The Oregon Bach Festival has lost the newly appointed program director of its student academy in the complicated aftermath of last summer’s firing of artistic director Matthew Halls.
Canadian violinist Marc Destrubé was appointed program director of the University of Oregon-run festival’s Berwick Academy in December to replace Halls, who ran the academy as part of his job as festival artistic director. In a Dec. 15 press release heralding Destrubé’s appointment, OBF called him “an expert on both modern and period instruments [who] performs as a soloist, chamber musician, concertmaster, and director/conductor of orchestras with esteemed musical groups around the world.”
Then, with no announcement, the press release quietly disappeared from the festival’s website, and violist Adam LaMotte was listed as Berwick Academy director.
On Saturday, Feb. 10, Destrubé confirmed to Eugene Weekly he had stepped down from the academy directorship – though he’ll continue to perform at OBF and remain on the Berwick faculty – after learning the festival had rescinded his invitation to cellist Jaap ter Linden to perform this summer.
Ter Linden’s invitation was canceled after EW pointed out in an article that he had been fired from a guest conducting post at Oberlin Conservatory in 2015. Students there had complained he used a racial epithet in telling a story at a rehearsal. Ter Linden, who is Dutch, later said in an interview with EW that he had no idea in 2015, when he still lived in The Netherlands, that the term was as offensive as it is here in the U.S., though he understands its significance now.
Destrubé said he couldn’t continue as program director. “I have … relinquished my role as program director of the Berwick Academy,” he said by email. “As it was I who invited Jaap ter Linden, also at the suggestion of several of the other faculty members, and as the OBF/UO administration decided to un-invite him following your article, unjustifiably in my opinion, I felt that my position as program director was untenable. As simple as that.”
Though the reasons for Halls’ termination were never made clear by the University of Oregon, which runs OBF, documents released by the university suggest he was let go over charges of sexist and racist behavior.
Destrubé made it clear he will participate in the festival this summer as a faculty member and performer.
“I have not quit the OBF,” he said in his email. “I will be on the Berwick Academy faculty, direct the Mozart program with the Berwick Academy participants and fellow faculty on July 9th, as well as performing on several other OBF concerts. I remain an enthusiastic participant in the activities of the academy and festival.”
OBF Executive Director Janelle McCoy and UO School of Music and Dance Dean Brad Foley have not responded to emails seeking comment on Destrubé’s resignation as director.