Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Fires Veteran Flutist With History of Sharing Controversial Theories

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Emily Skala had been suspended from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where she had held the position of principal flutist since 1988, prior to her firing.

The Baltimore Symphony has fired a veteran flutist who has reportedly shared on social media conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the 2020 election. 

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra did not specify why they fired principal flutist Emily Skala, who has held that position with the orchestra since 1988, but in a statement to CBS Baltimore, BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome said she was dismissed "in accordance with the progressive discipline policy agreed to in our collective bargaining agreement with the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore Local 40-543, AFM." 

Kjome continued: "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 behavior." 

Skala had been suspended prior to her firing. 

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in February Tweeted saying it did not "condone nor support the words or sentiments expressed" in posts made by Skala, but did not specify what the posts actually said.

"Ms. Skala does not speak for the BSO, nor do her statements reflect our core values or code of conduct grounded in humanity and respect," the orchestra wrote in February. 

Skala previously claimed that COVID-19 was made in a lab in North Carolina, that it then was sold to a lab in Wuhan, China, the location of the first reported human case of infection of COVID-19. She also posted that once in Wuhan, it was placed at a wet market there, CBS News reported. Authorities are investigating if COVID-19 may have been accidentally released from a lab. 

Skala said she is not a conspiracy theorist in an interview with The New York Post in February, during which she said she did not accept that President Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election.

"To use that word so indiscriminately is disrespectful to our critical thinkers and shuts down everyone from doing the same. I’m definitely being unfairly labeled for my views.” she said to the Post

“My posts are anti-narrative, anti-mainstream media and it’s causing cognitive dissonance,” Skala told the Sun around the same time. “That’s what makes people angry.”

Emails Skala sent in the workplace that were leaked had also come under criticism. In a letter to The Baltimore Sun published on the newspaper's site in March, Skala said the orchestra's management created a hostile work environment. 

“My employer, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, recently sought to distance the organization from me and my views, expressed on Facebook, regarding coronavirus and the legitimacy of the November election. Subsequently, someone I do not know has aired two of my work emails on social media as supposed evidence of racist and anti-Semitic beliefs,” Skala wrote.

She continued: ”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. "These pieces contradict what we are being told through mass media."

Skala said that BSO senior management was distancing themselves from her views to “safeguard their interests."

On Tuesday, Skala told the Sun she believed her firing may have stemmed from an incident on July 23. She told the paper she did not have a mask with her and had not had a COVID-19 test, as is required by BSO's health protocols, when she went to Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to submit a W-4 tax form.

Though she said she did not intend to go inside the building, she discovered her key card was not working, and she tried to open the door to give her form to a security guard, she told the Sun.  

Skala said orchestra officials considered this a violation of the terms of her suspension, during which she was not allowed in the building. But she also said she believed the orchestra had been looking for a way to fire her prior to the July incident. “It’s clear I have been a target at the BSO for quite some time,” Skala said.

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