ALBANY ALBANY — The executive director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra Association announced Friday that the orchestra’s conductor has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the calendar year.
Symphony executive director Karen Allen said Claire Fox Hillard was suspended by the symphony board Thursday night for actions related to his Aug. 10 arrest by Camilla police.
“After carefully considering all aspects of this situation and taking into consideration Dr. Hillard’s 24 years of dedicated service to the symphony and to the Albany community, we believe that we have come to an equitable solution,” Allen said in a news release Friday.
In a phone conversation Friday morning, she added, “We will employ guest conductors for the remainder of our season, but we expect (Hillard) to come back to lead the orchestra in January. It is our hope that he will use the time during this suspension to start rebuilding trust in the community.”
Hillard was arrested by Camilla police and charged with loitering/prowling following an incident in which he was found clothed only in a towel that he got from proprietors of a flower shop when he used their phone to make an emergency call to police. After initially telling police, who had been investigating a citizen’s report of a prowler in the same area, that he’d been attacked by two black men, Hillard later recanted and said he’d been sexually involved with a woman behind a Camilla business near the flower shop and that they’d fled when police arrived. The conductor later paid a fine for the misdemeanor charge.
Initially, officers charged Hillard with a more serious charge of false report of a crime because of the emergency call reporting the bogus mugging, but that charge was later dropped.
“I acknowledge that my actions have damaged my reputation in the Albany community, (and) hurt people and an institution that I love and respect,” Hillard said in a statement issued by Allen. “For this, I sincerely apologize. I seek forgiveness and the opportunity to work to rebuild the trust and respect placed in me over the past 24 years.”
Allen said the symphony association would carry on with its season in Hillard’s absence.
The symphony has four performances scheduled during Hillard’s suspension: Oct. 8 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Nov. 19 at the Municipal Auditorium and the annual pair of performances of Peppermint Pops on Dec. 10, also at the auditorium. The Mt. Zion Church and Peppermint Pops concerts have free admission.
“We will have a complete season, and we expect the community to continue to support us as it always has,” Allen said. “There aren’t a lot of communities Albany’s size that have symphonies, so we are very fortunate to be heading into our 50th season in a couple of years.
“We want the community to support us by purchasing our very affordable season ticket packages ($100 at www.albanysymphony.org) and supporting our ‘Pride of the Community Continues’ series in which we partner with and spotlight area businesses and organizations. We’re recognizing Chehaw Park, Phoebe (Putney Memorial Hospital) and Theatre Albany during this season.”
Allen said season ticket holders also receive reserved seats at the symphony’s community concerts at Mt. Zion and the Peppermint Pops.
The two subscription concerts in 2012 are on Feb. 11 and May 12, sandwiching a special non-subscription family concert on March 17. All of those performances are at the auditorium.
A message left friday with Hillard seeking comment was not returned.