[Dixielandjazz] Hell Hath No Fury Like A Musician Scorned

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Dec 15 05:49:50 PST 2005

Maybe off topic except for Band Leaders. We might read it just to make sure
we don't fire sidemen maliciously.


Lost in Bitter Legal Battle: Chamber Players' Instruments

By DANIEL J. WAKIN - December 15, 2005 - NY Times

What would be a wrenching moment for any musician has arrived for two
members of the Audubon Quartet: the loss of their instruments, casualties of
a bitter legal feud with the member they cast out five years ago.

Yesterday, a day after a federal bankruptcy court judge in Roanoke, Va.,
ruled that the instruments be surrendered, a trustee prepared an order for
their seizure.

"I don't have words for this," said Clyde Shaw, the quartet's cellist. "The
letters and notes I'm getting from around the country - the musicians in
this country are shocked. They are floored by this decision. It upsets the
world that we live in."

Mr. Shaw and his wife, Doris Lederer, the quartet's violist, will have until
4 p.m. on Dec. 23 to hand over their instruments, said the trustee, George
A. McLean Jr. 

Mr. McLean was appointed to liquidate the couple's holdings. They declared
bankruptcy after losing a $611,000 judgment in a lawsuit brought by the
quartet's first violinist, David Ehrlich, over his ouster in February 2000
after years of tension.

Mr. Ehrlich, who did not immediately respond to a phone message, has said
that while he finds the loss of the instruments tragic, he needs the money
for lawyers' fees. He said he was unfairly and summarily fired by three
people who conspired against him, and that he had to sue to salvage his

"We'll just find a place to store them until we can have them appraised and
begin the liquidation process," Mr. McLean said of the instruments. He said
that they and several bows were valued at $166,000, and that he was also
seeking the hand-over of annuities and accounts worth nearly $90,000. Mr.
McLean said he would also seek permission to put the couple's house on the
market, and added that he had decided against seizing their 1996 Jeep Grand
Cherokee because of its limited value. "I'm not going to take it away from
them," he said.

Mr. Shaw's cello is an 1887 Eugenio Degani. "It has a beautiful voice," he
said. "It matched what I wanted to say." But far worse, he said, would be to
lose his precious 1860 bow, a Nicolaus Kittel, which he said was cut from
the same block of wood that produced a bow used by Jascha Heifetz. The viola
is a 1915 Ferruccio Varagnolo with what Ms. Lederer said was a rare
combination: "It's clear and dark and chocolaty. Usually, when you get a
viola, it's one or the other."

The legal battle has been long and bitter. It has divided the music world
and split loyalties in and around Blacksburg, Va., where the quartet moved
in 1980 for a residency at Virginia Tech, which ended after the lawsuit.

Despite this week's ruling, the case is not over.

The judgment against Mr. Shaw and Ms. Lederer came in Pennsylvania because
the quartet was incorporated as a nonprofit there. They and the Audubon's
violinist Akemi Takayama are still holding out hope of an appeal in a
Pennsylvania state court. (Ms. Takayama faces a separate bankruptcy action.)
But for that to happen, the bankruptcy judge, Ross Krumm, would have to lift
a stay. Howard Beck, a lawyer for the couple, has made the request. At a
hearing in bankruptcy court in Roanoke on Tuesday, Judge Krumm said he would
hear arguments next month.

During the bankruptcy proceeding on Tuesday, according to an account in The
Roanoke Times, Mr. Beck struggled to convince the judge that the couple
needed the instruments to make a living - and that a $10,000 exemption from
liquidation under bankruptcy law for "tools of the trade" was meaningless
for a string player. Mr. Shaw said his bow alone was worth six or eight
times that. "How do you give them a fresh start if you take the instruments
of their livelihood away from them?" Mr. Beck said in an interview

But Judge Krumm said the liquidation was a "no-brainer," the newspaper

Meanwhile, Mr. Beck said he had not ruled out the possibility of appealing
the turn-over order. He said that he would use the time before Dec. 23 to
push hard for a settlement with Mr. Ehrlich, although settlement talks in
the past have foundered. If a settlement is close, or if progress is made in
an appeal, Mr. Beck said the instruments might remain protected.

"Al," he said, using Mr. McLean's nickname, "isn't going to hurry out and
sell the things to get the cash." He said another strategy might be to give
Mr. McLean a bond as an assurance to allow Mr. Shaw and Ms. Lederer to
continue playing the instruments for the time being.

Once their instruments are handed over, Mr. Shaw and Ms. Lederer, who teach
at Shenandoah University's conservatory in Winchester, Va., and continue to
play in the Audubon with a different violinist, will have to find
replacements. The university president, James A. Davis, said the university
was willing to help, whether lending them instruments in its collection or
acquiring new ones to be provided on loan. He left open the possibility of
helping buy their old instruments.

"I told them we would work with them to be sure they have a quality
instrument to perform and play on," Mr. Davis said.

Ms. Lederer expressed the hope - a long shot, she said - that somehow the
money could be found to buy their instruments back from the trustee. "It's
awfully hard to raise that kind of money, especially since most of our
friends are musicians," she said.

Mr. Shaw said he might borrow a cello. "Music," he said, "the judge can't
order that out of my soul."

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