US orchestra fires flautist who shared coronavirus conspiracy theories on social media

4 August 2021, 13:20 | Updated: 4 August 2021, 13:28

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra rebukes flautist’s remarks on coronavirus vaccines and US election fraud
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra fires flautist over remarks on coronavirus and US election fraud. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has dismissed its principal flautist, following months of controversial remarks about coronavirus vaccines and January’s US election results.

A major US orchestra has fired its longtime principal flautist, who was recently subject to disciplinary action for remarks she made on social media questioning the safety of coronavirus vaccines, and the results of the US presidential election.

Principal flautist Emily Skala had a history of posting conspiracy theories online. She wrote in a Facebook post that coronavirus was “created in a lab at UNC – yes, in North Carolina – and sold to a lab in Wuhan, China and then planted in the marketplace 300 yards away.”

She also retweeted posts questioning the safety of the coronavirus vaccine and the legitimacy of the US presidential election results, alongside retweets of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s posts.

In a statement, BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome said: “Principal Flutist Emily Skala has been dismissed from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in accordance with the progressive discipline policy agreed to in our collective bargaining agreement with the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore.

“Ms. Skala has had discipline imposed upon her over these past few months; unfortunately, she has repeated the conduct for which she had been previously disciplined, and dismissal was the necessary and appropriate reaction to this behaviour.”

Read more: Marin Alsop quits at Baltimore amid financial troubles for the great US orchestra >

The Music Center at Strathmore in Maryland, home state of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Music Center at Strathmore in Maryland, home state of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Picture: Getty

Skala defended herself in a letter to The Baltimore Sun in March, saying she did not intend to cause any anger with her posts. “My posts are anti-narrative, anti-mainstream media and it’s causing cognitive dissonance. That’s what makes people angry,” she said.

“I had posted information from what I understand to be peer-reviewed studies, independent journalists and licensed medical doctors who weren’t chosen to be presented on our mainstream channels, along with educational videos and charts,” Skala added. “These pieces contradict what we are being told through mass media.”

On Tuesday 3 August, Skala told the newspaper that she believes she was finally fired from the orchestra after, on 23 July, she went to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to hand in a tax form, but did not have a mask with her. She claims that she tried to enter the building, but could not after realising her key card had been deactivated. Skala said she believes that management had been looking for a reason to dismiss her.

“From February until now, the BSO has repeatedly violated my constitutional rights in response to audience and donor and subscriber pressure,” she told the newspaper. “They’ve committed many crimes against me, none of which they have acknowledged even to themselves. It would not be right to let that go unaccounted for. I would hate for this to happen to anyone else.”

Skala played with the orchestra for 33 years, being appointed principal flute in 1988.