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PetipaFan

NY Philharmonic drops Anton Polezhayev

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Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times, 22 July 2005:

"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.

Anton Polezhayev accuses the New York Philharmonic of giving preference to women. 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..."

I wonder if there is any truth to Mr Polezhayev's argument that the orchestra is favoring the selection of women?

Whether or not it's true, 20 of 33 violinists at the NY Philharmonic are women and several of them are Asian Jiulliard graduates.

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Seems like career suicide to me. Unless he hopes for a lot of press on this & maybe get some soloist gigs.

The classical music world is very small. On the face of it, it doesn't seem like a smart move.

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Whether or not it's true, 20 of 33 violinists at the NY Philharmonic are women and several of them are Asian Jiulliard graduates.

Of the 33 violinists listed on the NY Philharmonic website, 15 of the 31 with links to their bios attended Julliard.

Since racial reverse discrimination wasn't cited in the article, I'm curious as to why it is relevant that "several" are Asian. In fact, 10 of the violinists in the orchestra are Asian, 9 of them women, 5 of whom joined the orchestra between 1977 and 1998, before Mr. Polezhayev arrived at the NY Philharmonic.

While pedigree doesn't always an orchestral musician make, of the seven women who joined the orchestra during Mr. Polezhayev's tenure, one was hired as the Assistant Concertmaster -- not a position that one expects the person filling it to fail probation -- two were Concertmaster Glen Dicterow's students, one had substantial experience playing for the Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra and was Associate Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet Theatre orchestra, one studied with Joseph Silverstein at Curtis and then played for the New Jersey Symphony, one won the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition and played in an orchestra under Menuhin, and one was a child prodigy growing up in St. Petersburg before playing in the New Jersey Symphony and is a world-renowned chamber music player.

NY Philharmonic auditions are blind, which means that of the eight musicians who were on probation, seven were women who had earned their spots through their playing ability, not their gender or race or name, although it would be difficult to imagine that Dicterow couldn't recognize the playing of his own students, if he were among the selection committee.

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How did Anton Polezhayev fail? Did he fail miserably and repeatedly? It will be an fascinating case to watch.

There was a certain conductor at the Metropolitan Opera once in the 50's who sued after being fired because he was not up to the job. The Opera won in court. Had he not sued no one would ever have known he was let go because of incompetence going to court did nothing to help his career.

If it is that the NY Philharmonic seeks the best players, and the best are women, and typically Asian, then it says something about the state of things.

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20 of 33 violinists at the NY Philharmonic are women and several of them are Asian Jiulliard graduates.

Today's NY Times has an article about the predominance of women in the violin sections of some major orchestras.

No matter why the male violinist, Anton Polezhayev, was ousted from the Philharmonic, the fact remains that women outnumber men in its violin section by 20 to 13. In the orchestra's only comment on the case, its director of public relations, Eric Latzky, said yesterday, "In the past several years, musicians of both genders have received tenure in the orchestra." He said there was "wide input" within the orchestra in making the decision but he declined to comment further.

The Philharmonic's violin gender breakdown signals how far women have come in orchestra ranks, or at least in some of those ranks, as a quick look at rosters confirms. According to the Philharmonic's Web site, women count for 7 of the 12 violists, 6 of 11 cellists and 2 of 9 double bass players. At the Boston Symphony Orchestra, men trail in the violins 13 to 18, and lead 7 to 5 in the violas, 9 to 1 in the cellos and 9 to 0 in the double basses. In Cleveland, women outnumber men by only one in the violins, and at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, men dominate that section, 18 to 10.

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Here's another story on the AP with some more information:

http://1010wins.com/topstories/local_story_203143819.html

"During his Philharmonic probationary period, Polezhayev was supposed to have 13 meetings with orchestra leaders so they could give him feedback and progress reports, court papers say. The papers say no such meetings were held with him.

After Polezhayev complained to Schiebler and Dicterow about what he considered gender discrimination, they brought his complaints to Maazel's attention.

Maazel told Polezhayev in a meeting that he was being fired for ``unprofessional behavior'' and because he ``was not good for the orchestra,'' despite being a good violinist, court papers say..."

Let him have his day in court.

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Most major orchestras have "blind" auditions for the first round. The musicians play behind a screen and cannot be seen. However, the second round is not a blind round and the musicians can been seen. Prior to blind auditions, there were very few woman in the top orchestras and many conductors did not believe they should be there (my daughter did a study of the effect of blind auditions on getting seats in orchestras and I have read some of her materials....they really did turn things around for women).

The court will have to make the decision in this case, and one never knows about these kinds of things. What makes a great musician is partially a subjective process.

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Playing devil's advocate here - It's a given that anyone who gets into the NY Philharmonic is seriously talented. Perhaps the reason there are more women in the orchestra is that men of that caliber are more ambitious in pursuing a solo career.

I don't see what 'Asian' has to do with anything though. That's just being obnoxious - not to mention bigoted.

[Edited to add:] I think we've come a long way when a white male with a surname like Polezhayov is suing an orchestra on grounds of discrimination. :unsure:

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If it is that the NY Philharmonic seeks the best players, and the best are women, and typically Asian, then it says something about the state of things.

I'm sorry - I might be misreading your tone here - it's all too easy to do on a message board rather than a face to face conversation - but your use of the phrase "says something about the state of things" could imply that you think the predominance of women and Asians is not a satisfactory state of affairs? Readers of your posting could infer that you think the "proper" state of things is that the best players are white males? I hope this isn't the case ... :unsure:

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I know various members of the New York Philharmonic, and although I haven't spoken to any of them about this, from what I know of how the Phil works I have a hard time believing the sexual discrimination charge. I guess we'll find out in court. On the other hand, I've heard Anton Polezhayev in recital, and he is indeed a superbly gifted violinist. If he did something unprofessional, given his talent he should have been spoken to and warned, offered a chance to improve. (Unless he did something really terrible--blew spitballs at the principal violist during a concert, say--that justified instant dismissal.) It sounds like the procedure set in place for this may not have been followed in this case. But unfortunately for Mr. Polezhayev, unfairly firing someone for bad behavior, and without review, while regrettable, probably isn't illegal.

As for the Asian women: In many areas of Asia, Western art music plays a far greater role in a child's education than it currently does in America or Europe. Thus the influx of talented and already well-trained Asian musicians in our conservatories. On a possibly less positive note, the predominance of women may have something to do with the fact that in Korea, at least, mastery of a musical instrument is considered beneficial to marrying well. (I don't know if this is true in other Asian cultures.) While many of the Korean women do indeed go home and get married after graduating from our conservatories, others decide to stay here and make a go of it as a professional musician. And thank goodness. Unless we start exposing our kids to music, make them take lessons, bring them to concerts, give them the chance to discover a vocation for music, we better hope Asia continues filling our orchestral ranks or we won't have any orchestras left in another generation or two.

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I have no tone at all. Can we not take notice of the race of a person or group of persons?

Why are there not 9 African American female violinists at the NY Philharmonic? or Poles or Russians or whatever. Apparently Asian families are encouraging their children to study classical music?

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There was a certain conductor at the Metropolitan Opera once in the 50's who sued after being fired because he was not up to the job.  The Opera won in court.  Had he not sued no one would ever have known he was let go because of incompetence going to court did nothing to help his career.

PetipaFan,

Do you mean Bruno Amaducci? Bing mentions this whole incident in his autobiography. The Met offered to buy out his contract at a very favorable rate but he refused and went to court.

This was Bing's point, and although I find some of his actions petty I agree with him here, was that no one would ever known what was going on if he had kept quiet, and that the guy either crippled or killed his career as an opera conductor.

Not only was he a trouble maker , which is a "soft" black mark, but the court upheld the MEt's position that he was incompetent, which is a very "hard" black

mark.

But the Amaducci thing was in the 60s, around the time the Met moved to Licoln Center. Bing spells out the years and the repertory in 1001 Nights at the Opera (or something like that).

Richard

Edited by richard53dog

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Playing devil's advocate here - It's a given that anyone who gets into the NY Philharmonic is seriously talented. Perhaps the reason there are more women in the orchestra is that men of that caliber are more ambitious in pursuing a solo career.

Or are acting as soloists in an orchestra. Of the women who were hired during his tenure, the women had signiificant orchestra or chamber music experience. Talent is a given at that level, but orchestra playing is different than solo playing, and being a good orchestra member is collaborative.

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Orchestras can renew or not renew on the basis of many things. Sometimes they make mistakes. A number of years ago, the Philadelphia Orchestra had a young first violinist named Robert Chen. He quickly became active in playing chamber music in Philadephia and was teaching as well. Then all kinds of rumours started to circulate that he was not being renewed or he was being renewed but only for a year. Philadelphia's mistake. He left the orchestra to be co-concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony--a position he has held since 1999. So, it may simply be that this situation is one that we will never understand fully and that will have a good outcome for the people involved.

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If it is that the NY Philharmonic seeks the best players, and the best are women, and typically Asian, then it says something about the state of things.

Exactly! If he covets a spot in an all male orchestra, he may

audition for the Vienna or the Berlin. Equal rights never meant equal

results.

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Exactly!  If he covets a spot in an all male orchestra, he may

audition for the Vienna or the Berlin.  Equal rights never meant equal

results.

If you're talking about the Berliner Philarmoniker, the list of its members is here:

http://www.berlin-philharmonic.com/de/orchester/

and first names like "Madeleine", "Aline", "Cornelia", "Bettina" or "Rachel" don't sound

very masculine to me. (But perhaps I have misunderstood your post.)

And wasn't the Vienna orchestra famous for its policy excluding women until the late 1990s ?

It is not really surprising that even now there are not many women there.

[Edited to add that Cygnet edited his/her post while I was posting mine].

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Oops, sorry research blooper! Thanks for the link Estelle! I thought they were still segregated - good for them! However the case is decided, it doesn't look good. Re the Vienna, (if he wanted to), he'd have to successfully audition for, and then complete three years' probation with the State Opera orchestra, before he could even apply for a Phil spot.

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I'm trying to figure this out it seems like Anton Polezhayev is maybe just a jerk? It's not about his playing as much as people don't like him and so he is 'bad for the orchestra.'

There are players that can have a positive affect on the others, causing them all to perform better just by their presence. Karajan had a chap like this in the Berlin Philharmonic once, in the winds I think he was. K always looked for the fellow...

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Thanks for starting the topic, PetipaFan.

I've often found that it's very hard to figure out What Really Happened from early news accounts. It will be interesting to see how this develops. From all that I have read about sexual politics in orchestras, however, I'm inclined to be skeptical of reverse discrimination charges. We'll see!

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New story in the Times Today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/26/arts/mus...?pagewanted=all

" "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." "

The picture is getting more clear! It's about 'his behavior.'

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