Sexual abuse is common ‘at almost all German music academies’

Sexual abuse is common ‘at almost all German music academies’


norman lebrecht

May 17, 2018

The composer Moritz Eggert, professor of composition at the Munich Hochschule, has been talking about the jail sentence handed to his academy’s former president, Siegfried Mauser.

He tells Deutschlandfunk: ‘I believe one can say with fairly great certainty that there are such cases at virtually all the music academies in Germany.’ Mostly, says Eggert, the accusations are hushed up and the professors go on to get a better job in another college.

At the Munich Hochschule, he says, there have been instances of professors showing their genitals to students and reports of various forms of harassment, up to and including rape. Eggert says he was threatened with the sack when he asked too many questions.

A second Munich professor, a well-known composer, is due to face trial soon.




  • Anonymous says:

    You could say the same thing about most German opera houses, I should think. In fact, about most opera houses worldwide.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It’s part of the Regieoper fashion – boundaries between productions and the world outside being dissolved.

      • jaypee says:

        If you have nothing intelligent to say, why don’t you just shut up?

        • Urania says:

          Shut up ? This was done too long in too many fields….

          • Sue says:

            It’s the new ideology; you don’t agree with me and mine so we make you shut up. Welcome to the world of PC.

        • Wotan says:

          You must be one of them judging from the total lack of understanding that to ask someone to “shut up” because you don’t like what they say is not only insane but also a sign of zero understanding how a democratic society works.

          • jaypee says:

            No, it’s just that making a parallel between sexual abuse and theater/opera productions in Germany is stupid.
            It’s not a matter of disagreement, it’s a matter of decency.
            Obviously, you don’t see the difference.

          • HugoPreuss says:

            Gimme a break. Postulating a causal connection between sexual abuse and Regietheater is among the silliest things I have ever heard, unless it was meant as a joke. If it was meant to be taken seriously, “shut up” seems to be entirely too kind.

    • Leo says:

      Maybe a new “long march through the institutions” (Marc Jongen: “Entsiffung”) wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

  • william osborne says:

    Moritz comments: “Die meisten Lehrenden sähen ihre Studenten als Schutzbefohlene. Man müsse den Unterricht daher nicht gläsern machen und mit Kameras überwachen. “Man muss nur die Strukturen ändern, dass wenn etwas passiert, dass dann wirklich nicht vertuscht und unter den Tisch gekehrt wird, sondern dass es klare Ansprechpartner gibt.”

    (“Most teachers see their students as under their protection, so you do not have to lessons observable and monitored with cameras. You just have to change the structures so that when something happens, it’s not hushed up and swept under the table, but rather that there are clear representatives the students can contact. “)

    The problem is that means reaction happens only after something bad has happened. It is now becoming common practice for the doors of teaching studios in new facilities to have windows. And instructions are given that the windows are not to be covered up. The goal isn’t to be instrusive, but to make sure things stay professional. Given the history of abuse in classcial music, there are no good reasons for studio doors not to have windows.

  • John Borstlap says:

    People curious about this German composer, inheritant of a longstanding musical tradition:

  • anon says:

    Start by having woodwind teachers not blowing into their students’ mouthpieces (and vice versa). I laugh when piano students complain about their teachers touching their hands as part of the instruction, at least, they don’t have to swap spit with them. One can discretely wipe one’s hands on one’s trousers, how does one gargle a glass of Listerine in front of the professor?

  • william osborne says:

    As Moritz notes, the complicity of all the colleagues who remain silent is one of the most common factors that enables sexual abuse. But this complicity goes far deeper than we want to admit, and begins with the general misogyny we allow in the classical music world, such as the VPO not allowing women membership until 1997, and not giving any women aside from harpists membership until 2007.

    Women represent only about 5% of the Bayreuther Orchestra — the lowest ratio of any major orchestra in the world. The m/f ratio in the winds and percussion is about 66 to 3. The Berlin Phil still has the third lowest ratio in the world.

    Until people step up and address the foundations of misogyny, the problems of sexual abuse in the conservatories will not be solved.

    • william osborne says:

      The numbers in Bayreuth are especially telling because no auditions are held. Membership is by invitation only from each section. We see that when the men aren’t bound by formal auditions, women are all but excluded. Ironically, the trombone section contains two of my wife’s former students. Hopefully they can eventually help change things…

      • Suzanne says:

        Just wondering how you get to the total of 69 musicians for the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra? I thought there was a much larger pool of musicians each summer, something like 150 – 200, some playing the Ring, others playing the other operas on offer. And are you referring to 2017 or 2018? I agree of course with your basic point, just want to be very clear on the specifics …

    • John Borstlap says:

      It is wrong to criticize the wish of people to create a club of their own sex. London Gentlemen Clubs are not discriminating women, as male soccer teams are not. Such groups are not per definition mysoginist. Preferring working with your own sex can have all kinds of reasons and simply labelling it as discriminatory is misunderstanding the culture of such groups (like orchestras) or physical requirements (as in sports teams) or the wish to be, for a moment, no longer be distracted (London Gentlemens Clubs).

      It may be that the Bayreuth players prefer to be not distracted, in hot summer time, by the charms of the ladies, when every cell of attention has to be invested in such absorbing job like a Wagner opera.

      Abusing male power in institutions is another matter altogether. Theoretically, it is also possible that in a female dominating institution it is the males who are abused. Within feminist action groups it may be physically dangerous to get mixed-in, coincidentally, as a male.

      Rather than related to patriarchy, institutional abuse is related to power structures and the lack of awareness of responsibilities that naturally go with power.

      • william osborne says:

        Wrong or not, it’s against German law to discriminate against women since Bayreuth is in part publicly funded. If they wan’t to discriminate, they should give up the public cash.

      • Scotty says:

        I’m with you John! The Bayreuth musicians should focus focus focus! That’s near impossible in the presence of women, Jews, Arabs, Asians, Africans, really almost anyone who isn’t Bayreuthian.

        • John Borstlap says:

          When attending a concert and I see an African in the orchestra, I ‘m immediately distracted, following train of thoughts like; is he suppressed? was the audition behind a screen? was the tenure the result of anti-discriminatory measures by the board, or pressured by the press? what if he were also gay? how can we know, apart from Levinesque explorations? had they taken place and if so, why not? etc. etc.

    • Sharon says:

      Not only in classical music. I just read a biography of Billie Tipton, a relatively famous jazz pianist, although trained classically, who in her mid twenties became a secret transsexual largely to break into the jazz world in the late 1930s. He (she) was very talented and dedicated but her biographer believed that did not get farther because he (she) felt compelled to turn down opportunities where she might have had to associate with people who knew she was a transsexual and his/her secret might have been revealed.

      The professional instrumentalist jazz world was almost entirely closed to women, except for some humor or novelty acts, until the 1980s.

      • william osborne says:

        Things are better for women in jazz, but there are still serious problems. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, for example, does not have any women members. There has never been a woman among its 33 former or current members. 33 to 0. Jazz is imbued with a macho mindset that dumbs it down.

        • John Borstlap says:

          If I were a conductor and set-up an orchestra exclusively consisting of women, for the simple reason that this would stimulate my emotional imagination, would I then discriminate against men?

          If I were a European impresario organizing a travelling Chinese opera ensemble for touring in the West, and I would recrute only Chinese singers and players, would I be discriminating against European kaukasians?

          If I were a Viennese traditional orchestra who wants to sport local identity and therefore, only would appoint Viennese players, would I be discriminating against non-Viennese?

          Just questions.

  • Father Hennepin says:

    Perhaps the problem is the boredom of teaching? Or the loneliness? If teaching was considered sexier, maybe they’d have enough outlet elsewhere not to bother with students. Then again, students need to learn to deal with having passes made and other such dilemmas.

    • Sharon says:

      “Students need to deal with having passes made”.. . Well, what can you do if that teacher controls your entire professional future?

      With regard to younger students, many young promising music students have done little in their lives, apart from required schoolwork, other than learn and practice music. They can be a lot more naive about other people’s erotic desires than the average young person of the same age. This is appears to been at least part of the problem for some of Levine’s victims.

  • Wotan says:

    This is all a result of sick – and mostly not even talented – people who believe that they can do anything because of their alleged “genius”.
    For me it is and was always very simple: either you are an asshole or you are not.
    Even a genius that would invent something that cures all diseases and elongates life to 500 years in perfect health has no write at all to claim power over another human being.

    The opera world is sick since a long time.
    Change it now!