'Brokenhearted': Former Okanagan Symphony music director will sue after surprise termination

Former conductor will sue

The former music director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra will be launching legal proceedings against her former employer after she was terminated months away from retirement.

Rosemary Thomson was abruptly removed from her post at OSO on Dec. 1 after 16.5 years of service. The move was disclosed to members via an email on Dec. 6.

"This was not an easy decision by the board, but one that was made after careful deliberation and consultation. The board has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the organization," said executive director Geraldine Parent in the internal email.

On Friday, in a statement through her lawyer, Thompson said she was “shocked, incredulous, and completely brokenhearted” to receive the news of her termination.

“I have always given my all to the orchestra, to the organization, and to the entire community throughout the Okanagan Valley,” she said.

Under her leadership, the OSO and its various programs have “blossomed and audiences had grown to unprecedented levels prior to the pandemic,” according to the statement released by FH&P Lawyers.

The Okanagan Symphony Society has alleged they have cause for terminating Thomson’s contract, said the lawyer’s statement.

“Thomson notes that these allegations relate primarily to a recent concert program performed by the Okanagan Symphony with guest artists representing Indigenous cultures and improvisatory traditions outside the OSO’s classical roots, and are without merit,” the statement continued.

“Legal proceedings will be commenced.”

The well attended Amplify Concert on Nov. 18 took place at the Mary Irwin Theatre at the Rotary Centre for the Arts in Kelowna.

After the event she told Castanet she was “on a quest to bring different music to different audiences in different and more intimate venues.”

On Thursday, the Okanagan Symphony Society declined to comment on why it terminated Thompson’s contract.

“We will not be disclosing the specific details of the issues that led to the board's decision to continue the season with guest conductors. We respect the privacy and dignity of all parties involved. Because of confidentiality, we will not be saying anything further about this matter,” reads a statement issued to Castanet.

The society says its focus remains on delivering “exceptional music experiences” to its communities. A number of guest conductors have been brought for the balance of the season.

A petition has also launched calling on the society to reverse its decision and “bring back Rosemary.”

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