New York Philharmonic Musicians In Limbo After Investigation

NPR
9/17/2018

 Liang Wang, playing with the New York Philharmonic at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013.  Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Liang Wang, playing with the New York Philharmonic at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013. Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

The New York Philharmonic announced Sunday that it has taken action against two prominent musicians over unspecified "misconduct": the orchestra's principal oboist, Liang Wang, and its associate principal trumpeter, Matthew Muckey.

The orchestra said the decision came after a five-month internal investigation, led by a former federal judge. Both musicians dispute the Philharmonic's findings, and while the musicians' union reviews the orchestra's decision, the two have been placed on unpaid leave.

The New York Philharmonic released no details about the nature of the alleged misconduct. The Philharmonic's decision was first reported by the New York Times.

In a brief statement to NPR, a spokesperson for the New York Philharmonic said: "The New York Philharmonic received reports that two musicians, Liang Wang and Matthew Muckey, engaged in misconduct. The Philharmonic retained former federal judge Barbara Jones of the Bracewell law firm to investigate the matter. Following the investigation, the Philharmonic advised the musicians that their employment was terminated. At the request of their union, the Philharmonic delayed the implementation of the termination and placed the musicians on an unpaid leave of absence pending the union's review of the matter."

According to the New York Philharmonic's 2016 Form 990 tax filings, Wang was among the orchestra's most highly compensated musicians, earning more than $400,000 that year. Within an orchestra, the principal oboe holds a particular leadership role: that instrumentalist gives the "A" pitch that everyone else in the orchestra uses to tune, is considered the leader of the woodwind section, and often plays solos. Wang's official New York Philharmonic biography notes that he has performed as a concerto soloist with the orchestra nearly two dozen times.

Born in Qingdao, China, Wang studied at the Beijing Central Conservatory and later at the highly selective Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He joined the New York Philharmonic in September 2006 as principal oboist after brief stints as the principal oboist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Santa Fe Opera and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, among other positions at prominent American orchestras.