Canned Philharmonic Male Fiddler Files Gender Bias Suit

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Ralph
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Canned Philharmonic Male Fiddler Files Gender Bias Suit

Post by Ralph » Fri Jul 22, 2005 5:10 am

From The New York Times:

July 22, 2005
Violinist Dropped by Philharmonic Goes to Court
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some wind players complained that he once acted rudely in turning to look at them during a moment of bad intonation, but Mr. Polezhayev dismissed the story, saying it was untrue and spread by a few malicious opponents.
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Post by Michael » Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:19 am

A facinating post. In Britain orchestras are becoming very female orientated. Certainly in London the reason for this could be that orchestral musicians simply don't make enough money anymore and the blokes find higher paid employment and dismiss entering the profession. The Menuhin school is famous for churning out highly talented male musicians who become stock brokers and lawyers etc. Certainly what a London orchestral musician makes can be a useful second income (it works both ways of course there are men there who have partners who bring in the real dosh) but generally the women provide the second income. Now in London I honestly believe that an audition panel is looking for the best person for the job regardless of gender (the competition between the big 4 is massive...everyone chasing work) but it is not ONLY playing that counts which brings me back to the above case. This fiddle player suing the NYPO sounds like a bit of an arse. At the end of Ralph's post it read that he has been shouting his mouth off and pulling faces at the woodwinds :lol: If this is true then the guy is a jerk... of course they will not want him in the band... an orchestra a closely knit unit and it pays to get along with everyone, if there is a bad apple, better get rid sooner rather than later. This chap is committing professional suicide of course.. and I bet he wont win a cent! Mind you in the land of litigation he may just pull it off :lol:
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

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Post by Ralph » Fri Jul 22, 2005 7:05 am

Michael,

Here in "the land of litigation" gender-bias lawsuits have been instrumental in breaking down barriers against women and, very occasionally, men. While some of these lawsuits are frivolous, and I suspect this violinist's is, many are not.

I have been plaintiff's counsel in a number of such suits against major corporations and business entities and it's amazing how often, even today, sexism is practiced on a "what's wrong with our way of doing things?" basis.

I doubt gender played any role in this fellow's termination but I suspect his smug air of superiority, if true, made him an unwelcome tenured colleague.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 5:25 am

New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
Suit is called fiddle-faddle

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

The New York Philharmonic fired back yesterday at a fiddler who is suing after being dumped by the prestigious orchestra.

Anton Polezhayev took aim against the Philharmonic last week after being passed over for tenure, claiming he was canned because he's a man.

"This frivolous lawsuit accomplishes exactly one thing - and that is to insult all the women members of every section of the New York Philharmonic," Philharmonic spokesman Eric Latzky said."Tenure is won based on musicianship, performance, professionalism and collegiality. It is clear that Anton Polezhayev did not have it all."

Polezhayev's lawyer, Lenard Leeds, provided a reference letter written by Philharmonic orchestra personnel manager Carl Schiebler praising Polezhayev in May 2003 as a "musician of the highest caliber" and added, "We expect him to remain in our employ." In February 2004, Polezhayev was told he was losing his job.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 5:30 am

From The New York Times:

July 26, 2005
The Philharmonic Denies Bias
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

The New York Philharmonic yesterday angrily denied charges by a male violinist that a bias in favor of women caused his ouster from the orchestra. Unspecified "behavior" problems were the reason, a spokesman said.

In the orchestra's most extensive comments yet on the charges, which were made in a lawsuit filed last week, the spokesman, Eric Latzky, said the case served "to insult all the women members of every section of the New York Philharmonic."

"Women have entered the New York Philharmonic because of their abilities and their skills," Mr. Latzky said from Colorado, where the orchestra is in residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. "They've won their places because they deserve them and for no other reason."

Calling the orchestra one of the greatest in the world, he said, "We didn't become that by focusing on anything other than consummate musicianship and quality."

The violinist, Anton Polezhayev, sued after failing to pass his probationary period two seasons ago. He said at least seven women jumped ahead of him in winning tenure or receiving promotions in the violin section.

Mr. Polezhayev, 29, of Sea Cliff, N.Y., is seeking a permanent position and damages. He named the orchestra and three individuals as defendants: the music director, Lorin Maazel; the concertmaster, Glenn Dicterow; and the personnel manager, Carl R. Schiebler.

Mr. Latzky said the three men also denied the charges. He said the lawsuit showed a lack of understanding about tenure procedures. Mr. Dicterow had only one vote among the nearly three dozen members of the violin section, and Mr. Schiebler had no actual say in the decision, Mr. Latzky said. The final say rested with Mr. Maazel.

The section vote is advisory, and a number of people voted against Mr. Polezhayev, Mr. Latzky said. Mr. Polezhayev had finished well in several competitions, and he prevailed over scores of others in a highly competitive blind audition for a chair in the second-violin section in 2002.

"But a member wins tenure by having it all, by being the ultimate professional and the consummate colleague," Mr. Latzky said. Declining to elaborate, he said of Mr. Polezhayev, "He had been warned and spoken to, I believe, on several occasions about his behavior."

Mr. Polezhayev could not be reached yesterday. No one answered the telephone at his home. Last week he said a few wind players had once misinterpreted a glance as a critical stare.

His lawyer, Lenard Leeds, said Mr. Polezhayev had denied ever having been spoken to about his behavior and had said that there was nothing in writing. In a reference letter in May 2003 for an apartment purchase supplied by Mr. Polezhayev's law firm, Mr. Schiebler called him an "extremely valued employee and musician of the highest caliber" and said he was expected to "remain in our employ."

Mr. Polezhayev also said he had been denied the feedback meetings due him under the orchestra's probationary policy. Mr. Latzky said there had been several meetings with Mr. Dicterow. "There's a kind of daily feedback in the rehearsal process that may be about points large or small," Mr. Latzky said.

Denial of tenure is unusual. Mr. Latzky did not have precise figures at hand but said at least two other men had been denied tenure in recent years, neither a violinist. He said that he could not recall any women who had failed to pass probation and that no other male violinists had come up for tenure recently.

Twenty of the Philharmonic's 33 violinists are women, one of the higher ratios among major American orchestras. Mr. Latzky cited as possible reasons the proximity of the Juilliard School, which has funneled a large increase in female violin talent, and the orchestra's head start on the generational change of the last few decades.

Mr. Leeds said that Mr. Polezhayev's case had been in arbitration since September and that he had filed the lawsuit because it was uncertain whether the tenure decision was even subject to arbitration. Mr. Latzky said that Mr. Polezhayev may have filed the lawsuit to "walk away" with extra compensation.

Mr. Leeds said the lawsuit raised issues different from those of the arbitration, which was mainly about whether proper procedures were followed. In contrast to the strong language of the suit, he said, "I would like everybody to sit down and see if we can mediate this dispute rather than litigate for the next 10 years."
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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:09 am

There is no way one can judge the merits of this case based on a few newspaper articles. The NY papers and their writers have their biases, the litigants their own perspectives, the orchestra its public stance (did anyone expect them to admit gender bias if it does exist?) and it will probably take a goodly amount of discovery to open whatever can of worms exists in hiring and tenure practices, if indeed there are any. My guess is that there's more to it than has been publicly acknowledged.

The plaintiff's alleged "lack of understanding about tenure practices" is nonsense. No experienced lawyer will file such a suit without properly investigating that issue and other aspects of the complaint. There's a tremendous amount of work involved in such litigation. Unspecified "behavioral problems" is just smoke. I don't believe for a moment that a world-class violinist -- that's what we're dealing with in a world-class orchestra -- loses prospective tenure and gets fired for "lack of collegiality" because of a one-time "improper" glance or facial grimace, or because he thinks he's the next Heifetz. If that's the crux of the NYPO's defense, the plaintiff will cream them. But if he goes around pinching female players' derrieres, that's another story. :shock:

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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:47 am

pizza wrote:There is no way one can judge the merits of this case based on a few newspaper articles. The NY papers and their writers have their biases, the litigants their own perspectives, the orchestra its public stance (did anyone expect them to admit gender bias if it does exist?) and it will probably take a goodly amount of discovery to open whatever can of worms exists in hiring and tenure practices, if indeed there are any. My guess is that there's more to it than has been publicly acknowledged. The plaintiff's alleged "lack of understanding about tenure practices" is nonsense. No experienced lawyer will file such a suit without properly investigating that issue and other aspects of the complaint. There's a tremendous amount of work involved in such litigation. Unspecified "behavioral problems" is just smoke. I don't believe for a moment that a world-class violinist -- that's what we're dealing with in a world-class orchestra -- loses prospective tenure and gets fired for "lack of collegiality" because of a one-time "improper" glance or facial grimace, or because the plaintiff thinks he's the next Heifetz. If that's the crux of the NYPO's defense, the plaintiff will cream them. But if he goes around pinching female players' derrieres, that's another story. :shock:
*****

I have no experience with orchestras with regard to tenure but, frankly, I've seen lack of collegiality - whatever that means - result in negative tenure votes at law schools. Of course that's rarely the main reason and smart people, lawyers or not, know how to damn with faint praise, fatally so.

This violinist's lawyer has a good reputation. I don't think he'd take on a clearly frivolous matter.

OTOH, I doubt the NYP will back off and grant him tenure as part of a settlement although they might offer something, perhaps free season subscription tickets for five years.

When I first started practicing employment discrimination litigation I was told by a very experienced senior colleague that "No one hires the plaintiff." While not literally true I suspect this chap may have inflicted a mortal professional wound on himself.
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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:00 am

Ralph wrote: When I first started practicing employment discrimination litigation I was told by a very experienced senior colleague that "No one hires the plaintiff." While not literally true I suspect this chap may have inflicted a mortal professional wound on himself.
It seems that either way the wound was mortal. Having been passed by for tenure and being fired isn't exactly a solid recommendation.

I suspect the court will take that into consideration if the plaintiff prevails.

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Post by Haydnseek » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:11 am

Considering the revelations in Blair Tindall's "Mozart in the Jungle" shouldn't we remain open to the possibility that the women achieved advancement on extra-musical grounds?
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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:38 am

From the NYPO archives -- May, 2004

"Get closer to the superb musicians of the New York Philharmonic. The New York Philharmonic is proud to continue its Ensembles series: six Sunday afternoon chamber music concerts in Merkin Concert Hall at Abraham Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street. These programs—performed by musicians of the Philharmonic and guest artists—give listeners the opportunity to hear virtuoso performers in a more intimate setting."

Guess who's a featured artist:


http://newyorkphilharmonic.org/meet/arc ... easonNum=3

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:08 pm

Ralph wrote:gender-bias lawsuits have been instrumental in breaking down barriers against women and, very occasionally, men.
Pardon this frivolous recollection in a sober thread, but I was struck by the MASH episode where a male nurse was featured and the discrimination against him became a cause celeb among the 4077th except for Winchester. Although all the women nurses were officers, this male nurse was by Army policy a non-com. I thought that was pretty noteworthy for the show to feature 1) what probably was not a common occurrence in the old Army, but I'm sure it did occasionally crop up; and 2) something that was definitely not PC in a show whose very premise was PC.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:15 pm

pizza wrote:
Ralph wrote: When I first started practicing employment discrimination litigation I was told by a very experienced senior colleague that "No one hires the plaintiff." While not literally true I suspect this chap may have inflicted a mortal professional wound on himself.
It seems that either way the wound was mortal. Having been passed by for tenure and being fired isn't exactly a solid recommendation.

I suspect the court will take that into consideration if the plaintiff prevails.
*****

Pizza,

This case ain't goin' to trial. I'll bet you a Dittersdorf disc against one of your choosing on that.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:19 pm

Haydnseek wrote:Considering the revelations in Blair Tindall's "Mozart in the Jungle" shouldn't we remain open to the possibility that the women achieved advancement on extra-musical grounds?
*****

No. Tindall related her own story and said others shared her experiences. I haven't heard that about women trying out in blind auditions for major orchestras and if that happened the whole system would have to be inhabited by many corrupt and horny males who would share the sexual escapades. And not talk.

The NYP program booklets have full-page stories about two musicians every few weeks and some would be surprised how many of them are devoted not only to their families but to gardening, rock climbing, tracel and in one violinist's case, snake collecting.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:20 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:gender-bias lawsuits have been instrumental in breaking down barriers against women and, very occasionally, men.
Pardon this frivolous recollection in a sober thread, but I was struck by the MASH episode where a male nurse was featured and the discrimination against him became a cause celeb among the 4077th except for Winchester. Although all the women nurses were officers, this male nurse was by Army policy a non-com. I thought that was pretty noteworthy for the show to feature 1) what probably was not a common occurrence in the old Army, but I'm sure it did occasionally crop up; and 2) something that was definitely not PC in a show whose very premise was PC.
*****

I recall a few men serving as nurses but there MOS was medic/corpsman.
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