Documents cite sexism and sexual harassment as reasons for firing Oregon Bach Festival artistic director Matthew Halls

Documents obtained by Eugene Weekly shed more light on September’s secretive firing of Oregon Bach Festival Artistic Director Matthew Halls. Halls, who received a $90,000 settlement from the University of Oregon, was accused by four women of unequal treatment on the grounds of gender.

One of the complaints against Halls alleges that he treated female musicians differently than their male counterparts.

“She described that when Mr. Halls has comments, feedback or direction for a particular section of the orchestra he directs his comments and feedback to male participants in the section, actively passing over the female section…”, the documents state.

When he did give comments to female performers, The Register-Guard reports that he “focus(ed) on their dress … or physical appearance rather than on their performance, technique or skill.”

According to The Guard, Halls apologized to anyone who felt as if he favored one gender over another.

In addition to the allegations of unequal treatment, one complaint details a racist joke Halls allegedly made to an African-African performer which he voiced in an “antebellum accent.”

The Oregon Bach Festival is no stranger to controversy. The Guard reports that in 2015 Steven Scharf, a violinist and 37-year veteran of the festival, was banned from future events after allegations sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment.

The Register-Guard also reports that during the 2016 festival a countertenor named Clifton Massey was asked to leave after a male performer caught him trying to take photos through a crack at the bottom of the accuser’s door.


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Michael Tobin

Michael Tobin

Michael is one of the Emerald's associate news editors. In his free time, he enjoys rock climbing and going to house shows. Drop him a tip via email at [email protected]