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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

THE SCOOP | Toronto Orchestra Faces Public Relations Nightmare After Fat-Shaming Email Leaked

By Michael Vincent on August 24, 2017

The Sheraton Cadwell Orchestra performs in Toronto in 2015 (Photo courtesy Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras)
The Sheraton Cadwell Orchestra performs in Toronto in 2015 (Photo courtesy Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras)

“All personnel take note…Your image is our image. If you look good, we do too.”

Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras, a Toronto-based group of orchestras, has raised the ire of the public after singers Sydney Dunitz and Amy Moodie released an email they received from the orchestra management. The email stated that the orchestra would only work with ‘fit and slim’ vocalists, and those who follow their conservative dress guidelines.

“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.”

Sheraton Cadwell Group's memo to ensemble members (Photo courtesy Sydney Dunitz)
Sheraton Cadwell Group’s memo to ensemble members (Photo courtesy Sydney Dunitz)

The email, which appears only to have been sent to only a small portion of members, goes on to mention that the rules do not apply to orchestra musicians, as they are, simply, “wallpaper.”

Sydney Dunitz wrote that she was “absolutely disgusted” with the official position of the orchestra. Her post included a copy of the original email as well as her reply to her Facebook page. It has since received 760 likes and 570 shares, reaching a potential audience of thousands of people.

“…It is a personal opinion that ‘fit and slim’ is attractive, and it is also an opinion that people should be worried about dressing ‘strategically/suitably in order to not bring attention to their temporary physical/dietary indulgences,'” Dunitz wrote in her reply to Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras’ email.

“Many people struggle with weight, many suffer eating disorders, many are in the process of getting fit, many just plan to enjoy their bodies the way they are…This email is bullying, it is dealing with well-recognized issues that many women have with their bodies. And that is not your area of expertise, it is your opinion, which I truly wish you had kept silent, as I am certain you have made someone feel terrible about themself.”

Dunitz's letter to Sheraton Cadwell Group (Photo courtesy Sydney Dunitz)
Dunitz’s letter to Sheraton Cadwell Group (Photo courtesy Sydney Dunitz)

Dunitz later updated her post to write that the company responded directly to her with a two sentence statement of apology:

“This is to acknowledge that your email has been met with much regret. We hope that you will accept our sincere apologies.”

The company’s official dress code guidelines state that male and female vocal soloists should wear appropriate formal attire, and avoid black or white evening dress, but does not mention any other physical casting requirements.

Though Dunitz addressed her email to General Manager, Andrew Chong, it is unclear who actually wrote the email.

The story has prompted others to share their own experiences working with Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras, a group of 10 boutique orchestras that perform weddings, galas, ceremonies, fundraisers, and corporate functions in the GTA.

Terra Dawn Hazelton, a self-described “plus size singer” stated, “It should matter what singers SOUND like, not what they LOOK like. Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to work for an orchestra that wouldn’t hire Ella Fitzgerald. I read the email, it’s BEYOND appauling (sic).”

Commenters on an article by Global News have also raised concerns over how musicians are paid by the group.

Laura Savage, Co-Owner/Music Teacher at Mill House School of Music, wrote, “This orchestra is canvassing all the time for ‘free’ players for their ‘charity’ but they are doing weddings and corporate events for money. They are a sham.”

She gave a recent example at the Taste of the Danforth, where Sheraton Cadwell Group showcase bands under their brand. “This didn’t make any sense as Taste pays so the money was clearly lining someone’s pocket.”

The Sheraton Cadwell Orchestra performs. (Photo courtesy Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras)
The Sheraton Cadwell Orchestra performs. (Photo courtesy Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras)

The company policy on musician honorariums states that they do not pay for pro bono gigs. 40% of revenues are distributed to participating members, 30% are donated to international aid agencies, and 20% are retained for operational overheads. The remaining 10% are designated towards referral fees.

The orchestra asserts that they are there to support the fundraising activities of major charities and humanitarian organizations dedicated to alleviating poverty in less developed communities outside Canada. They also claim to have raised over $1.5+ million for charitable and humanitarian projects.

Our request for comment from the Sheraton Cadwell Group was not returned. The organisation’s website and Youtube channel have since been deactivated.

For more CLASSICAL MUSIC NEWS, visit HERE.

Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent has worked as a senior editor for La Scena Musicale and web editor for Norman Lebrecht. On January 21, 2014, he went to lunch and left as the publisher of Musical Toronto. Later that year he found himself as a freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star, the former employer of his favourite author Ernest Hemingway. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
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