Joshua Weilerstein Releases Open Letter Due to BBC Proms Festival Controversy

By Francisco Salazar

American conductor Joshua Weilerstein has released an open letter in solidarity with conductor Dalia Stasevska, due to the controversy that erupted surrounding the 2020 BBC Proms Festival programming.

After the Finnish-born conductor received a barrage of negative comments due to pulling “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land of Hope and Glory” from the program of this year’s Last Night of the Proms, due to their history of colonialism and slavery, Weilerstein had over 470 professionals in the music industry sign the letter supporting Stasevska.

The letter read, “This is an open letter decrying the appalling treatment received on social media and elsewhere by Dalia Stasevska, Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, regarding programming decisions for the Last Night of The BBC Proms. This letter is not meant to address the debate over whether certain music should or should not be included in the program. That is a healthy and necessary conversation to be had elsewhere, and opinions may differ. But there is no excuse for the abusive, threatening, and xenophobic language that has been directed at Ms. Stasevska over the course of this week.”

He continued, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the disturbing threats of physical brutality made against Ms. Stasevska. We condemn the vulgar and sexist language used to address her. And we condemn the xenophobia, both casual and insidious, that marks these attacks, implying that a musician cannot advocate for artistic choices to be made in a country that they were not born in. As an international community of musicians, artists, and administrators, we feel it is important to stand up and speak out against this language, and to affirm our support of Ms. Stasevska.”

“We hope that this letter will reach those who engaged in such vitriol. We hope they will reflect on their decision to verbally abuse someone they’ve never met and/or to threaten them with physical harm. Music is a communal experience, and such experiences are all the more precious at a time when performances are necessarily few and far between. To attack a musician in this way is an attack on us all. We stand in solidarity with Dalia Stasevska, and we send her and the BBC Symphony our very best wishes for a wonderful performance.”

The letter was signed by musicians, orchestra leaders, conductors, and composers from around the world.