ticket, then. :-)

              Is it at all likely that the UO would alienate Berwick Hall and the land it sits on, in the fantasy scenario?

              Then there’s the question of the funds that the UO holds in the OBF endowments– who keeps that money, I wonder. All I know is that when I give money to the OBF it entangles me in the UO’s fund-raising leviathan.

              Am happy to avail myself of the programs of the SOMD that’re open to the public– one of the great things about living in Eugene– and one would like to think that, in the fantasy, the OBF and the SOMD (but perhaps not ‘Food Studies’ or ‘Public Policy and Management’) would be able to find healthy and creative ways to cooperate in the famous collegial academic spirit in order to promote common objectives et cetera and so forth. I’d be indeed happy, however, to be done with the UO fund-raisers– it can’t be true but I have a nightmare occasionally in which a percentage of my OBF donations are siphoned off to support Autzen Stadium’s catering budget.

              • uomatters says:

                Don’t worry, the ~$500K for the president’s Autzen skybox comes out of student tuition dollars, your OBF donations are safe.

  17. G clef says:

    Conductor seems to be playing coy. I don’t buy that UO didn’t tell him a reason for his firing. I bet it’s a reason he didn’t want to tell….like he Violated a policy, someone, or both. Did the conductor (or a friend of his) call the weekly guy to get ahead of the story? When UO receives discrimination or assault complaints against a high profile person, do they always go public with that information? I thought they saw it it as good brand management to protect the high profile people and allow for them to get good jobs elsewhere. Wouldn’t surprise me if conductor got ahead of the story in order to shape story for his next career move, and Bach fest was caught off guard with his victim characterization. Rumor has it conductor’s social talent pailed in comparison to his artistic talent. Maybe it is like the football team. Talent over ethics? Maybe conductor went too far though?

    • uomatters says:

      I can think of several recent situations where UO administrators and PR flacks combined legalistic claims that they couldn’t talk about personnel matters with disparaging statements, hints and leaks about an employee’s alleged bad behavior. One is currently in federal court. So it doesn’t surprise me that Mr. Halls would try and get in front of the story, regardless of whether the real reasons for his firing would make him look bad, or good. And fortunately for him it’s not very hard to get ahead of UO’s ace strategic communicators. Speaking of which, I wonder when Around the O will correct its Ojai Music Festival explanation in Sunday’s anonymous posting.

      • G clef says:

        Are you talking about the Schurtz case? Is that the one in court? Seems like UO protects the deans and provosts when they do unseemly behavior. Bach is part of the development wing of UO with lots of donor money that goes to that program as well as main campus. Messaging may be a little different for a development arm than an academic arm of UO. Are any of the instances you are thinking involve development?

        Ojai messaging by Bach fest was not on point. And Ojay letter is just mean. Not sure how it’s helpful to anyone for that guy to send letter Eugene weekly. Sounded like mansplaining to me, which fits in with the patriarchal classic music world. His offer to help Bach is trash since he made letter public. Looks poorly on Ojay.

    • Amy Adams says:

      Matthew called the Weekly personally.
      Ask musicians who play and sing for MH – you’ll hear pretty uniformly warm and admiring opinions. He’s young, but with so much potential and such a good footing in both the baroque and the modern world that it was an easy fit.
      And I’m speaking as a Helmuth Rilling devotee.
      I was on the search committee that hired Halls, and no one regretted that decision then or now.

      • mindless husk says:

        That is useful info, thanks. Makes me more confident that this was all about the “personnel issues.”

        I imagine the board and the donors must be confused, stunned, and furious.

      • former music student says:

        I am a former UO music student and I sang in Halls-directed choirs many times. I learned so much from him (both at the OBF and when he came to direct projects with the University Singers), his musicianship is superb, and this firing is a travesty. It’s a huge disappointment. This alum won’t be supporting the OBF going forward…

        • uomatters says:

          It might be better to say something like “I will only be continuing my support of the OBF if …” and then add a plausible condition that the OBF might be able to meet.

  18. Seasoning Queen says:

    I agree that JMc is incompetent. I don’t agree that she’s innocent in this rigmarole. No proof, just gut.

    • mindless husk says:

      Well, if she is doing this for self-advancement, it’s incomprehensively inept.

      Maybe the real story will come out.

      • just different says:

        The real story already has come out. OBF was hemorrhaging money, so the leadership did what failing management always does: Throw bodies overboard and latch onto a shiny new “approach.” Bypassing the donor board is just more ineptitude, but the decision was already made.

        • uomatters says:

          Maybe OBF Director Janelle McCoy just went rogue with this firing. So far I haven’t heard any substantive evidence that anyone beyond her signed off on Halls’s firing. The anonymous Around the O post implied that, but that was a week ago and there’s been no new official word. Recall that, during last year’s KWAX fiasco, VP for Communications Kyle Henley was so confused that he sent out this email, which the RG’s Diane Dietz intercepted and quoted from in the comments here: https://uomatters.com/2016/03/uo-strategic-communicator-tobin-klinger-redacts-justin-bieber.html

          Does anyone know who is in charge of KWAX at UO, i.e. above the station? This needs attention, fast.”

          Kyle Henley
          Vice President for University Communications
          [email protected]

          Dietz added: Kyle Henley is a veteran communications leader who became vice president for university communications in September 2015. His portfolio includes brand management, development communications, digital communications, marketing communications, public affairs communications, and KWAX, the university’s classical music radio station.

          It wouldn’t surprise me if Henley was just as confused this time around.

          • Marc says:

            I had forgotten all about the KWAX ‘crisis’ and had never seen that email– hilarious. Was irate! last weekend but at this point, eh, one just has to enjoy the farce, I guess. I see an anonymous someone commenting at Oregon ArtsWatch to allege more Hallsian misbehavior (“Halls had for many years flirted with termination because of questionable judgement with regard to personal comportment”)– of course that could be UO/OBF propagandists at work.

            • just different says:

              I don’t want to feed the rumor mill, but I had heard that Halls was a little difficult, which probably just means that someone higher up didn’t get on with him. I would interpret the ArtsWatch comment along those lines. No one in the arts would have a job if being a little difficult was grounds for breaking a contract.

            • mindless husk says:

              Marc, I wouldn’t believe it unless something substantive comes out, along the lines of either sexual or racial harassment or discrimination.

              I have been asked or told various rumors or claims about the Evans and Rilling transitions, none of them very true or damning in reality.

              Either there was something serious with Halls, or not. If so, UO better come up with an explanation, because what they have put out so far endangers the survival of the OBF.

              If it is really as frivolous as what has come out so far, head(s) should roll.

            • Amy Adams says:

              Yyyeahh…..that comment. There are a few problematic things with it.
              “Many years”? He was hired in 2011. 2012 was a “transition” year, with an extravagant “Passing Of the Baton” theme in 2013.

              “Flirted” is an interesting choice of verb. Not one that just anyone might pick.
              “Termination” now….if this current situation is so “confidential” that no one dares to comment for “legal” reasons, then why is this little commenter all eager to share very sensitive information?

              Whose motive would THAT be?

          • Puh-lease says:

            The report found on Eugene weekly by former director John Evans, suggests that the executive director (JMc) is not the boss of the artistic director (hall), and could not have have gone rouge and fired hall by herself. It sounded like those two positions report to the same person. It seems like at least one upper admin would have info, presumably hall’s formal boss.

            • Seasoning Queen says:

              This is true. Also the ED is a staff line (FT with benefits) while the AD is contracted, I believe.

            • Marc says:

              That’s a very interesting observation– I must admit to not having read the Evans report. The Board of Directors was out of the loop, JMcC couldn’t have done it… the provost? I don’t follow UO nonsense so I have no idea why the provost would be responsible for OBF but who knows. I expect that there’s a flow chart, somewhere.

  19. Marc says:

    Wonder if the Oregon public records laws might cover any of the nonsense contributory to this debacle? While I suspect that the answer is no, Dr H. is the one with some experience in such matters, I believe. :-)

  20. mindless husk says:

    No! Keefer’s story does not claim that Janelle McCoy fired Halls! It only describes her response.

    I doubt that Blandy was the ultimate scoundrel to blame. Rumor is the new provost did it. Personally, I would guess all the way up to Schill. How could it be otherwise?

    I hear the OBF board/donors are pissed as hell.

    As they should be.

    • uomatters says:

      You’re correct, Keefer’s story doesn’t say that McCoy fired Halls. I’ve edited the post to reflect that. Thanks.

  21. just different says:

    Seriously, the Telegraph? The London equivalent of the NY Post? I understand that more reactionary readers are desperate to believe that “liberalism run amok” is a thing, but it’s destructive to spread this completely illogical story.

    • uomatters says:

      The article is mostly quotes from Mobley, which you ignore. Here’s the comparison of the two papers, from wikipedia:

      The Telegraph: The Telegraph is widely regarded as a national “newspaper of record” and it maintains an international reputation for quality, having been described by the BBC as being “one of the world’s great titles”.[5]

      The NY Post: The Post has been criticized since the beginning of Murdoch’s ownership for sensationalism, blatant advocacy, and conservative bias. In 1980, the Columbia Journalism Review stated “New York Post is no longer merely a journalistic problem. It is a social problem – a force for evil.”[36]

      • just different says:

        You must not have seen the Telegraph lately. Since you like Wikipedia’s article, here’s what it says further down the page:
        In January 2017 the Telegraph Media Group had a higher number of upheld complaints than any other UK newspaper by its regulator IPSO.[62] Most of these findings pertained to inaccuracy, as with other UK tabloids.[63]

        Mobley is correct–it would be racist for a white woman to decide what was racist. But there is zero evidence that that’s what happened. All of it is speculation. And even though the speculators are aiming at UO, they’re tarnishing Halls as well.

        • Marc says:

          “The Guardian… regulate(s) [itself and so falls] outside of IPSO’s jurisdiction. The Scott Trust, owners of the Guardian, employs a readers’ editor who handles complaints. It also runs a Review Panel for complaints that have not been resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction with the panel adjudicating according to the Editor’s Code of Conduct formerly employed by the [predecessor to IPSO].
          The Guardian told Press Gazette it had issued 4,567 corrections and clarifications from November 2014 to September 2016. It’s Review Panel has adjudicated on 14 complaints, of which two were upheld and one partially upheld.”

          My presumption is that there is probably just as much nonsense in the pages of the Guardian as in the pages of the Telegraph but that how that nonsense is parsed will perhaps depend on the prejudices or expectations (“the London equivalent of the NY Post”) of the parser.

        • An Etonian says:

          The IPSO is an ineffectual group of Fleet Streeters, with a decidedly labour tilt. The Telegraph’s mockery of the Royals has gone unpunished for far too long. In my most recent letter to the House of Lords I’ve demanded that the government seize their presses and embargo further ink deliveries. This is not America. There are rules.

        • just different says:

          Yet another example of the high-quality, unbiased, totally not racially or ideologically motivated reporting from the Telegraph:


    • Amy Adams says:

      Point to the “illogical” bits, Mr. or Ms. Different.

      I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

      • just different says:

        Could we perhaps calmly review the development of this ridiculous story?

        1. Bob Keefer hears a rumor (“unconfirmed report from an OBF insider”) that some unnamed person complained to the UO that Halls had made an “insensitive racial remark to an African-American singer.” We don’t know if this is report is accurate, we don’t know who the source is, who the complainant is, or what the alleged remark was, but Keefer assumes that the rumor is correct.
        2. Since the only black singer at the OBF is Reginald Mobley, Keefer calls him and asks him about this rumor. The only thing Mobley can think of is Halls imitating a Southern accent during a reception, which would have taken place during the first week of July. Since an unidentified white woman asked Mobley immediately afterwards asked Mobley whether he found that offensive, Mobley assumes that the Southern accent was the “racial remark” and further assumes that this must have been the complainant.
        3. Because UO recently disciplined a professor for dressing up in blackface, various ideologically-motivated individuals assume that UO would regard imitating a Southern accent as a justification for terminating a contract which had just been signed, without even contacting Mobley to check the story. Furthermore, somehow it took a month and half to act on this sole terminable offense.

        The definition of logic is not making unwarranted assumptions. I think perhaps it is you who does know not what the word “illogical” means.

        • Marc says:

          Until the blessed University deigns to clarify matters, there is nothing ‘illogical’ about holding all of the premisses of this argumentum, from doleful beginning to doleful tentative conclusion, as long as one is aware of what one’s doing and not converting presumption and supposition into certainties. Sure, it’s ridiculous on its face, but at what point in human history did it stop being the case that the true course of events wasn’t both ridiculous and true considered from different perspectives?

          If the truth is that the University fired MH because e.g. ‘it’ ‘just decided to go in a different direction’, or, if MH did in fact on numerous occasions cross the line into unacceptable forms of behavior, or perhaps did so once in a catastrophic error of judgment, or… my point is that I’m willing to accept that any of those possibilities may be true. But until such time as the UO provides a coherent explanation of the events, it seems just as likely to me that they have plunged themselves into a catastrophe of their own devising.

  22. mindless husk says:

    Very, very interesting that singer Mobley accuses UO officials of racism for not seeking his input in this case, which has seemingly led to a vicious injustice against his friend Matthew Halls.

    UO is now saying it is going to provide “details.” This better be good. I don’t count on those bunglers for anything.

    It is terrifying that this could happen at UO. It is not just Orwellian, it is McCarthyite, and Stalinistic without the obligatory physical execution.

    It should count for something that Mobley accuses the tormentors of racism. Even without that, unless they have something we haven’t heard (and even then, I wouldn’t trust them), the person(s) responsible should be canned. Even the new provost. Even Schill. That would be yet another disaster in UO administration, but this is damaging not just the Festival, but the entire university.

    It’s about time for the trustees to step in.

  23. uomatters says:

    Apparently some English and even Oregonian readers don’t know what grits are, so at the risk of losing my tenure I’m posting a link to this fact-based cooking video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWC0sKCS5oA

    • Marc says:

      Would the fact that the contract is not finally terminated until the 24th make it reasonable to guess that Maestro Halls is keeping any additional comments to himself until after that date?

    • mindless husk says:

      I’m sure you can give a discourse in your best Jeff Sessions accent next time you’re at that faculty lounge you are always talking about.

      You will be the toast of town and gown, especially if Blandy, the provost, Schill, Lillis, etc.are there.

    • Marc says:

      When MH left town at the birth of his son in June and Scott Jarrett had to take the Bach Passion performances, did that happen with the contract-required “mutual agreement of both parties”?
      I hope MH got that “mutual agreement” in writing, presuming that was in fact what happened.

    • EricB says:

      Still don’t really understand what “grits” are….
      Still don’t really understand what “music curators” are either….
      Sorry, guys…. ;)

    • Fishwrapper says:

      George Carlin famously taught us how to cook grits more than two dozen years before Pesci sniffed them on screen: https://youtu.be/XGj03rntPb8?t=6m48s

  24. Marc says:

    And the Daily Mail is on the story, too, as if the Telegraph wasn’t bad enough. :-)

    • mindless husk says:

      They just can’t stop!

      From the Daily Mail story:

      “The university has refused to discuss the alleged incident, saying Mr Halls’ firing was due to the festival being restructured, the Register Guard reports.

      But the same paper also revealed that Mr Halls was given a hefty pay rise and had his four-year contract extended by two years just weeks before he was sacked.”

  25. Marc says:

    And yet another post at Slipped Disc.

    “We hear that the Oregon Bach Festival is quietly cancelling contracts with artists who have been asked to perform and teach there next year… The University has made itself an international laughing stock and the festival is probably dead.”

    • EricB says:

      Yep, that first sentence is quite cryptic…. Does that mean they are slowly and quietly killing the OBF ???

    • EricB says:

      If I were MH, it would be out of the question to set one foot ever again at the OBF, but I’ll sign it nonetheless. HE’ll decide ! ;) ;) ;)

      • Marc says:

        Yes, I signed the petition too, in spite of being in total agreement with you about MH: having once shaken the Eugenian dust from his feet I can’t imagine he would ever return, alas.

        • Canard says:

          Years ago, I heard a colleague console another who hadn’t received tenure with the observation that everyone who is booted out of the UO ends up with a much better job somewhere else. This has been confirmed in every instance I’ve seen since.

  26. mindless husk says:

    With the latest slippeddisc item, see Marc’s post above, it gets stranger and stranger. The bungling at UO has attained the level of the incomprensible.

  27. Dogmatic Ratios says:

    I don’t think Johnson Hall understands: they are opening themselves up to charges of fraud. Everyone thought OBF was a non-profit. People donated heavily to it as a community-run public institution, for decades Now the administration has acted unilaterally, gone around OBF’s board of directors who, it turns out, are just advisory. This is fraudulent. They’re exposed to a Class Action suit. And that could expand. The more they don’t act like a public-interest university, the more they could be accused of fraud in that regard as well.

    • Andy Stahl says:

      OBF is a wholly owned subsidiary of the UO Foundation, a 501(c)(3). OBF acknowledges this fact on its Donation web form. Alas, no fraud:)

  28. Marc says:

    Please do read the open letter of Amy Adams– who is here in the Eugene/Springfield area and very active in the arts community, and who has commented here– at Slipped Disc today!

  29. Marc says:

    Oh, the lawyers.

    Where can one read the Halls attorney’s statement in full, I wonder? Have less interest in reading Dr Banavar’s but maybe after a couple of drinks. Or do they chat with Mr Hubbard on the telephone and agree to the sentence that can be printed? journalism is a world strange in its customs.

  30. another avoidable settlement says:

    This is the “Oregon way”, i’ve often heard Lillis speak of. Silence is golden, which means it has a price.

  31. Marc says:

    Will be interested to see if the Times publishes on this nonsense.

    I’ve only heard of this latest development in the last couple of hours and must admit that I can see how the agreement can and presumably will be construed as MH’s admission that he isn’t blameless in this mess. On the other hand…. Am just shaking my head at this point.

  32. synecdoche says:

    They paid him about one deciGottfredson.

  33. Backbeat says:

    Isn’t the 90,000 back pay? I thought halls was working without a contract for the past year? So isn’t the payment just paying him for services rendered? Doesn’t sound like Halls is so innocent here.

    This story is so strange, I just can’t see how it’s helpful for the UO to be so tightlipped.

    • uomatters says:

      He was working under a handshake deal, not a formal contract, but he was already paid for the work he did. Please read the post and the links before posting additional questions.

  34. mindless husk says:

    curiouser and curiouser.

    My best guess: UO is deathly afraid of a Mizzou or Evergreen style debacle that would destroy UO. Somebody busybody panicked them into firing Halls. Then they tried to paper it over, and as usual the morons made a spectacle. This is a good one. Will they never learn?

    Between them, the pres and provost making about $1.25 M for this kind of “leadership.”

    Time for Lillis et al. to reassess?

    UO hasn’t looked so stupid since the Dave and Phil fiasco. If ever.

    • flutie says:

      I think it’s true that UO wants to avoid a spectacle but somehow they just can’t control the impulse to fly close to the sun before they give “it”, the current crisis episode, some deeper consideration.

      I also think it’s fairly obvious that whomever prompted this impulsive, high level firing is someone quite visible and connected and is desperate to stay anonymous. The whole story WILL come out eventually demonstrating, once again, that the cover up is usually worse, and in this case more embarrassing, than the crime.

  35. mindless husk says:

    On the other hand, a very different, plausible take here

    Idea is UO wants to go back to old days.

    I don’t buy it because they would not have done this without consulting OBF advisory board.

    This excuse is just a fig leaf and self-justification.

    • Amy Adams says:

      Drew McManus is just guessing. There’s nothing substantive pointing in that direction. The festival worked very hard to find a successor to the venerable Rilling – and found a great one in Halls.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Wow, “These insensitivities should not be tolerated,” [McCoy] wrote in the email… Who made her judge, jury, and executioner? She obviously didn’t listen to a word Mobley said — or maybe thought she knew what was intended better than him, always a bad stance to take.

  37. JH Ex Pat says:

    I am tired of reading these theories that have no foundation in the truth and I am disappointed by Johnson Hall for setting up someone to take the fall. Classic cover your A$$ mentality. Not out of the ordinary but sad.

    My understanding is unusual on campus. After the last admin shake up in JH, I no longer work in that building and am waiting on a job reassignment. Maybe I have a bit of an ax to grind that gives me the freedom to make some observations. Here’s why.

    I was at one of those trustee drop in lunches designed to make you feel like you actually have a voice on campus and McCoy was there. It is said that the nature of these meetings is confidential, but I will break it to some extent. What surprised us was that all the women in the room had experienced blatant sexism on campus in different departments. It is confusing that UO does not deal well with these complaints, because there are all the smoke and mirrors of diversity departments, hr, affirmative action. I think there are good people in those departments but they have no teeth. An example given at that meeting was that there was a woman who worked in facilities that commented about the gender pay discrimination she faced. Another woman described a situation in advancement where she took a position that had been occupied by a white man but did not get the same title / salary even though she did the same job or more. McCoy described some situations that began before her arrival, which resembled harassment and other forms of discrimination, but since Johnson had been a revolving door of Presidents, Provosts / Vice Provosts, the can was kicked down the road. Several employees had gone and she was not sure where else to turn. The trustee, who was responsible for the meeting, advised all the women there to deal with the Ombudsman Program, the Union, HR and AAEO depending on the situation. When some of the women pointed out that they had already done this, the answer was “try again”, because these departments also had experienced personnel changes. I do not know the answer McCoy received, but it seems to me that she was asked to ask questions.

    I think you are still on the wrong story and if it really is a blog about UO Matters, you should dig into these gender bias problems. As you allow anonymous posts, this may encourage others to rise to the occasion and talk about their experiences. Still, it could be a story that finally comes out on its own … From my former colleagues in JH I have heard there are frightened whispers about a request for public documents made by a local journalist that is so big, back many years, that the ghosts of the past and the characters of the present will be implicated or reanimated – to the extent that includes the president, past provosts, other campus leaders, former directors and employees of the festival. Among the staff of the festival, I have heard that they want this as soon as possible: a sort of public exoneration since they have been thoroughly muzzled since Hall’s was released. There is no urgency in JH. Surprise, surprise.

    When this search is provided, senior UO leaders must come to terms with smearing an OA who was a good soldier by internal accounts that inherited a massive problem– one that exists in other places across campus too. If I were in JH, I would think about that story, it’s not a fight I’d like. And perhaps on the way we can get to the root of these problems of bias and the stupidity of the revolving door of UO leadership at the highest levels that never wants to take a stand while those beneath do their dirty work and take the fall.

  38. uomatters says:

    Thanks for this comment, JH Ex Pat.

  39. uomatters says:

    RG letter from Tom Bowerman:

    I agree with the bulk of written commentary about the University of Oregon’s dismal explanation of Matthew Halls’ dismissal. My position began to solidify on reading UO’s written explanation, which seemingly explained nothing.

    There is a pattern here and it has consequences, especially regarding some of the fiscal and reputational costs to the university. My thought in reading the UO’s explanation was: How much does the public relations team get paid for type of work? And the settlement costs?

    Couldn’t these costs, across the broader pattern, in the millions, be better spent on education quality? …


  40. mindless husk says:

    It still doesn’t make sense to me. Did they sack him because of poor attendance? That doesn’t make much sense after having just given him a big raise. Did Banavar come in from the outside and decide the monetary losses, whatever they may be, had to stop? If so, he’s probably purchased bigger trouble for UO.

    That leaves the scandal angle. Did the “racist joke” get Halls in that much trouble? Possible in Eugene, astonishing as that possibility strikes a normal person. But hard to credit.

    Was there some real, hidden scandal that needed a reaction? If so, hard to see why UO would go to such lengths to protect Halls. Including paying him $90,000 so that, among other things, UO would be have to be silent about what really happened.

    Whatever the case, UO is going to extraordinary lengths not to give an explanation for this shocking and very damaging affair.

    • uomatters says:

      Yes, and if whatever Halls did was so bad, why didn’t UO take the ethical road and inform other potential employers about it?

      • mindless husk says:

        Word on the music street is UO is telling select people that there was something big that for some reason they want not to talk about. I don’t know what, if anything, they tell the faculty insiders.
        Personally, I don’t believe this.
        I think at last we have perfectly “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

  41. Dogmatic Ratios says:

    Must agree with JH Ex Pat that everything from Johnson Hall becomes toxic and hostile to everything we might consider enlightened and good. Even the new provost is already part of this: his push for “selective excellence”, which comes from Chuck Lillis’ brand of harmful corporatism, is incoherent. He might as well use its corollary: “pervasive mediocrity”. And the “strong provost” model, created before he arrived, should be called “academic autocracy”. It’s ignorant of basic epistemology — so, no surprise that the results are already inefficient, undemocratic, and demoralizing.

    • uomatters says:

      Personally I think “selective excellence” is the least bad usage of excellence and a marked contrast to the mindless business-speak of Tom Peters and his kind. Banavar came in with a lot of messes to deal with and he’s dealing with them. I’ll reserve judgement on his excellence metric until we have data on how some of his own initiatives play out and can run them through the UO Matters Administrative Excellence Algorithm (TM).

      • Dogmatic Ratios says:

        But why use ‘excellence’ at all? Why all the puffery and branding? Why the autocracy? We need genuine, continuous improvement through collaborative, democratic decision-making, by the entire campus community, and mutual support for everyone’s individual self-actualization. Demonstrate to me that anyone in Johnson Hall understands this.

        • Been both, done with both says:

          “Self-actualization” is to aging hippies as “excellence” is to aging businessmen. Words that substitute for thinking.

          • Dogmatic Ratios says:

            Respect for individual aspiration is quite distinct from pretentious institutional propaganda.

  42. the thinker says:

    There is only one plausible scenario that explains what happened. The OBF Director and the Artistic Director had conflicts. The OBF Director was informed by a colleague about the unfortunate racial joke and thought to use it to get the Artistic Director fired. She, personally, investigated the facts (so it is reported) and produced a report to whomever in above them both (my guess). Then she said that she wanted to denounce this very serious racial issue that was reported to her (my guess) and that it was impossible for her as a woman to keep working with a colleague who is insensitive to discrimination and freely makes jokes at the expenses of minorities. You have to decide meet or him (my guess again). The University could have decided in favor of the Artistic Director. In that case, we would have read about the OBF Director (a minority again) who rightly denounced an case of racial slur and had to leave her job because of it. What a disaster!
    All the details are in place for this scenario. And the best support of this “theory” is the fact that the OBF Director announced that she is going to work with a number of “conductors”. No room for one Artistic Director with a big personality here. Just one person in charge from now on.
    (Of course I do research and I look at where the experiments take me. The theory is not proved until further evidence is collected in support. It could be completely wrong. But, so far, is very plausible and there are not facts that contradict the hypothesis.)

    • Amy Adams says:

      I think there’s even more circumstantial details to support “the thinker’s” hypothesis.

      Matthew Halls’ face and presence has been virtually scrubbed off the Oregon Bach Festival website. It goes way beyond merely removing his bio from the “Our People” page.

      Banner photos of him conducting, photos of him in general…gone. Video of him talking about Mahler looks like its been disabled for some reason? There are gigantic gaps in the news archive. No press releases between May and August 2017. July 2016 is missing. All remaining press releases are about any other news, such as the construction of Berwick Hall, or the Chamber Music at Beall series. He’s been wiped away.

      That seems downright retaliatory and personal, from where I sit.

      On an even more personal note…were I still part of the Festival (I used to sing in the Berwick chorus, and served as a chorus representative on the Friends of the Festival Board of Directors, and on several committees)….I would have been encouraging celebration of the wonderful and blessed event of the birth of the artistic director’s first child. What a missed opportunity for the community. What a chance to celebrate festival family and future – patrons could have signed cards in the lobby, or marketing staff could have asked OBF families what instrument they hope baby Henry Halls grows up to play…! (I’m holding out for trombone – I have a soft spot for low brass.)

  43. Marc says:

    I agree with Amy Adams that it is a very odd thing that the OBF website has been ‘cleansed’– the damnatio memoriae was reserved for the gravest of crimes, if I recall my history correctly. I thought that the current UO party line, anyway, is ‘praise the departed maestro, who after all did many good things’.

  44. Meter maid says:

    I have a friend in the parking department who says Bach staff are not renewing their parking permits. Sounds like rumors of UO killing it are true.

    • mindless husk says:

      I don’t know. They will need new parking passes come next Monday. They will have to kill the Bach Festival fast to make the passes superfluous.

  45. Marc says:

    News at Around the O at 3:21 pm. It looks like OBF is now part of SOMD under Dean Foley.

    “The university and festival leaders do not intend to revisit Halls’ separation.”


  46. EG says:

    PC, so called, is nothing more than the McCarthyism of our time. University and festival leaders who will not talk about what just transpired are nothing more than cowards who will go along to get along. They know this, we know this and it seems so does everyone else. Still, the political climate is nothing if not dangerously hypocritical and so they also know they’ll get away with it at least until the festival collapses under the weight of their hubris. How telling and ironic that Mr. Mobley, whose words on the matter are eloquent and forceful, has been completely ignored. That is the most racist truth of this whole affair. Pathetic. Really pathetic.

  47. Hmm says:

    They didn’t purchase parking passes because their new building is located in an area with little to no spots, a pass doesn’t guarantee a spot. Financially it’s not worth it.