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Calgary Philharmonic takes action following investigation into 'deeply troubling' comments by 2 musicians

The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (File photo: CTV Calgary) The Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (File photo: CTV Calgary)
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The Calgary Philharmonic has confirmed its taking action after controversial online comments made by two members of the orchestra.

“We have been made aware of deeply troubling comments posted online that do not represent the views of the Calgary Philharmonic,” the orchestra posted on Instagram on April 22.

“We are urgently investigating these allegations as per our code of conduct and are working alongside the musicians’ union.”

Thursday, the CPO issued a statement to CTV News.

“Following an independent third-party investigation, the Calgary Philharmonic has taken action to address the behaviour of two of our orchestra members,” said CPO President and CEO Marc Stevens. “I can assure you that we did not take these steps lightly but for the morale, safety and health of our organization it was deemed necessary. We will not be commenting further due to legal and privacy considerations.”

As first reported in The Globe & Mail, the CPO has removed two members of the orchestra, clarinettist Slavko Popovic and oboist Alex Klein. The CPO won't confirm those firings and CTV News hasn't been able to independently verify the information.

However, both of Popovic and Klein's biographies have been removed from the CPO website. Cached version of the organization's "meet the orchestra" page show both men among its musicians.

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra musician roster earlier in 2024. (Photo: CPO)

Thursday, on the CPO website, under “Oboes,” it said, “Position to be filled.”

Under “Clarinets,” it said the same thing.

CTV News has reached out to Klein and Popovic for comment, but have not heard back.

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra's "Meet the Orchestra" page on Thursday, May 23, 2024

2020 Investigation

In 2020, the CPO investigated Popovic after a number of anonymous allegations were made against him by the Instagram platform @OrchestraisRacist.

In a statement released in September 2020, the orchestra wrote that "The investigation did find that Mr. Popovic has used racist and misogynistc language, which Mr. Popovic admitted to.

"At this time, we have every indication that he is taking ownership of this behaviour and understands that it is not in alignment with the values of our organization."

It was unclear what Klein was sanctioned for.

Industry-wide problem

A variety of screenshots on Reddit, Facebook and Instagram have been posted by someone with Popovic’s name using racist and misogynistic language.

American oboist Katherine Needleman hosts a Facebook page that chronicles bad behaviour by various members of symphony orchestras. According to The Globe's article, she posted some of those comments on her page in the days before the CPO announced an investigation.

Thursday, Popovic's Instagram page wasn't available.

Needleman’s Facebook page suggests an industry-wide problem concerning inappropriate behaviour by classical musicians that she says might be a product of an art form that is somewhat proudly stuck in the past.

“Perhaps it is something about translating and interpreting so much music from the past without any particularly accurate notational system which keeps us operating about 50 (to) 75 years behind most other industries,” she said, in an email to CTV News.

"Orchestras have historically excused misogynist and racist behaviour by mirroring courts of law and their findings," she said. "This does not make for healthy workplace environments and we need an organization to pave a better and more inclusive way forward."

"Some are doing better than others."

A spokesperson for the Calgary Musicians Association, which represents orchestra members, said it would have no comment on the matter.

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