New England Conservatory says its decision to dismiss conductor Benjamin Zander is final, but Zander’s supporters continue to push for his reinstatement.
The latest volley comes from a pair of Zander’s well-connected family members. In a 5,175-word letter sent today to NEC’s board of trustees, former Harvard University president Neil Rudenstine and Zander’s older brother, Michael, a legal scholar based in London, lay out the case for giving Zander his job back.
Under the heading “Has Justice Been Done?,” Michael Zander and Rudenstine, who is married to Benjamin Zander’s sister, concede that Zander made a mistake in hiring a convicted sex offender to film at the conservatory, but they state that the conductor should not have been fired. They portray Zander, 72, an acclaimed faculty member who taught at NEC for 45 years, as being blindsided by a “brutally summary process [that] was far below the standard expected of a respected educational institution.”
Last month, NEC fired Zander, who also led the school’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, for knowingly hiring the sex offender Peter Benjamin to film concerts, rehearsals, and master classes without telling his superiors of the videographer’s past. Benjamin went to prison in the 1990s for the rape and sexual assault of three teenagers, but he has not been accused of any crimes at NEC or at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, a preparatory school affiliated with the conservatory. Zander, who taught at Walnut Hill, had hired Benjamin to do work there.
Since the dismissal, Zander, who also conducts the Boston Philharmonic, has apologized publicly for hiring Benjamin at NEC, and some members of NEC’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra have spoken out against the decision and tried to resist the school’s attempts to replace the conductor.
More than 700 people have signed an online petition calling for Zander’s reinstatement. But NEC has been steadfast in insisting that the decision on Zander is final.