J. Bud Roach, formerly the BPO's second oboist, was dismissed in February 2004, and he claims that his firing was due to homophobia in the orchestra.
According to a statement issued on Roach's behalf by GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the trouble began in February 2003, when Roach's supervisor, principal oboist Pierre Roy, allegedly remarked to him, "We wouldn't want any more fags in the orchestra."
After hearing this comment from Roy, Roach raised the matter with BPO music director JoAnn Falletta; he alleges that she advised him to drop the matter because "these things can get messy."
At that time, Falletta stated to Roach that she had no concerns about his performance as a musician, according to the GLAAD statement. In June 2003, however, she allegedly indicated that she would not want to give Roach tenure if his section principal, Roy, did not like him — thus "allowing an individual with a clear bias to directly influence an employment decision," as the statement put it.
Roach alleges that Roy became more hostile to him in subsequent months and publicly stated a desire to have Roach fired. Roach hired an attorney who met with BPO management in October of 2003; it was at that meeting (more than 18 months after Roach's arrival at the orchestra and almost eight months after his initial complaint) that Falletta allegedly stated for the first time that there were "musical issues" with Roach.
About two months later, on December 19, 2003, Roach filed a verified complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights; a copy was sent to Buffalo Philharmonic management. Just under two months after that, on February 12, 2004, the orchestra denied him tenure. Roach thereupon filed a second complaint with the NYC Division of Human Rights, alleging retaliation by the BPO.
"The conductor, JoAnn Falletta, did nothing to prevent or stop anti-gay prejudice among the musicians she oversaw," Roach said in the GLAAD statement. "The Buffalo Philharmonic seems to think that it is above the law when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. They invented false claims to hide from the fact that they took no action regarding a human rights complaint."
On March 27, the New York State Division of Human Rights ruled that there is probable cause to believe that illegal discrimination and retaliation occurred in Roach's case — thus paving the way for a public hearing, which will begin on June 18.
Asked by PlaybillArts for comment on the case, BPO executive director Daniel Hart issued the following statement:
"It is extremely unfortunate that a former employee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) is attempting to tarnish the image of our organization and our esteemed music director JoAnn Falletta prior to a hearing before an administrative law judge with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
"The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is comprised of talented musicians from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. We are extremely proud of our musicians and their commitment to upholding the highest of professional standards and practices, especially under JoAnn Falletta.
"We are confident that the hearing before the administrative law judge will find the claims made by this former employee against the BPO [to be] without merit. It should be further noted that the BPO has fully cooperated with the Division of Human Rights at every juncture in this matter.
"As this is a legal matter, the BPO will have no further comment at this time."