Austin Symphony Orchestra issues apology for racist comments made by orchestra member

1 June 2020, 12:24 | Updated: 1 June 2020, 13:07

Candlelight Evening In Memory Of George Floyd In Krakow
Candlelight Evening In Memory Of George Floyd. Picture: Getty

By Rosie Pentreath

The apology comes after the now-former principal trombonist of the orchestra made offensive comments in relation to protests being seen across America following the death of George Floyd.

The Austin Symphony Orchestra has issued a public apology after one of its trombonists made racist comments online.

Principal trombonist Brenda Sansig Salas – since terminated from her position in the orchestra – made racist remarks in a post and comments around the protests happening throughout America in response to the death of black man George Floyd on 25 May.

Floyd was killed in custody by white policeman, Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and failed to move even as Floyd pleaded for him to do so. Floyd was pronounced dead an hour later, and a lawyer for the Floyd family has since accused Chauvin of premeditated murder.

Read more: Orchestral music boosts mental health and wellbeing in isolation, study finds >

Protesters Demonstrate In D.C. Against Death Of George Floyd By Police Officer In Minneapolis
Protesters Demonstrate In D.C. Against Death Of George Floyd By Police Officer In Minneapolis. Picture: Getty

Floyd’s death has sparked protests, looting and fires around the country – and globally – as people take to the streets to speak out against racism and police brutality, many under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sansig Salas’ comments were made online in response to US President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis, and ongoing commentary around the harshness of police shutdown of some protests.

“Trump isn’t rioting. The blacks are,” Sansig wrote in comments that have since been removed – but not before members of the community took screenshots and circulated. People were quick to call Salas out, criticising her use of language and prejudiced written remarks.

Sansig Salas also defended President Trump, using racist slurs: “Trump didn’t kill someone, but in your black minds, everything is his fault.” She goes on to criticise “1/2 black president” Obama, seeming to insinuate bizarrely that his presidency was the cause of Swine Flu and Ebola.

Her offensive language was flagged to her employers, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, who have since issued a public apology on social media.

“We have been made aware that a musician of the Austin Symphony Orchestra has made an offensive post on their social media account regarding the protests across our country. This language is not reflective of who we are as an organization,” the orchestra, which was founded in 1911, wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning. “The ASO is committed to being an inclusive organisation as well as provide a safe space for all. We will follow up on the situation and take appropriate action.”

This was followed by a statement from ASO executive director, Anthony Corroa who said, “We would like to thank the community and let you know that your voice was heard. As previously stated, we were made aware of offensive posts that were shared on social media by one of our musicians late last night.

“Once alerted, we were appalled by the comments as they are clearly not reflective of who we are as an organization. We began to work quickly and closely with the American Federation of Musicians, our Orchestra Committee, staff and other key members.

“At this time we can state that the musician is no longer employed by the ASO for there is no place for hate within our organization. Thank you for your patience while we navigated through the necessary channels.”

Screenshots circulating on social media indicate that Sansig Salas is indeed no longer listed as a member of the orchestra on its website, where before her name had appeared on the list of players.

Protests are still continuing nearly a week on from Floyd’s death, with President Trump being moved to a bunker over the past weekend for protection as hundreds of people gathered to protest outside the White House.

On Sunday night Trump tweeted praise of the National Guard for a “great job” in responding to the protests in Minneapolis where it “shut down anarchists”.