Stop the presses? Please? (image by Ben Vanhouten)

Gerard Schwarz has broken his leg. A skiing accident did the deed, NOT an irate viola player


Schwarz and the Symphony: Soon to Get a New Drubbing in the Press?


Stop the presses? Please? (image by Ben Vanhouten)

Gerard Schwarz has broken his leg. A skiing accident did the deed, NOT an irate viola player wielding an instrument case full of cement (as previous reporting about ?orchestral terrorism? may have led you to imagine).

But the maestro could face something even more debilitating in the days to come, as the New York Times prepares to publish what sources say is a major story about the infighting, back-stabbing, and musicians? revolt at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. The Weekly has covered this story extensively, starting with some explosive reporting by Roger Downey. So far, the symphony?s board of directors has remained unmoved by the bad publicity and by the substance of many orchestra members? complaints about Schwarz?s personality and alleged artistic deficiencies.

But that could all change, given the way everyone in the big-money arts world pays obeisance to the New York Times.

How embarrassing might the story be? Some clues can be found in a lawsuit currently being pursued against the SSO by longtime violinist Peter Kaman. Kaman, who has an anxiety disorder, sued the symphony last year, claiming discrimination and harassment, mostly at the hands of Schwarz. The bulk of Kaman?s suit was thrown out by a Superior Court judge in a summary judgment finding earlier this month. But as the suit hangs by a sliver, Kaman?s attorney--a one-woman shop who?s up against the powerhouse firm of Davis Wright Tremain--seems to be going nuclear. In her latest filing she includes excerpts from a notorious SSO musicians? survey from last year that has been whispered about but never officially made public. She also includes a printout of an email apparently sent to the New York Times reporter by the concertmaster of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, where Schwarz recently spent an unhappy stint as Music Director.

The SSO?s attorneys asked the judge to seal the file because of the damage it could do to Schwarz?s reputation, and the judge agreed to do so, at least temporarily. But the file was open on a recent visit to the courthouse.

In the email (addressed to New York Times writer Dan Wakin), the Liverpool orchestra?s former concertmaster, Malcolm Stewart, describes Schwarz as a ?podium charlatan with no redeeming qualities. Its a view you will hear echoed around the profession passionatly. Its time someone blew the whistle. Enter NY times!? [All typos sic.] The musicians? survey, which has been selectively quoted in the press and has been supplied to Wakin, also contains, for the most part, an outpouring of despair and hostility towards Schwarz.

The situation at SSO is highly complex, without clear heroes and villains, and no doubt the NYT story will reflect that. But it?s bound to have even more impact than previous airings in the press about SSO?s troubles. The piece may appear as soon as this Sunday.


Nothing new in the story. It's just a rehash. But when the New York Times rehashes--watch out!

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