Conductor Sues Connecticut Orchestra Over Firing

Classic Arts News   Conductor Sues Connecticut Orchestra Over Firing
Sidney Rothstein, the former conductor and music director of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra in Connecticut, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against its board, claiming he was wrongly dismissed after suffering a stroke =, reports the AP.

Rothstein, whom the Ridgefield Press calls a "charismatic conductor who led the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra through a decade of growth and artistic achievement," is claiming disability-based discrimination, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the federal lawsuit.

The case centers around whether Rothstein's stroke in late 2005, and ensuing problems with controlling his right arm and hand, affected his conducting abilities and made it tricky for him to clearly direct the musicians.

Rothstein, who had been with the orchestra since 1996, told the News Times newspaper of Danbury, Connecticut, "I spent my entire life building and nurturing orchestras. To have to engage any orchestra in legal action is very painful for me."

According to the AP, Sabina Slavin, president of the orchestra's board, issued a statement claiming that Rothstein's lawsuit "has no merit whatsoever," and that the board came to its decision in response to musicians' complaints. The board reportedly offered him the position of artistic adviser, but he turned it down.

The Ridgefield Press quotes the conductor as saying (in a statement), "I do wish to emphasize that I harbor no animosity toward any of the musicians, certainly, or even the general board membership of the RSO, and I recognize that whatever I did accomplish for the Ridgefield Symphony could not have been possible without their strong commitment."

He added, "The RSO has made many false allegations against me, including that I was rude to the RSO musicians and guest soloists, and that I added rehearsals to the schedule after I returned from having the stroke — and these are false. Actually, they're rather absurd accusations, which I intend to aggressively refute."

Rothstein, who took a three-month medical leave before returning to work on March 19, 2006, said complications from his stroke were temporary. The AP quotes him as saying, "If they had given me only a few more months, I would have been fine. I am fine now, and my mental process is fine."

In the spring of 2006, Rothstein retired as music director of the Reading Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania after a three-decade tenure.

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