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OGDEN — Concert-goers say a conductor at Sunday night's performance of the Weber State Symphony Orchestra should be reprimanded for ordering a mentally disabled audience member to leave the performance for making noise.
Debi Poulsen said she and her family were enjoying "a lovely, lovely" performance at the Val A. Browning Center when conductor Michael Palumbo abruptly stopped the concert, leaped from the podium and rushed to the edge of the stage to search for someone making noise in the audience.
"He put his hands over his eyes, as if he was really scouting for who was making noise," Poulsen said.
He put his hands over his eyes, as if he was really scouting for who was making noise.
–Debi Poulsen, concert-goer
After what Poulsen called an uncomfortable delay, Palumbo restarted the concert, only to again stop the performance a few minutes later and peer into the audience.
"Finally he said, 'There are to be no children at these performances,'" said Poulsen, who was attending the concert with her daughter and three grandchildren. Poulsen's son-in-law was performing in the concert.
"None of us could figure out who he was talking about," she said.
Moments later, Poulsen said she heard what sounded like a child crying out. Palumbo, she said, then ordered the person to leave the auditorium.
"There came a voice from (the section of the auditorium where the conductor had been looking) that said, 'It's not a baby. This person is handicapped,'" Poulsen said.
A group of people, including an mentally disabled adult male, then walked out of the concert, she said. That led to people in the audience getting a bit rowdy, with some even shouting at the conductor, calling him names.
Palumbo maintains he was not "fully aware" the person making the noise was handicapped, a spokesman said. University officials are reviewing the situation in hopes of avoiding a similar outcome in the future.
"The whole thing was just really exacerbating to me," Poulsen said. "What should have been beautiful, glorious and uplifting ended up making us all feel angry."
Weber State spokesman John Kowalewski said the university has received multiple complaints about the conductor's behavior. Others at the concert complained about the noise, he said.
"We recognize the way things played out was not the way we would want things to occur," Kowalewski said.
Palumbo maintains he was not "fully aware" the person making the noise was handicapped, Kowalewski said. University officials are reviewing the situation in hopes of avoiding a similar outcome in the future.
Kowalewski says "well-behaved" children over the age of 8 are allowed at the concerts.
Poulsen, who has a disabled grandchild, said she would be "distraught … if he had to miss the wonderful things of life and the culture of life because people like this conductor wouldn't tolerate him there."
She says Palumbo should be reprimanded.
"He really owes his music department an apology," Poulsen said.