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Two Players Take Legal Action Against New York Philharmonic

Liang Wang and Matthew Muckey are suing the orchestra for being sidelined “without cause,” following misconduct allegations


New York Philharmonic associate principal trumpet Matthew Muckey and principal oboist Liang Wang were recently sidelined following misconduct allegations revealed in a New York Magazine article.

Muckey and Wang have now filed separate lawsuits in the Federal District Court in Manhattan, The New York Times reports

The pair is claiming that the NY Phil removed them without cause and in violation of an arbitrator’s ruling, which had ordered the orchestra to reinstate them in 2020 after an earlier attempt to dismiss them. 

The pair has also sued their union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), accusing the organization of “[failing] and [refusing] to perform its duty of fair representation,” reads Muckey’s suit.

According to The NY Times, Muckey’s lawsuit accused NY Phil of backtracking on the reinstatement agreement. The suit claims that the orchestra had “violated an indisputably final and binding award which has determined that Mr. Muckey could not be removed based upon such allegations and specifically ordered his reinstatement with back pay and seniority.”

Wang claimed that the orchestra is suspending him “without cause or explanation, and in clear violation of the terms of his employment, which expressly require that he be given opportunities to perform and excel as a musician.” 

Further, Wang’s lawsuit alleges that a lawyer for the NY Phil said in 2019 that the ensemble had not accused Wang of misconduct related to the incident in Colorado in 2010.


Blamed by the pair for failing to respond to requests for assistance with their new suspensions, AFM Local 802’s president and director Sara Cutler has since spoken on the circumstances — Wang’s suit accused Cutler of making “duplicitous and injurious statements.” 

“As a woman, a musician and a new union president, I am horrified by what was in the story (by investigative reporter Sammy Sussman in Vulture) and we are committing the full resources of Local 802 to erase the culture of complicity that has raged at the N.Y. Philharmonic for too long,” Cutler said


Both seeking an unspecified amount in damages, Muckey and Wang are arguing that NY Phil’s decision to suspend them has harmed their careers.

“[Wang] has an entirely unblemished record in his 18 years at the Philharmonic, and has always conducted himself with dignity, generosity and professionalism,” said Alan Lewis, an attorney for Wang. 

“Our system of labor relations entrusts unions with the obligation to stand up for their members who are unjustifiably accused or mistreated,” Lewis continued. “But here, Local 802 has not stood up for its loyal member, Liang Wang, even when he has been subject to mistreatment from his employer — without being accused of anything.”

A statement by Steven Hyman, Mathew Muckey’s lawyer reads, "Matthew Muckey has filed this complaint with the sole purpose of returning to the job he loves and was born to do: Play the trumpet for the New York Philharmonic, a tenured position he secured in 2008.

"It is disgraceful that the Philharmonic has come back 14 years later, after Mr. Muckey has been investigated over and over again, in an attempt to rob him of a hard earned career and reputation," it continues. "And it equally unacceptable that Mr. Muckey’s union has likewise abandoned him notwithstanding the arbitration award they helped secure in his favor. It is time that both the Philharmonic and the Union respect the rule of law."


Since the allegations resurfaced, Wang was withdrawn as a faculty member from the Taipei Music Academy and Festival, and placed on leave from a teaching position at the Manhattan School of Music, which is opening an external investigation against him.

Likewise, Muckey has been withdrawn from performances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and other ensembles.

NY Phil stated it could not comment on active litigation, reported The NY Times; Local 802 also declined to comment on the matter.

Recently, the CEO and president of the NY Phil, Gary Ginstling, released a statement on Facebook, saying the orchestra will be commissioning an external investigation.

“At my direction, the Philharmonic has engaged Katya Jestin, co-managing partner of the law firm Jenner & Block, to launch an independent investigation into the culture of the New York Philharmonic in recent years,” Ginstling said. “Katya has extensive experience handling sexual misconduct investigations and related matters involving extremely sensitive interviews … I pledge to share the recommendations with our board, our staff and our musicians as well as with the general public.

“For the time being, musicians Matthew Muckey and Liang Wang are not being assigned to any Philharmonic activity as we work through this process,” he continued, “and a decision about their future with the New York Philharmonic will be made in due course.”

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