Doug Blandy fired Bach Fest director Halls despite AAEO Director’s advice


Saul Hubbard has the latest in the RG here:

… The document does, however, show a split between the university’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity and McCoy over how to reprimand Halls, an independent contractor who had just been given a multi-year extension and a raise.

After two initial complaints in July, Cherie Scricca, an outside consultant working for the UO, recommended that school officials meet with Halls to discuss the school’s non-discrimination policies and that they update his contract to include “written expectations of proper behavior including equal and fair treatment of festival participants regardless of race, national origin, age, disability.”

Scricca also suggested that written notice be added to Halls contract that, if he did not meet those expectations, his contract could be immediately terminated, and that the festival would hire an “understudy” artistic director who could replace him.

But that meeting with Halls and those proposed contract amendments appear to have never occurred.

After two further complaints came in, including the sexual harassment allegation, McCoy made the decision to terminate Halls, emailing Scricca to tell her as much on August 16. Scricca disagreed with that decision, suggesting a “similar” course of action to her previous recommendations when she spoke with McCoy on August 23.

The next day, however, Halls was fired, with a UO administrator, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Doug Blandy, signing his termination letter. …

Blandy was told over the summer that he was being replaced as SVPAA, but was kept on at at full pay and with his JH office until, I believe, the end of December.

update: Back to Bach: EW’s Bob Keefer gets the docs on Matthew Halls firing

Keefer has now updated this story with a quote from feckless UO strategic communicator Tobin Klinger, who has had almost three months to prepare his talking points for the release of these public records, and could only come up with this:

The document does “not indicate that the reported incidents are the *why* behind the change in Halls’ status,” UO chief sokesman[sic] Tobin Klinger emailed. “You’re assuming a causal relationship that is speculation. As has been said before, we can’t discuss specifics of a personnel matter, …

Sure you can’t. Here’s the Around the O post from Aug 27, discussing specifics of a personnel matter:

Oregon Bach Festival (OBF) is moving forward in an exciting direction that will bring new voices, points of views and artists with more diverse backgrounds to festival audiences. Starting in summer 2018, guest curators will work with OBF staff to build a season of dynamic and engaging musical selections led by world-renowned conductors.

As part of the transition, OBF is parting ways with artistic director Matthew Halls. Halls leaves the festival with a legacy that includes the establishment of the Organ Institute, the Vocal Fellows program, and the Berwick Academy for Historically Informed Performance. During his tenure, Halls conducted many of Bach’s masterworks, including his own reconstruction of the composer’s lost St. Mark Passion, as well the world premiere of A European Requiem from Sir James MacMillan.

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.

“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. …

Of course this was all lies, and I guess in Klinger’s world that made it OK for UO to discuss it.

11/14/2017: UO’s Public Records Office has finally begun releasing the public records, and the Eugene Weekly’s Bob Keefer has a teaser on what they show, and don’t show, about OBF artistic director Janelle McCoy’s stated reasons for firing artistic director Matthew Halls:

… The newly obtained document lays out two main complaints against Halls, an internationally known conductor who had been selected to replace OBF’s founding artistic director, Helmuth Rilling, on his retirement in 2013.

The first has been widely reported, that Halls was overheard making a racially insensitive remark to countertenor Reginald Mobley at a post-concert reception last summer. Both Mobley and Halls, who are friends, have strongly denied there was anything but good humor in the exchange.

The second is a July 12 complaint made by an unnamed OBF musician that Halls did not pay women musicians as much attention as he did men in rehearsals. “Our artistic director Matthew Halls does not call on them during rehearsals and favors the men,” the complainant said.

The heavily redacted complaint went on to say that Halls had made “inappropriate remarks,” though it doesn’t say what. The complainant also alleges that she heard similar complaints from other women and at least one man. …

McCoy is apparently still on the UO payroll, but her authority as executive director has been taken away and the Bach festival is now being run by Brad Foley, Dean of the School of Music and Dance.

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26 Responses to Doug Blandy fired Bach Fest director Halls despite AAEO Director’s advice

  1. New Year Cat says:

    Maybe instrumentalists are different, but as a choir member, unless I’m raising my hand with a question I hope to NOT be called upon, as in “you are consistently two beats behind the rest of the chorus-called-upon” :)

  2. mindless husk says:

    The racially insensitive banter between the two pals that wasn’t insensitive. The unnamed musician who claims that “Our artistic director Matthew Halls does not call on them during rehearsals and favors the men.” This is baby talk stuff. For this Halls got fired? For this the Bach Festival is put in grave risk of destruction? This is insane. If Janelle McCoy came up with this, what does that say? Of course, she did apparently come up with the inane statement about food studies and the rest. Did the gang that supposedly can shoot straight then come up with the plan to dig in and pretend that all this is normal? If so, what does that say about them?

    I don’t get the feeling that we are getting any closer to an explanation of what happened, despite Bob Keefer’s best efforts.

    Perhaps the entire episode is just so stupid that they will never let us in on what happened.

    I hope the Bach Festival donors and patrons have enough patience for this stupidity to allow the show to go on. When will they say enough idiocy is enough?

  3. mindless husk says:

    There was a sexual harassment complaint against Halls? Let’s hear what this awful behavior was. For what was our great Bach festival put in grave jeopardy? Must have been awful. Let’s hear.

  4. It's a new day says:

    It’s amazing how the support for halls is so unrelenting. Yet McCoy is judged and caste doubt upon at every turn. McCoy must have
    Been involved, but halls contract was with the provost office and his termination was signed by Blandy. I wonder what general council recommended? Considering the assistant gC signed Halls’ contract, you bet they were involved in this desicion too.

    It’s gross that some comments disregard the victims of halls’ behavior. You are only perpetuating the patriarchal culture in classical music and further sinking a program you claim to love. Quit scapegoating McCoy. It’s more likely that Halls exibited bad behavior and it would have endangered others by keeping him around. Patience. I bet there is more info to come.

    • mindless husk says:

      By all means, let’s have more info, but with patience. After all, it’s only been 3 mos. and UO has been very forthcoming. Let’s hear what horrors were suffered by the victims. We’ve already heard from the black singer what he thinks. Let’s hear from the women.

      I quite agree that Janelle McCoy is not the whole story. I don’t think it ends with the always amiable Doug Blandy, either. Hence my ref to the gang that shoots straight.

    • Resist jumping to conclusions says:

      Well said. We do not know enough about the facts to know if McCoy was making a wise or foodish decision. And why should we trust the judgment of AAEO? They have historically prioritized protecting the university from liability rather than protecting employees from discrimination. So, yes, you raise an important point: When people dare to complain about or do anything about discrimination or harassment they are usually dismissed and ridiculed.
      The UO is quite capable of screwing up its response to these sorts of situations — including screwing up for either or both the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator — and that screwing up should not be used as evidence regarding the credibility of the complaint.

      • just different says:

        It doesn’t matter that AAEO is working for the university. The allegations were significant enough and credible enough that an outside consultant recommended writing it into the contract. That would have been a better course of action.

        This crap goes on because people who can stop it look the other way. I’m very disappointed to hear that Halls is a jerk, but it’s about time there is some accountability.

        • Amy Adams says:

          From whom did you hear that Halls “is a jerk”?
          I’ve experienced nothing of the sort from him – great musician, professional colleague, conscientious teacher.

          • just different says:

            It’s possible for someone to be all of those things and still be a sexist jerk, at least some of the time.

            • Amy Adams says:

              It is also possible for someone to have a personal vendetta…a chip on her or his shoulder, as it were.
              We don’t know what’s in each other’s hearts.
              We do know that the university intended on a course of action in this personnel matter…and that Janelle McCoy subverted that course.

            • Kali says:

              Amy, it may be time for a realistic evaluation of this affair. Matthew Halls is gone and not returning. However badly it was handled, what purpose is there now in rehashing what happened? I suspect the need to punish the Bach Festival is an emotional response over losing Halls. But it’s done. If the community wants a festival, it’s time to get on with it. Which is not to say that at I am not heartbroken over Matthew’s dismissal.

            • Kali says:

              Moving on is also the best for Matthew’s career. Don’t you think?

    • former music student says:

      I sang in multiple choirs directed by Halls during the time I was a graduate student, and not once did I ever see anything remotely discriminatory or inappropriate from Matthew Halls in the hundreds of hours I spent in those rehearsals. And as someone notes above, you don’t WANT to be called out in rehearsal. It’s not like a classroom setting where people are discussing things and asking questions. You are performing music. You only get called on if you screw up.

  5. Ahhhh Bach says:

    So, at the UO they don’t investigate alleged rape, but they fire someone for allegedly not calling on someone? I guess that’s the difference between basketball and Bach.

  6. Amy Adams says:

    (Replying to “Kali” above)
    Kali, I was on the search committee which hired Matthew Halls as Helmuth Rilling’s successor.
    This is fairly patronizing, your use of the word “realistic” (…Which, ahem, is not to say that you are not gaslighting me or anything…)
    I do not think that word means what you think it does.

    It is Realistic to note the darned unusual series of events that unfolded at the Oregon Bach Festival – Realistic to question why steps were taken without informing all the stakeholders – Realistic to resent being stymied for information – Realistic to be outraged at the assault on a colleague’s reputation by people saying “well, thur musta been Something, cuz….”
    It is Realistic to be concerned over the precious endowment funds holding legacy gifts by longterm festival patrons. It is Realistic to grieve over harm done by negligent management to a festival I have loved deeply over the years.
    And if you think I won’t be there for whatever incarnation OBF takes in its future…well, that would be something to discuss over coffee. Like adults.

    • Kali says:

      Amy, Let me ask you what best serves Matthew Halls’ career moving forward? Certainly not endless news about what may or may not have happened in Eugene.

      • Amy Adams says:

        Kali, neither of us is omniscient. If I answer your question as asked, it’s as pointless as “Matthew should take a bite of this magic apple.”

        Endless…? Endless news?
        It’s a story, with unfolding details. If you are tired of hearing about it…jog on.

        And to your question: vindication would probably do a lot for the guy, I would think. Don’t know how to arrive at that, since life is not a movie with a pre-scripted ending.
        I’m here for the guy. I’m here for the Bach Festival, and for our community, both in the long run and right now.

      • Anonymous says:

        The truth is the best thing for his career. I don’t believe we’ve gotten that yet.

  7. mindless husk says:

    As to the question of “moving on” — I agree that at some point, everyone concerned about the Bach Festival will have to decide whether to continue to support it under the new management arrangement. Do you and I want it to continue, or not? I am hopeful but not entirely confident that it can be salvaged under Brad Foley’s calm hand. Will the audience and the donor base be enthusiastic? Business was already not so good under Halls. Will the artists want to come now? I don’t know.

    I will hope for the best.

    Meanwhile, it is ‘unrealistic’ to think that people like Bob Keefer are not going to keep digging for what happened. UO seems utterly determined to be opaque, disingenuous, obtuse, and I could use many other words, — UO having brought this modus operandi to a peak of perfection in this Bach Festival episode.

    This can’t be helpful for the continued survival of the festival. Again, I will support what comes next, at least for a while, and hope for the best. But UO looks worse and worse in this story. And the Festival is a UO enterprise, like it or not.

    Very importantly, it is not just about the Bach Festival. Though UO seems to think it is, and that the Bach Festival is just not that important, and that the whole thing will just blow over and go away.

    No, it is symptomatic of a much larger set of issues. That Halls could be sacked for such apparently flimsy and poorly investigated reasons is kind of terrifying. We see it in other high profile cases, and perhaps we don’t see it at all in cases that never get reported.

    One had best be very, very careful about what one says to students, in front of students, with colleagues, with community members, even in public when one is not necessarily intending to interact with anyone at all. One had best be very careful about behavior, even behavior that is meant to be totally innocent. Male staff and students in particular, especially, of course, interacting with females, though it goes both ways (or perhaps to avoid offense, one should now specify “all ways.”)

    • Amy Adams says:

      I agree, “Mindless Husk”…
      “That Halls could be sacked for such apparently flimsy and poorly investigated reasons is kind of terrifying.”
      I’m confused about why Janelle McCoy went so deliberately against the recommended process for handling this.
      How was Doug Blandy convinced that terminating Halls was the right course of action, as opposed to following the recommendation of the hired consultant?

    • Kali says:

      Speaking STRICTLY from the viewpoint of what’s best for Halls’ career, the continuing furor doesn’t help him. Google his name and you get a few hits from his management and record company amidst pages and pages of press coverage of the OBF affair. The chance that he will somehow be exonerated is nil. Too much will remain unknown – especially about what was in the heads of the UO people involved. This isn’t to say that he isn’t innocent, it’s just to say it will remain murky at best. I’m not arguing againt press investigation. That is their job. I am arguing against endless fascination with the details on the part of the community. Take that energy and help the festival move forward . I expect that in time,Halls himself will request this.

      • Amy Adams says:

        …so, the press is to continue to cover this because it’s their job, but the public should not comment, or display any interest in this story because that is best for Matthew Halls’ career?
        Why are you so certain that his chance of exoneration is nil?
        It is in silence that insinuation thrives.
        I would like to know more about the strategy of Janelle McCoy and Doug Blandy…why they did what they did, specifically against the university’s intended plan.

      • Anonymous says:

        I reiterate what I’ve said above: the truth is what is best.

        MH slinking away with his tail between his legs would show guilt. The fact that he made a statement about the latest findings is quite telling.

  8. New Year Cat says:

    I agree with Amy. There was a suggestion and plan given for addressing the reported behavior. Why was this not followed? What do we have these HR people and consultants for, at nice salaries, if anyone can ignore their professionally recommended course of action in a personnel matter? UO has a way of doing this with people who are not protected by a union, it appears. (The treatment of union-protected employees by UO is a different can of worms.)

    • just different says:

      Why Blandy and/or McCoy ignored the recommendation of the very people they pay to make assessments about situations like this is a question which deserves an answer. But questions about exactly what Halls did and who complained are 100% none of our business.

      • Amy Adams says:

        ….none of our business? Really?
        Is it any of the donors’ business? The Berwicks or Stangelands or any of the extremely generous supporters who’ve been the financial backbone of OBF over the years? It’s not the business of the Friends of the Festival, or of its board of directors? Not the business of OBF patrons? Not the business of all the musicians who travel specifically for the joy of working with each other and with Matthew Halls, much as they did for decades with Helmuth Rilling??

        I see you have time for a dig at Halls (“sorry to hear he’s a jerk”) in your comment above, but no time for opinions defending him.

        Back to this hand-in-hand decision by Doug Blandy and Janelle McCoy – something stinks and you bet it’s worth looking into.