Rock Hill Symphony conductor steps down over what he calls unsafe COVID conditions

Southeast Region

ROCK HILL, SC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The long-time musical director and maestro of the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra is stepping down, after what he says, are unsafe conditions, during their concerts.

When high school isn’t in session, the symphony is.

“It’s been great. From the very beginning, we sold out the first concert. then the first season, then we moved to a bigger hall,” remembered David Rudge.

David helped start the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra in 2017.  He was there when COVID hit and helped them find a way to keep playing music.

“You feel what’s coming off the stage, in terms of the music and also the people making it. There’s nothing like live music,” said David.

When things started to get back to normal, he thought he’d be there too.

“They didn’t ask for plexiglass, they didn’t ask for distancing, they asked for those basic things,” said David.

He requested that people attending the concerts with the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra wear masks, which is similar to other requirements for various orchestras in the area.

But, according to the policy on the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra website, masks are still optional.

So, David’s choice to quit wasn’t.

“It came to a place where we had to decide on the next concert. (The board) wanted me to do it and my doctor didn’t. Basically, it came to that,” said David.

David sent the Orchestra Board his resignation letter last Thursday. In it, he wrote, “You have already conveyed enough information about your unwillingness to collaborate, trust, or even change the unsafe working conditions that you have been expecting your Music Director, musicians, staff, and audience to accept.”

Once he stepped down, David said he heard from others who were thankful for him speaking out.

“It feels validating, it doesn’t fix this situation. I’m surprised, I didn’t even expect that, I just did what I did because it seemed like the logical next thing to do,” said David.

He said logic guided his decision, and he hopes it’ll guide the board members of the symphony too.

“There are good people on that board, but I think they did the wrong thing,” said David.

Fox 46 received the following statement from RHSO Board Member Nicki Nash.

We were disappointed in his haste in communicating this as we had hoped to provide a uniform statement on behalf of both parties when appropriate. In fact, the Board of Directors of the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra actually voted last night (November 17) to accept Dr. Rudge’s resignation as our music conductor. While we have been working through multiple issues and numerous concerns for quite some time now, it was always our intent to part ways respectfully and professionally. We value all the support this community has given us, and each of the amazing, talented musicians who perform with the Rock Hill Symphony Orchestra.

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