BUFFALO A former oboe player with the Buffalo Philharmonic (BPO) has brought a legal action against the orchestra for anti-gay discrimination.
J. Bud Roach, formerly the BPO's second oboist, was refused tenure and was dismissed from the orchestra in February 2004, and he claims that his firing was due to anti-gay harassment and bias that was ignored by BPO management. Roach had joined the BPO in 2001.
On March 27, the New York State Division of Human Rights ruled that there is probable cause to believe that illegal discrimination and retaliation occurred in Roach's case - thus paving the way for a public hearing, which will begin on June 18.
In 2001 Roach was selected for employment out of over 40 other oboists by JoAnn Falletta, principal oboist Pierre Roy and others on the audition committee.
In an interview Roach told Outcome the trouble began in February 2003, when Roach's supervisor, principal oboist Pierre Roy, allegedly remarked to him, "We wouldn't want any more fags in the orchestra."
Roach raised the matter with BPO music director JoAnn Falletta in February 2003; he alleges that she advised him to drop the matter because "these things can get messy."
At that time, Falletta stated to Roach that she had no concerns about his performance as a musician.
Roach alleges that Roy became more hostile to him in subsequent months and publicly stated a desire to have Roach fired. Roach subsequently brought additional harassment complaints to Falletta in June of 2003 and to the Chief Executive of the Buffalo Philharmonic in September 2003.
Roach hired attorney Lindy Korn who met with BPO management in October of 2003; it was at that meeting (more than 18 months after Roach's arrival at the orchestra and almost eight months after his initial complaint) that Falletta stated for the first time that there were "musical issues" with Roach. Falletta subsequently put those issues in writing while ignoring the issues of Pierre Roy's alleged anti-gay bias and harassment that Roach had presented to her beginning in February 2003.
About two months later, on December 19, 2003, Roach filed a verified complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights; a copy was sent to Buffalo Philharmonic management. Just under two months after that, on February 12, 2004, the orchestra denied him tenure. Roach thereupon filed a second complaint with the NYC Division of Human Rights, alleging retaliation by the BPO.
"The conductor, JoAnn Falletta, did nothing to prevent or stop anti-gay prejudice among the musicians she oversaw," Roach stated. "The Buffalo Philharmonic seems to think that it is above the law when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. They invented false claims to hide from the fact that they took no action regarding a human rights complaint."
"I have waited three long years in silence before speaking publicly about this issue because I wanted to give the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra every opportunity to settle this matter. Yet at every juncture, they have shown an unwillingness to treat me with the basic dignity that any employee deserves," said J. Bud Roach. "The discrimination perpetuated by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and their subsequent hostility toward addressing it, and led me to file legal recourse against them and to speak out today."
Roach told Outcome bias that he had enjoyed playing and working with the orchestra musicians and that he had developed many friendships with many of them including some of the other openly gay musicians.
Roach had been a member of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra for ten years prior to joining the BPO. Roach told Outcome that as a result of the harassment and bias that he experienced at the BPO he no longer is pursuing his career as a professional musician and is now a middle School teacher in Hamilton, Ontario. Roach, a native of Woodstock, Ontario currently performs with the professional chamber choir The Elmer Iseler Singers of Toronto.
As an institution The BPO has a track record of being glbt friendly and diverse. The Orchestra has performed with The Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus and has advertised in Outcome to reach out to gay audiences.
The Orchestra has and does employ glbt people in many of the artistic and staff positions including management without any prior anti-gay bias legal complaint.
BPO executive director Daniel Hart issued the following statement: "It is extremely unfortunate that a former employee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) is attempting to tarnish the image of our organization and our esteemed music director JoAnn Falletta prior to a hearing before an administrative law judge with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
"The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is comprised of talented musicians from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. We are extremely proud of our musicians and their commitment to upholding the highest of professional standards and practices, especially under JoAnn Falletta.
"We are confident that the hearing before the administrative law judge will find the claims made by this former employee against the BPO [to be] without merit. It should be further noted that the BPO has fully cooperated with the Division of Human Rights at every juncture in this matter.