BSO fires principal flutist Emily Skala, who was previously rebuked over social media posts

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday fired Emily Skala, its controversial longtime principal flutist.

In a brief statement, the orchestra offered no specific reasons for its decision to terminate Skala, who was publicly rebuked by her employer six months ago for social media posts that supported conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus and about election fraud.


“Principal Flutist Emily Skala has been dismissed from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra 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,” wrote Peter Kjome, the BSO’s president and CEO.

“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,” Kjome continued.


Skala, who had been suspended from her work duties, said she was notified by phone Tuesday afternoon that she had lost her job of 33 years.

“I’ve only ever wanted to state my truth,” she said. “I’m not going to publicize what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to sit passively by. The BSO can expect to hear from me.”

A symphony spokeswoman declined to provide further details, and it wasn’t clear whether the “repeated conduct” the statement refers to included new social media posts.

Skala said she believes the incident that culminated in her dismissal occurred July 23, when she went to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to hand in a new W-4 tax form. She was not wearing a mask and had not had a COVID-19 test as is required by BSO health protocols, but she said she did not intend to go inside. However, when she discovered that her key card had been deactivated, she attempted to open the door to hand her form to a security guard.

Skala said BSO officials interpreted this as violating the terms of her suspension, which barred her from the building.

“It’s clear I have been a target at the BSO for quite some time,” Skala said.

“From February until now, the BSO has repeatedly violated my constitutional rights in response to audience and donor and subscriber pressure,” she said. “They’ve committed many crimes against me, none of which they have acknowledged even to themselves. It would not be right to let that go unaccounted for. I would hate for this to happen to anyone else.”

Emily Skala of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays the flute during a lunch break in a file photo from 2010. “I’ve only ever wanted to state my truth,” she said Tuesday. “I’m not going to publicize what I’m going to do, but I’m not going to sit passively by. The BSO can expect to hear from me.”

A spokeswoman for the Musicians’ Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, which represents Skala, could not be reached for comment.


In February, the orchestra took the unusual step of publicly rebuking Skala for what it perceived to be conspiracy-laden social media posts.

Symphony officials issued a statement saying that they did not “condone or support” the views expressed by Skala in her posts and added that her statements did not “reflect our core values or code of conduct grounded in humanity and respect.”

Skala previously had angered some colleagues and other members of the community with her comments about political topics.

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Earlier this year, opera singer Melissa Wimbish released emails that Skala had written to BSO performers in July 2020 following a Zoom meeting to discuss protests in Baltimore and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Among other things, Skala wrote that she didn’t think the BSO should support Black Lives Matter because she believed it was part of a conspiracy led by powerful Democrats and supported by billionaire George Soros.

One month after her reprimand, Skala responded in kind, submitting a letter to The Baltimore Sun that was published March 26. In that letter, she chastised BSO management for creating what she described as “a hostile workplace” environment.


“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,” Skala wrote. “These pieces contradict what we are being told through mass media.

“I risked everything ... in search of an honest exchange under the aegis of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.”

The 59-year-old flutist, who joined the BSO in 1988, said the odds of her landing a position playing flute for another major orchestra are daunting. But once she has had time to process the shock of her dismissal, Skala said she intends to begin auditioning.

“These aren’t easy jobs to get,” she said. “But it’s never worth not trying.”