An international pianist is accused of sexual assault

The letter published below has been circulated among conservatory directors and artist managers. We have withheld the names of those involved but are sharing the account, with the author’s permission, in order to illuminate a common hazard at summer courses and to urge musicians to take suitable precautions.

The alleged perpetrator, a well-known performer in mid-career, has been the subject of previous accusations. The director of the conservatory where the incident took place failed to respond. The police have been informed.  Here is the email, suitably redacted:

Dear Director,

I must inform you that on August 29, 2015, at around 12 noon, your colleague X sexually assaulted my partner Y, student of this masterclass. After explicit advances … she tried to leave but he blocked the door of his classroom and started to touch her body, threatening not to play with her at the concert if she would not allow him to do what he wanted. This abusive and threatening situation lasted for about 20 minutes as his young students waited outside the door. After a struggle, he lunged and broke her necklace. Finally, after having forcefully pushed him aside, she was able to exit from the classroom.

We informed the organization of this masterclass and we are deciding if it is worthwhile to denounce X to the Police.

It might be wise to ensure that Mr. X’s behaviour with students at your conservatoire is fine.

Both Y and I are available to give you more details if needed.

Best regards,

sad-and-piano-piano-30490927-180-240
(image unrelated to this incident)

 

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  • The journal “Inside Higher Ed” has published an informative article about the sexual misbehavior of music professors. They describe one incident involving the first trombone of the Cleveland Orchestra, Massismo La Rossa, that is remarkably similar to the above pianist’s behavior. See the details here:

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/07/30/could-music-students-be-more-risk-sexual-misconduct-professors

    The incident took place at the University of Iowa which has banned La Rosa from the campus for life. The University also contacted the Cleveland Institute of Music where La Rosa teaches but the Cleveland Institute took no action. Students there should be warned, not only about La Rosa, but about the Cleveland Institute’s apparent lack of concern about these problems.

    This wasn’t the first time the Cleveland Institute of Music faced these problems. William Preucil, a concert master in the Cleveland Orchestra and a professor at the Institute, sexually harassed one of his students. When the situation threatened to become public, CIM paid for the student to transfer schools and continue her musical education elsewhere. They attempted to keep everything hushed up. CIM is even had to pay her tuition at her new school. Unfortunately, this was not the first time Mr. Preucil had been accused of sexual harassment.

    More info about the problems in Cleveland here:

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/email2/harassment.htm

    The above article contains several links. Unfortunately, the first link has since gone dead.

        • Ha! The usual rationalizations begin. So sexual harassment is OK if one isn’t a pianist, and 8 years ago is ancient history. The Preucil case is a good illustration of the problems and shows how some schools have been slow and even refused to deal with the problems — especially if one adds the very recent La Rosa case to the mix.

          • Oh, I see – somehow I missed your initial comment and so without that context it seemed that you were claiming the article was related to the original post.

    • the “Preucil case” as described in the article linked above is absolutely specious and slanderous. It’s just not enough to write an article claiming that a man is an ominous “dark presence” and some kind of deviant pariah, just because of an un-named, un-substantiated “unwanted advance” on a pupil. This is character assassination!

      • Conservatories are not usually referred to as “conservatoires” in the US. I believe that’s a British or Canadian practice. For that reason I don’t think it’s an American writing. I’d say the author here is Canadian.

        But the nationality of the person writing has little to do with where it happened. It was a master class. Could have been anywhere.

        • True, all it tells us is something about the nationality of the author. The use of Director as a title for the head of the institution may prove more helpful perhaps. For example, Cleveland Institute of Music has a President rather than a Director.

  • Would this by any chance involve a pianist who was somewhat controversially given a conditional discharge following a plea bargain which allowed him to plead guilty to an offence of a non-sexual nature while charges of sexual offences were dropped by prosecutors?

  • Ahaha, I can think of two international pianists mid-career that could be candidates. Funny, CIM is mentioned in this thread.

  • In general, I would urge Y and her partner to go to the police. There are a number of reasons for this:

    1. It is the just thing to do. When somebody breaks the law he should be subjected to the process of the law and punished appropriately.

    2. It will probably help the victim (Y). Very often, the process of being believed, of having your experience publicly accepted as something which actually happened, and of seeing the perpetrator brought to justice for his crime, is an important part of the process of recovery.

    3. It will help the offender. This man is not necessarily incapable of reflecting on his actions, accepting his guilt, and undergoing some process of change. If he is described as being in the middle of his career, he could have many good years ahead of him in which he could choose to behave lawfully.

    4. It will protect the public. If the account above is true (and I would assume that it is) this man represents a danger to the public, especially women. He needs to be publicly identified as a sex offender and imprisoned and/or made to undergo some kind of treatment programme. If his behaviour goes unchecked he will almost certainly do it again and again, and possibly worse next time.

    5. It will act as a deterrent to others. Far too many musicians have got away with appalling sexual crimes. The figures are surely disproportionate. I think a large part of the problem is that predators like Ryszard Bakst were genuinely brilliant and achieved a status within their field which was little short of god-like. I have certainly known music teachers who were adored, admired, respected, and feared, usually all at the same time. I actually haven’t known any music teachers who did abuse that position, but I can certainly think of some who, had they been inclined to, could probably have got away with anything. It is to be hoped that the imprisonment of somebody like Philip Picket (I have met few people more unpleasant) will begin to make other similarly god-like musicians think twice before abusing that status.

  • I hope Alexander, above, understands now how spectacularly naive his comments were. Going to the police will help because you’ll be believed? That’s a good one.

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