Canadian Conductor Files Defamation Suit Against Musicians

Classic Arts News   Canadian Conductor Files Defamation Suit Against Musicians
The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra's artistic director, Douglas Sanford, has filed a defamation lawsuit against six musicians of the orchestra, seeking over C$200,000 in damages.

Sanford claims his reputation was marred by the musicians' accusations of incompetence, "abusive bullying tactics," stalking, working under the influence of alcohol and taking "credit for concerts which have been rehearsed and performed without his participation," among other things, reports the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

The allegations appeared in a 2006-07 steward's report that was given to the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the provincial funding body, which then passed it on to the Canada Council for the Arts.

"They passed out some information that eventually went out across the country," said Sanford, calling the accusations "just absolutely untrue."

"We've roughly estimated what impact this would have," said the conductor's lawyer, Richard Elson, referring to the C$200,000 sought. If the report's dissemination is not extensive, "Mr. Sanford is obviously going to have to consider what he does with respect to this action."

"I'm not aware that there has been any information that was passed out across the country," said the musicians' lawyer, Nicholas Stooshinoff. "Maybe there is evidence to that effect, but I'm not aware of anything."

"There's always going to be issues between the director and the players," said Sanford. "It doesn't necessarily mean that management is wrong or that the players are wrong."

Sanford said the disgruntlement dates back before he joined the Saskatoon Symphony in 2002. The orchestra's press reviews and financial situation are "probably better than they've ever been in quite some time," he said, and "so when people begin to say that's not true, that's probably false."

Attempts to hold discussions between administration and musicians failed on numerous occasions, said Sanford, who agonized over the decision to sue. "I really didn't have any [other] choice."

Also named as defendants in the suit are two officials with the musicians' union and a consultant with the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Sanford would additionally like a court order to cease publication of the allegations or similar words, according to CBC News.

Stooshinoff hopes both parties can reach resolution outside of court. "It's really gotten beyond the scope of what all these people should be seeking to achieve."

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