You might think that the only requirement to be a classical singer is the ability to sing. According to a recent email allegedly sent by the Sheraton Cadwell Orchestra, you would be wrong. Recently, the Toronto volunteer orchestra allegedly told singers they should be "fit and slim" to perform with the organization. After an outraged volunteer vocalist posted screenshots of the email online, the backlash was so strong that the management team quickly resigned, and the organization disbanded within a week. Bustle was unable to find contact information for the orchestra following the shutdown, but on Thursday, management shared an email with Global News announcing its end.
"With our resignation, our financial funding for the Sheraton Cadwell community service project and music training program will also be terminated forthwith with much regret and, as such, the entire organisation will cease to exist in due course," the unnamed management team wrote, according to Global News.
The story begins on Facebook, where singer Sydney Dunitz posted screenshots of the alleged email in question, saying she was "absolutely disgusted." Allegedly sent by the orchestra's management team, it calls out certain unnamed performers who were featured in summer performances.
"Although almost all of our vocalists are fit and slim... two of our featured singers were not," it reads. Those who don't meet this description are instructed to avoid tight clothing and go for "loose (less physically-revealing, less physically-accentuating) dresses instead." In the future, only "physically fit" singers who know how to hide their "temporary physical/dietary indulgences" would be asked to perform.
Meanwhile, the rest of the orchestra was exempt. According to the alleged email, instrumental musicians are "essentially background wallpaper."
Dunitz told CBC Toronto that she was so appalled at the letter's contents that she read it several times. Upon confirming what she read, she sent back an email asking for an apology, which she also shared on Facebook. "This is not about dress code," she replied. "You have gone a step further and commented on someone's physicality. ... If any of the vocalists who sang this summer have any emotional issues dealing with their weight, this could send them into a serious mental state."
Vocalist Victoria Leone was similarly taken aback, telling CBC Toronto that she told the orchestra she no longer wished to perform with them. She claims the organization responded by asking her to re-read highlighted portions of the initial alleged email regarding loose clothing. After the news went public, she says received yet another email — this time, an apology.
The backlash has been swift. Dunitz shared the alleged initial email on Tuesday, Aug. 22, and by Thursday, the orchestra announced that it would shut down. Many online readers have spoken out against the alleged email, calling it fat-shaming.
With all its talk of dresses, it's worth noting that the alleged email appeared to be aimed at female singers in particular.
Dunitz edited her Facebook post to say that for her, the incident is over and done. "I've said what I wanted to say, and started the conversations I wanted to start," she wrote, thanking people for their support.
While it's sad to see any classical music organization disband, no singer deserves to be judged by anything but their musical ability. Even musicians, it seems, can be tone deaf.