A Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musician has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the orchestra with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the orchestra failed to take meaningful action against repeated allegations of harassment and retaliation.
In an interview with The Washington Post, principal oboe player Katherine Needleman said that Jonathan Carney, the orchestra’s concertmaster, approached her for sex when the orchestra was on tour in 2005 and, since she rejected him, has engaged in a consistent pattern of retaliation: “daily hostility and efforts to undermine [my] work and authority,” she said, “combined with physical intimidation and threats.” According to the complaint, Needleman reported the harassment to the orchestra several times, starting immediately after the 2005 incident. This March, the orchestra engaged an independent law firm to conduct an investigation, which concluded this month.
“The report indicated that there has not been a hostile work environment,” said Peter T. Kjome, the orchestra’s president and chief executive. “We take very seriously the allegations and are carefully reviewing the actions recommended in the report.”
Those recommendations included a suggestion that Carney be sent to sensitivity training and an emphasis on anti-harassment training for all employees.
Carney was not available for comment, but his attorney and spokesman Neil J. Ruther called the complaint “utterly frivolous.”
“The orchestra investigated the incident in 2005 and concluded there was no substance to it,” Ruther said. “Since that time, Jonathan has done nothing to harm her in any way.”
“This is an egregious abuse of what the #MeToo movement stands for,” Ruther added, saying that Carney and Needleman are equals within the orchestra. The principal oboe is the leader of the wind section, playing the note to which the orchestra tunes every night; the concertmaster is the leader of the strings but is also generally considered as a leader of the ensemble.
The complaint came after a turbulent weekend in the orchestra world. On Saturday, the Cleveland Orchestra announced that it was suspending its principal trombonist, Massimo La Rosa, in the course of an ongoing independent investigation into sexual harassment. The orchestra’s concertmaster, William Preucil, has been on paid suspension since August, after a Post article revealed allegations of sexual assault.
On Sunday, the New York Philharmonic announced that it intended to fire Liang Wang, its principal oboe, and Matthew Muckey, its associate principal trumpet, for unspecified “misconduct,” the New York Times reported. The two players are on unpaid leave while the musicians’ union reviews their cases.
Needleman said that she and Carney had an excellent working relationship before the 2005 incident. Since then, she said, he undermines her regularly in the course of their work, demeaning her during rehearsals; once entering without her during a solo appearance; and making a verbal physical threat within earshot of colleagues.
“I was definitely emboldened by the #MeToo movement,” Needleman said of her decision in January to file a new complaint. “I felt privileged because I’m tenured and because I hold a position of relative power. I believe there are other women who have been put into an impossible position where they have to decide whether to acquiesce or reject sexual advances. While I was able to reject advances, it was very difficult, and I had a lot of retaliation as a result.
“I am doing this,” she added, “because I want to make a wonderful workplace environment in an institution I love.”