Woke strikes again! Fourteen musicians with the English Touring Opera (ETO), some of whom have been performing with the company for 20 years, have been fired because of the color of their skin.
Claiming they are following diversity guidance from Arts Council England, ETO has informed the white musicians that they will not be offered contracts for the 2022 season. Though the positions are technically freelance jobs, many of the musicians consider the work a permanent gig.
— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) September 14, 2021
The Daily Mail reports that Arts Council England funds ETO with 1.78 million British pounds per year. Arts Council England claims it did not suggest ETO can fire the white musicians, all of whom are 40-66 years old.
“We did not instruct the English Touring Opera to send this letter,” Arts Council England said. ‘We are now in conversation with ETO to ensure no funding criteria have been breached.”
This decision comes as part of a one-two punch to the musicians, who were unable to perform throughout the pandemic and relied on grants and loans. They’d hoped to pay back the loans from money made in the 2022 season. Now, nearly half of the company has been fired.
ETO tours towns and cities throughout the UK and reaches up to 50,000 audience members per season.
ETO praised the musicians it fired, thanked them for their commitment, and stated it would consider them for future projects.
From the “vacancies” page of the ETO website:
“ETO is a diverse and vibrant company with the people to match. The company is able to offer a wide range of administrative positions, as well as opportunities for career progression and development.”
The same page states, “We promote and operate an equal opportunities policy, ensuring that all applicants and employees receive fair treatment.”
Unless you’re white……
Below is a copy of the letter sent to the now unemployed white musicians:
I am writing to advise you that English Touring Opera is going through some significant changes over the next few seasons.
Some of these changes will directly affect the composition of the freelance orchestra engaged to tour.
It does seem likely that ETO will not be in a position to offer you a freelance engagement in the Spring 2022 season, even if we would like to leave the door open for freelance engagements in the future.
The orchestra has always changed, season to season – just as the company on stage and in the wings has changed regularly – but for a few reasons there will be quite a bit of change now.
As you know, the company has appointed a new Music Director, Gerry Cornelius. Gerry will be involved in advising on freelance orchestral engagements, as you would expect; he has been tasked with working with Phil Turbett on shaping the modern orchestra, and there have been recent auditions to inform that work.
English Touring Opera is committed to increasing all kinds of diversity in its team, and while there have been appreciable, steady advances on stage in this area, we have prioritised increased diversity in the orchestra. This is in line with the firm guidance of the Arts Council, principal funder of ETO’s touring work, and of most of the trust funds that support ETO.
I appreciate very much the commitment and achievement of all the freelance players who have achieved such high standards for ETO during my tenure with the company.
I know that all those players have achieved distinction in their work with other groups, in their teaching, and in many other fields. I recognise, too, that this last 18 months have been extremely difficult for freelance artists and technicians.
I know that you are not likely to read gratitude into this message – but I assure you that I do feel grateful for what you have brought to ETO in the seasons during which you have played so far.