A Toronto-area orchestra ensemble that was accused of body-shaming after a now-public email from its management asserted that only “physically fit and slim” vocalists would be allowed to perform has decided to shut down.
Sydney Dunitz, a now former vocalist with the Sheraton Cadwell Orchestra, posted a copy of the email on Facebook Tuesday night. The post has since accumulated more than 500 shares.
In the email, signed by “The Management,” the orchestra outlines concerns about the physicality of two members of their vocalist ensemble.
“It has been brought to our attention that although almost all of our vocalists are fit and slim – the way our boutique orchestras would like our front line performing artists to be – two of our featured singers were not,” it reads.
“And we hope that they would, as such, refrain from using tight-fitting dresses and use loose (less physically-revealing, less physically-accentuating) dresses instead.”
The email goes on to say that while being “physically fit and slim” is not required of their “instrumental musicians” because they are “essentially background wallpaper,” there are more stringent expectations for their vocalists.
Management then suggests that those vocalists deemed physically unfit will not be invited to participate in their “boutique performances” unless they dress “strategically” and unassumingly.
“Kindly note that for all future shows – as per our highly selective casting requirements for vocal artists taking on a prominent leading role on stage – only singers who are physically fit and slim (or, at the very least, those who know how to dress strategically/suitably in order to not bring attention to their temporary physical/dietary indulgences) would be showcased with our boutique orchestras,” the email concludes.
In the wake of controversy and media scrutiny generated by the message, the executive of the orchestra resigned Thursday and said the organization would fold.
“We sincerely apologize for any embarrassment/harassment that you may experience from media representatives or other individuals/parties as a result of misconstrued/malicious allegations and extremely negative/destructive/evil intent,” a resignation letter distributed Thursday afternoon read.
Dunitz said she was “disgusted” and “shocked" by the email, which she called “incredibly inappropriate.”
She said the email goes beyond the parameters of a dress code and instead treads on bullying.
“Many struggle with weight, many suffer eating disorders, many are in the process of getting fit, many just plain enjoy their bodies the way they are. That says nothing about their musical ability, which is obviously fantastic if they have been chosen to taken on a prominent leading role onstage,” she said in her response to the orchestra, which was also posted to Facebook.
“If any of the vocalists who sang this summer have any emotional issues dealing with their weight, this email could send them into a serious mental state.”
Dunitz, who has been performing with the orchestra for the past five years, goes on to claim that members of the orchestra who were not “dressed appropriately” for a show were reprimanded in the past.
“I am so disappointed to have received this email and learn that a part of my life I thought was completely safe from these ideals are not,” she said. “You’ve very much alienated your vocalists with your appalling words and not everyone is going to be self-confident enough to let you know how much you’ve crossed a line.”
Touted as specializing in providing “professional musicians for the upscale market,” the orchestra is comprised of more than 100 vocalists and musicians from Canada and around the world.
According to their press kit, 30 per cent of all their performance fees are donated to international charities including UNICEF, World Vision, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.
To date, the group claims it has raised more than $1.5 million for such organizations.
“I deal with women and self-consciousness and body positivity every single day, so to have this sent to me was actually a strange move on everybody’s part,” Dunitz, who runs a women’s strength training gym, said.
“Obviously it hit me very hard because this is what I fight against every single day -- the subject of prejudice (and) women trying to get over all of these fears that this email hit head on.”
Dunitz has since received an apology from Sheraton Cadwell but said that it appears to be the “standard response” everyone has received.
“The concept itself is terrible,” she said. “We all know it happens but to be this blatant in telling your orchestral members that they need to be fit and slim otherwise they won’t’ be able to perform is repulsive."