SF Symphony Cancels North Carolina Concerts Over Anti-LGBTQ Law

The San Francisco Symphony led by Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas (Photo: Chris Wahlberg/SF Symphony)

The San Francisco Symphony has canceled a pair of concerts planned for April in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Symphony issued a statement Monday saying the decision is a “response to (North Carolina’s) House Bill 2 (HB2), a law which overturned protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals earlier this year.”

The two concerts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill would have been the Symphony’s first visit to the state, and were scheduled as the first stop on an East Coast tour that still includes two concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

“We waited as long as we could to make a decision,” said Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink, “to see if there were any indication one way or another about the fate of HB2, and we see no near term indication that the law will be overturned.”

Brett Assink, Executive Director of San Francisco Symphony until 2017.
Brett Assink, Executive Director of San Francisco Symphony until 2017. (Courtesy of San Francisco Symphony)

Assink said the symphony was reluctant to cancel, “because Chapel Hill and our presenter, The University of North Carolina, espouses the values that we uphold here.”

The symphony statement quoted Carolina Performing Arts Executive and Artistic Director and Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Emil J. Kang, as saying he’s disappointed that the symphony has canceled, but noting that the university has never enforced HB2 on campus.

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Assink said the symphony, which received $640,000 in subsidies last year from San Francisco’s hotel tax, thinks of itself as a cultural ambassador for San Francisco, and wanted to honor Mayor Edwin Lee’s decision to bar publicly-funded city employees from traveling to North Carolina on business.

The symphony joins a long list of performers and organizations canceling appearances in North Carolina since the passage of HB2, including Itzhak Perlman, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Cirque du Soleil. The NBA moved its All-Star Game to New Orleans.

The decision may end up costing the Symphony money in lost concert revenues and cancellation fees, though Assink said the company has yet to determine how much.

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