UCLA profs try to stop Prager from conducting symphony

Two University of California-Los Angeles professors are trying to derail an upcoming symphony performance because Dennis Prager will be the guest conductor.

A public letter signed by four members of the Santa Monica Symphony, including UCLA professors Michael Chwe and Andrew Apter, urges readers not to attend the August 16 concert, even implying that the signatories will personally refuse to participate.

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“Please urge your friends to not attend this concert, which helps normalize bigotry in our community,” the professors plead, calling Prager “a right-wing radio host who promotes horribly bigoted positions” and adding that he “is not a trained conductor and there is no musical rationale for his participation.”

While the letter has been public since March, Prager brought it to national attention Tuesday with an op-ed for National Review, explaining that conducting orchestras is his little-known pastime, and that he’s been studying classical music since he was in high school.

“I conduct orchestras because I love making music,” Prager writes; “but I also do so because I want to help raise funds for local orchestras (I have never been paid to conduct) and because I want to expose as many people to classical music as possible.”

Despite his admirable intentions, the UCLA professors and some public officials believe Prager’s political views should disqualify him from conducting, which Prager calls a “new low for the illiberal left.”

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“It is not enough to prevent conservatives from speaking,” Prager lamented; “it is now necessary to prevent conservatives from appearing even when not speaking. Conservatives should not be even be allowed to make music.”

While the board of directors of the Santa Monica Symphony continue to stand by Prager, the two UCLA professors, both of whom are violinists, are reportedly refusing to play that night.

Their letter outlines numerous objections to Prager’s past public statements, speculating for instance that his support for traditional views on homosexuality would make “LGBTQ folks as well as children adopted by same-sex couples” feel “unwelcome” at the concert.

The letter also complains that “Prager supports the current administration’s proposed travel ban from several majority-Muslim countries,” has attempted to draw connections between rising crime rates and liberalization of immigration policies in Sweden, and that “diversity and multiculturalism” are a threat to “American identity and traditional American values”—all of which the authors consider “fundamentally at odds with our community’s values.”

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Prager, who hosts his own radio show, extended an invitation for both professors to join him on air to explain why they believe conservatives shouldn’t be able to conduct concerts, saying, “I hope they accept–people will then be able to assess who is and who isn’t a hater.”

Apter, however, insisted that “this is not a partisan issue, but one about decency and respect for diversity and tolerance,” telling Campus Reform that he would feel the same way had the invitation been extended to Richard Spencer, instead.

“I am not saying that Spencer and Prager hold the same white supremacist views, but they espouse the same logic and language of political purification, which can have deadly consequences,” he asserted. “From the standpoint of a violinist in the Santa Monica Symphony, to subject ourselves to the command of [Prager’s] baton is an implicit, if not explicit, endorsement of his bigoted ideas as a public figure.”

Chwe did not respond to a request for comment. Prager’s symphony is still slated to be held August 16 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen