An official document just obtained by Eugene Weekly from the University of Oregon shows that Oregon Bach Festival artistic director Matthew Halls was fired on Aug. 24 for alleged discrimination against women and a person of color.
The six-page document was received late in the day Tuesday, Nov. 14, following a public records request EW made in September.
The document solves a three-month mystery in the music world: Why was the celebrity conductor fired? The UO has steadfastly refused to say until now, always saying the information was confidential. The university and Halls also signed a mutual non-disparagement agreement shortly after his termination.
The newly obtained document lays out two main complaints against Halls, an internationally known conductor who had been selected to replace OBF’s founding artistic director, Helmuth Rilling, on his retirement in 2013.
The first has been widely reported, that Halls was overheard making a racially insensitive remark to countertenor Reginald Mobley at a post-concert reception last summer. Both Mobley and Halls, who are friends, have strongly denied there was anything but good humor in the exchange.
The second is a July 12 complaint made by an unnamed OBF musician that Halls did not pay women musicians as much attention as he did men in rehearsals. “Our artistic director Matthew Halls does not call on them during rehearsals and favors the men,” the complainant said.
The heavily redacted complaint went on to say that Halls had made “inappropriate remarks,” though it doesn’t say what. The complainant also alleges that she heard similar complaints from other women and at least one man.
At one point, the complainant says, “It is the responsibility of those in power not to perpetuate old patriarchal systems.”
According to a timeline in the report, OBF Executive Director Janelle McCoy, who had received a second, similar complaint from an OBF participant, emailed the UO’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity on Aug. 16 that she would not renew Halls’ contract for the 2018 season.
Halls could not be reached for immediate comment.
We will have more on this story in next week’s print edition of Eugene Weekly, which will be published on Wednesday, Nov. 22, because of Thanksgiving.