Discord at the Buffalo Philharmonic
June 1, 2015 6:05 PM   Subscribe

"As principal oboe, your lack of musicality is shocking and destructive to our orchestra" The Buffalo Philharmonic fired principle oboist Pierre Roy in 2012. He filed a petition with the State Supreme Court, and the case has moved on to federal court. The Buffalo News covers the suit, and the fights within the woodwinds section.

The suit includes accusations of "aggressively swinging the bell of his oboe", deliberately hitting a trumpet player in the thumb, and tuning the orchestra with an "A note that [music director JoAnn Falletta] called unacceptably high."
posted by damayanti (79 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
The musicians’ union grieved his firing
Didn't the Garment Renders' Local have a problem with that?
posted by thelonius at 6:12 PM on June 1, 2015 [23 favorites]


Roy testified that he was cleaning reed shavings off his lap.

This is a terrific excuse. If only I played the oboe I would use this all the time.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:23 PM on June 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


I want the movie to star Will Ferrel.
posted by ocschwar at 6:24 PM on June 1, 2015 [46 favorites]


Metafilter: Unacceptably High
posted by firechicago at 6:35 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is the American English word “flutist” rather than “flautist”?
posted by acb at 6:38 PM on June 1, 2015


funny that most of his issues are with women. Dude sounds like a class A jerkbag
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:38 PM on June 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


Roy returned feeling some didn’t want him back. So he carried a small MP3 recorder in his pocket and recorded all of his interactions.

Protip: When you are recording all of your interactions with people, there is only one asshole in the room.
posted by Etrigan at 6:40 PM on June 1, 2015 [49 favorites]




“For the arbitrator to suggest that all musicians have to get along in order to make great music is contrary to the common experience,” said lawyer Steven M. Cohen, who represents Roy.

If this is in *defense* of Roy, that's reason enough for him to go and find somewhere else that won't have issues with his behavior.
posted by CrystalDave at 6:43 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're going to lose. If Falletta had told him, "Your behavior is seen as mocking, belittling, or outright threatening by other members of the orchestra, and you cannot or will not cut it out despite many warnings and accommodations," his keister would be kissing the sidewalk.

She didn't. She said something utterly unbelievable instead, and, oh yeah, he's got cherry-picked audio evidence. Oh, it makes me go cross-eyed. I know the dude's a jerk, but keeping it cool and deliberately understated is your only option, here...
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:57 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


After one complaint, the orchestra put up a Plexiglas shield between Roy and principal flutist Christine Davis.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:03 PM on June 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


no one knows where the oboe goes when it snows
posted by pyramid termite at 7:04 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mais où sont les hautbois d'antan?
posted by Earthtopus at 7:08 PM on June 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


*sad trombone*

OMG STOP MAKING YOUR TROMBONE DELIBERATELY SAD!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:10 PM on June 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


actually, i could imagine amarillo slim and francois villon getting together for a friendly game ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:13 PM on June 1, 2015


After one complaint, the orchestra put up a Plexiglas shield between Roy and principal flutist Christine Davis.

That would have been quietly hilarious to see.

Apparently Roy was down there in the comments section of the article making his case, until it was deleted. As we all know, making one's own case in comments sections online is a sure sign of a well-balanced individual who in no way wishes to pick a fight for its own sake.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:14 PM on June 1, 2015 [40 favorites]


Double reeds, man. Goddamn double reeds.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:17 PM on June 1, 2015 [35 favorites]


Pierre Roy facts:
  • Pierre Roy once started playing the theme from "Shaft" during Dvorak's New World Symphony.
  • Pierre Roy once loosened all the spit valves of the entire brass section before a performance.
  • Pierre Roy has been known to haze new conductors by paying a concert-goer to shout "play Free Bird!" throughout their debut night.
posted by duffell at 7:19 PM on June 1, 2015 [44 favorites]


That stressed me out. Hits too close to home, both as someone who's in a tense workplace at the moment and as a former band geek.

funny that most of his issues are with women.

This may be objectively true, but I think it's probably also the case that there are more women flautists/oboists than men, and therefore more women for him to have a problem with.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:21 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The right punchline here is: "Because the stakes are so small."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:23 PM on June 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


I want the movie to star Will Ferrel.

I see this as more a Christopher Guest production.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:23 PM on June 1, 2015 [32 favorites]


'tis an ill wind nobody blows good--Ambrose Bierce, on the oboe.

There is a theory that brain damage (and resultant odd behavior) is prevalent among long-term oboists as the incredible back-pressure while playing pushes their sinuses against their brains.
posted by sourwookie at 7:25 PM on June 1, 2015 [18 favorites]


i'm taking up oboe, then - i live in michigan, i've got nothing left to lose
posted by pyramid termite at 7:30 PM on June 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


ctrl-f "world's smallest violin"

*sad trombone*
posted by Riki tiki at 7:31 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


ctrl-f "world's smallest violin"

*sad trombone*


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytCEuuW2_A
posted by slater at 7:32 PM on June 1, 2015


I see this as more a Christopher Guest production.

Perhaps starring John Michael Higgins as Roy?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 7:33 PM on June 1, 2015


Oh God, I work with a passive aggressive dude just like Pierre Roy. The only way to fix the problem is to never hire them in the first place.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:35 PM on June 1, 2015


Hannibal Lecter knew how to deal with this.
posted by donpardo at 7:35 PM on June 1, 2015 [13 favorites]


This looks useful.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:36 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Up next on season two of "Mozart in the Jungle..."
posted by drezdn at 7:39 PM on June 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


ctrl-f "world's smallest violin"

No, this is instead more appropos of the world's largest hurdy-gurdy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:39 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pierre Roy insists that his orchestra light be both high-powered and strobed.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:46 PM on June 1, 2015


Also, because this can be really confusing, in NY, the Supreme Court is the lowest court (i.e. "court of supreme jurisdiction") rather than the highest (i.e. "court of supreme authority.")
posted by Navelgazer at 7:51 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]




...including in reviews in The Buffalo News. (...) "his (...) intonation that was “immaculate.”

We also find that he employed a paid shill at the newspaper of record.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:01 PM on June 1, 2015


he has become very angry about his responsibility of tuning without additional monetary compensation

You have got to be kidding me. Additional compensation? For playing an A?
posted by axiom at 8:11 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have bad memories of the oboe... in the Award Winning High School Band I was in (and where I was section leader of the woodwinds despite being Second Chair clarinet because First Chair was a weirdo who nobody respected) I was talked into taking up the oboe specifically in order to play it at the Annual Band Concert. After 4 months and 15 lessons I was NOT a good oboist, but the faculty band leader thought I was good enough. The night of the concert we went through the ritual of everybody tuning to the oboe... and my embouchure was falling apart with the damned double-reed and I KNEW I was at least a quarter-tone flat. But everyone tuned down to meet me and we did the concert, with a company that made custom records to commemorate events recording the whole thing. When the big black disk arrived, everything sounded even worse than I remembered. I have not spoken to anyone else in the band since I graduated. I don't know if oboes are The Devil's Musical Instruments, but that one sent me to Hell.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:12 PM on June 1, 2015 [35 favorites]


Sounds like, this one time, they need to go to band camp and get it out of their systems.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:18 PM on June 1, 2015


hard feelings drove a wedge in the wind section

Never mind, they're on it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:19 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


My best friend was an oboist; even did a BA in music.

When she first began, she always said that her oboe sounded like a sick duck.

But when she was good, it sounded like a beautiful musically talented duck. (I still love the oboe, thanks to her.)
posted by jb at 8:24 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


In my dreams, *this* is a new popular reality TV show.
posted by mmoncur at 8:28 PM on June 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


Sounds like, this one time, they need to go to band camp and get it out of their systems.

Yes, maybe then Pierre could figure out where he should shove his oboe.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:30 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Deoboed is a palindrome.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:36 PM on June 1, 2015 [40 favorites]


i was a teenage orchestra griefer
posted by Existential Dread at 8:37 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


We're Talkin' Proud!
posted by munchingzombie at 8:45 PM on June 1, 2015


The right punchline here is: "Because the stakes are so small."

Not to get all serious up in here and ruin the mood, but controversies which involve first chair of an instrument section in a prominent local orchestra are usually taken pretty seriously by the musicians involved, and for good reason. It takes many years of devotion and practice to reach the level where a musician is qualified to be considered for such a position, which is usually paid, and symphony orchestras are funded in part by wealthy people who sometimes use these battles as proxies for their own political power. I'm not saying this particular fight involves puppet masters, but I have seen principals fired for no reason other than outside grievances having nothing to do with music nor a musician's skill.

One notable incident in our local state orchestra was the firing of all principals who were women, a deliberate misogynist power play by a newly appointed director who felt that women just weren't as musically talented as men. It sidetracked quite a few incredible musicians with long histories with the orchestra. There was a lot at stake to those musicians who were deeply involved in their craft and paid participation in an orchestra representing the state by name, sometimes with a decade or more of experience as principal.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:46 PM on June 1, 2015 [34 favorites]


Protip: When you are recording all of your interactions with people, there is only one asshole in the room.

On the next... Arrested Development...
posted by krinklyfig at 9:06 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


What does an oboist get on an IQ test?

No, not a joke. I really need to know. For a friend.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:06 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


The oboist always reeds twice....
posted by 1367 at 9:10 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


What does an oboist get on an IQ test?

Reed shavings.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:13 PM on June 1, 2015 [17 favorites]


Deoboed is a palindrome.

Able was I ere I saw oboe.
posted by zippy at 9:19 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


When she first began, she always said that her oboe sounded like a sick duck.

But when she was good, it sounded like a beautiful musically talented duck. (I still love the oboe, thanks to her.)
"

#soundslegit
posted by klangklangston at 9:25 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Not to get all serious up in here and ruin the mood, but controversies which involve first chair of an instrument section in a prominent local orchestra are usually taken pretty seriously by the musicians involved, and for good reason."

The reason Murder She Wrote is so appealing is that the situations are plausible enough and the characters are ridiculously over-the-top.

What I'm saying is that if Angela Lansbury visits Buffalo any time soon, Roy should assume his reeds are poisoned.
posted by klangklangston at 9:29 PM on June 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


When he was being annoying on purpose, I wonder if the other musicians around him were all like..."Ohboe you didn't!"
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:31 PM on June 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


Not to get all serious up in here and ruin the mood...

Yeah, the origin of the "stakes are so small" joke is satirizing the fact that insiders will often place great import on situations that outsiders can't or won't understand. It's about perceptions and frames of reference, not objective worth. The stakes are small ... to the outsider.

So, no need to get all serious and ruin the mood because the joke is the mood, OK?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:35 PM on June 1, 2015


The right punchline here is: "Because the stakes are so small."

This is true, except it's not a punchline. krinklyfig's comment is spot on, but doesn't account for the underlying, non-negotiable problem, which is that these positions are so highly prized, so valuable, and so fraught with fear over losing them because there are minuscule numbers of positions relative to the numbers of players skilled and talented enough to fill them, and it's getting worse.

Orchestras, and classical music as practiced more broadly, have completely lost their place in American culture--keep in mind, I say this as a musician and professor--and is now truly no longer viable as a primary vocation, let alone as a career vocation, for the vast majority of people who aspire to and train for it.

In this case, it gets worse (or better, if you enjoy such things): Roy wrote and posted online an almost 10,000-word polemic, which he took down after a bit, but was of course archived. Some choice bits, from Drew McManus' thoughtful post on this:
If you have ever played with an orchestra you know that the second violin section is not to be messed with. They are essentially the mafia of the orchestra. Avoid their gaze. It’s not a section that you want to pick a fight with. The most rebellious, loudest, intimidating section of the orchestra of any symphony is the second violin section. At the breaks you will notice that no one dares to cross their territory. People will hop over cellos and plow down first violins upon exit but nobody will tread through second violin territory. You may disappear quietly if you try.
[...]
In my free time of course, I had to accommodate the idiots to find some other location. The only place they could find was some unheated, smelly, mothballed, church on Main street [sic]. Because the church needed most of the building to function, the only solution was the basement. I scoped it out with Wes, stage manager at the time, and basically said that this environment was unprofessional, sub-par and all around unacceptable to run an audition.
[...]
So here we are in this unheated, smelly, moldy, rug covered, acoustically horrible office library in the basement of this Cathedral of shit, trying to run an audition. It was miserable and many of the fine players that could have done well were put off by this change and basically very uncomfortable venue. The warm up rooms were on the third floor of an attic space that were even colder than the basement. Smellier too.
Etc. Dude is an asshole, and it's hard to make convincing music with an asshole. This is a pretty clear situation, handled poorly by the orchestra management (hence McManus' point about HR practices).
posted by LooseFilter at 9:36 PM on June 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


The comments on that article are a fascinating insight into who has strong enough feelings about a local orchestra to fight about it with strangers in the local paper.
posted by gingerest at 9:39 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is the American English word “flutist” rather than “flautist”?

It's flutie. A gathering of flute players is called a Doug.
posted by maryr at 10:57 PM on June 1, 2015 [25 favorites]


"I am a flute player, not a flautist. I don’t have a flaut, and I’ve never flauted."
-- Sir James Galway, renowned flute player
posted by bryon at 11:19 PM on June 1, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't know if oboes are The Devil's Musical Instruments, but that one sent me to Hell.

The oboe is the devil's sad duck call, the nasal siren song that drives people to flatness and violence.

I do love the oboe, because it's amazing when played well, and because it's like the misfit woodwind, misunderstood and hard to play, that most people only remember as the duck in Peter and the Wolf.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:23 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know who else played the oboe? Petey Otterloop in the 'Cul de Sac' comic.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:00 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought all these guys were permanently drunk so this kind of thing wouldn't stand out.
posted by colie at 2:20 AM on June 2, 2015


Up next on season two of "Mozart in the Jungle..."
posted by drezdn


Thank you for reading my mind. My BFF was an accountant for various orchestra-type organizations. After I watched "Mozart in the Jungle" I asked her about oboists, and she assured me the show was right on about the particular personalities that succeed at that strangest of woodwinds.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:59 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pissed I can't sign up for Metafilter all over again under the username "Reed Shavings."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:02 AM on June 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


meirav-kadichevski :

"I guess most people don’t know that oboe players have to make their own reeds (which are the little mouthpieces that create sound). This is a long painstaking process, which includes handcrafting a tiny piece of cane. Reeds tend to be very moody and unstable, which can make us moody and unstable too :-)"
posted by nicolin at 3:04 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


You have got to be kidding me. Additional compensation? For playing an A?

And it's really just the "A" the oboe itself feels like playing on any given day.

FWIW, my son self-taught himself both the oboe and the bassoon, just so he could be in the high school orchestra (those were the two instruments for which they had no players) Got pretty darned good at them, too. But, then he discovered the electric guitar and GarageBand.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:11 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


This sounds to me like a situation with over-sensitive people who don't like each other that was exacerbated by incompetent administration and leadership. The thing is that performers are high-strung, insecure and egotistical (I say this as a performer). This comes with the territory. It's the director's and the administration's job to manage those personalities and make everything work. That it came to this is a stunning failure on the part of BPO's director and other administrators.
posted by slkinsey at 6:15 AM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


And it's really just the "A" the oboe itself feels like playing on any given day.

Er, no it isn't. Maybe in high school it is. But in and advanced orchestra, and certainly any professional orchestra, the oboe is carefully tuned to a specific frequency with a digital tuner. There is really no reason for the oboe to have this extra responsibility and headache nowadays other than tradition. I'm have no idea whether principal oboists are typically compensated for doing it.
posted by slkinsey at 6:24 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


This story needs more sex and jealousy. It is entertaining without it, but would be better with it.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:27 AM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


And it's really just the "A" the oboe itself feels like playing on any given day.

LooseFilter's link has an extended discussion about this; here's a Stack Exchange Article about it.

For the TL;DR for Loose Filter's link, Roy complains a lot about the orchestra tuning high (concert A at 442 Hz instead of 440Hz). This isn't unusual or crazy (see the Stack Exchange link) but it can cause issues for things like when you have an instrument that's set at 440 (like a Glockenspiel) trying to play in union with something that's been tuned to 442.

Ideally, the A is something that should be worked out between the conductor, the artistic director, whatever soloists are playing, etc. Roy brings up some valid points (again, about the Glockenspiel), but it mostly just reads like hissy "I wanna tune to 440Hz" fit.
posted by damayanti at 6:38 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


In his testimony, Roy said that he felt Davis was a "very dangerous person in the orchestra" because she would complain and write letters about others she was not happy with. He said she was "sort of like the orchestra police."

This story hadn't made the full circle into "elementary school playground argument" until this line, right here. Who does she think she IS, the ORCHESTRA POLICE?
posted by Mayor West at 6:49 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you weren't all taking this seriously I would have thought it was a parody.
posted by biffa at 7:07 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


With her even-keeled response, Maestra Falleta proves once again why she's the greatest music director of an American orchestra.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:59 AM on June 2, 2015


On Oboes and Buffaloes, a Spotify playlist. Starts with excerpts from the pieces with oboe solo troubles mentioned in the article (full pieces are at the end). Continues with a mix of music for and prominently featuring the oboe alongside recordings from the Buffalo Philharmonic.

URI: spotify:user:1236893927:playlist:3CPEjyM6E0Aj9Fj0wK8Mua
posted by mountmccabe at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


“I felt like he was mocking me when I was sitting there,” flutist Betsy Reeds told an arbitrator

What do you expect with a name like "Reeds" in the woodwind section?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:02 AM on June 2, 2015


I played first oboe in the tech orchestra (the student orchestra where we all played our secondary instruments to get practice, and the conducting students got practice conducting) and my most vivid memory is of the conductor yelling at me ove the music, "PUT IT FURTHER IN YOUR MOUTH! FURTHER IN! FURTHER IN! [REAL NAME], PUT IT FURTHER IN YOUR MOUTH!"

As far as I've always known, it's spelled "flutist" but pronounced "flautist."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:06 AM on June 2, 2015


Andy Partridge of XTC derisively referred to the oboe in Colin Moulding's song War Dance as "the singing penis." When you hear the part, it makes sense.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:10 AM on June 2, 2015


What does an oboist get on an IQ test?

Depends on the oboist, but probably well above average.

I played oboe from fourth grade through HS sophomore, when it became too painful to play with braces. The instrument was assigned to me by the grade school band leader; I wanted to play the glockenspiel. He told me that the glockenspiel wouldn't be "challenging" enough, and I should be flattered I was picked to play oboe, and I would gets lots of solos! (This is like telling a kid getting a tonsillectomy they can have unlimited ice cream, but neglecting to tell them it will hurt to swallow.)

IMX, oboe is not considered a "cool" instrument like flute, sax, or drums. Young oboe players get picked on for being weird (there is usually only one to a school band or orchestra) and for squawking during their frequent solos. I've always heard that oboe and French horn are the two hardest instruments to play.
posted by caryatid at 1:35 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tuning the orchestra is an honor and a privilege. It's also been in the job description of the Principal Oboist for the past couple hundred years and anyone asking to be paid extra for it is not just an ass, but an employee acting in bad faith.
posted by Revvy at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


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