So why don’t more women (and men) come forward?

So why don’t more women (and men) come forward?


norman lebrecht

August 03, 2018

From our diarist, Anthea Kreston:


I am horrified to hear the allegations recently that Bill Preucil has assaulted women. It would, however, be hard for me to imagine that there would be one female violinist out there, between age 18-50, who had attended a camp/educational institute and had worked with a certain violinist who wouldn’t have one “unsavory” story about him, either first-, second-, or third-hand. I’ve got some – do you? Most of us just had a slightly bad taste in our mouths, but clearly, some of us had more than just a taste.

Many reasonably intelligent people wonder why it takes a woman a long time to come forward with a trauma, if indeed they ever do. Let’s just lay it out there, shall we?

First – what is sexual harassment? According to Psychology Today: “Sexual harassment and behaviors that fall under this category include: inappropriate touching; invasion of privacy; sexual jokes; lewd or obscene comments or gestures; exposing body parts; showing graphic images; unwelcome sexual emails, text messages, or phone calls; sexual bribery, coercion, and overt requests for sex; sexual favoritism; being offered a benefit for a sexual favor; being denied a promotion or pay raise because you didn’t cooperate. And of course, some women (and men) experience what more aptly could be described as sexual assault: being forced to perform a sexual act on a man in a position of power, a man of power forcing himself on the woman.”

Why don’t women come forward? Shame, denial, fear of consequences, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. These are all documented psychological effects. They are real. The memories crop up at the most surprising times. Sometimes you just leave a whole cart of groceries in the store to go quickly outside for air, to cry, or to throw up. You are worried about “bothering” your friends or partner by talking about it. Your career will most likely be affected, and therefore the financial stability of your family. People will attack you, and blame you for ruining the career of a wonderful, famous musician. They will blame you. To your face. And you will cry, and throw up, and wake up in the middle of the night, and relive that moment, thinking of what you could have done differently, what you did wrong, what you would do if it happened again. You won’t be able to tell what is safe or unsafe anymore.

I don’t know Zeneba Bowers. But I sure do want to. With her permission, I will repost a Facebook message from a couple of days ago.

“Since the WaPo article came out, many hundreds of times I’ve seen comments lauding me for being “brave”. That is because there will be shame associated with this with my name, forever; because I will be raked over the coals online and in water-cooler chats; and because I will lose work opportunities. Friends, that is exactly why I came out in the first place. That is precisely what we have to change. It should be no more “brave” for me to say what happened to me than it would be “brave” for me to say I was rear-ended in a fender bender.

Let’s make that our reality, for our daughters.”

And, finally – from composer Kenji Bunch:

“I know, another dude weighing in on the WaPo piece regarding harassment in classical music….
At any rate, my $.02-
1 As with the Levine scandal, there seems to be an awful lot of lamenting over the ignoble end of Mr. Preucil’s storied career, as if we are all now to be deprived of some special, rarified greatness. To me, this is entirely misdirected. The tragedy here isn’t the loss of a transformative musical talent, it’s that a patriarchal system of cowardly enablers propped up a predator for decades because their financial interests in doing so outweighed any pangs to their conscience regarding the jeopardy in which they put vulnerable, younger musicians who trusted them.
2 The myth of the “once-in-a-generation talent” is exactly that – a myth. There are plenty of amazing violinists, conductors, etc. out there who could replace ANYone in any position of power and prestige, and do the same job with at least as much artistry and charisma. They often don’t get access to those opportunities for reasons related to unconscious bias. In other words, had one of the enablers of this abuse had the courage to do something about it years ago, we may have been treated to the even more impressive tenure of a different violinist who, in addition to amazing feats on the instrument, could also demonstrate the fine art of keeping one’s hands to one’s self.

3 Zeneba Bowers is a force of nature. I’m honored to call her a friend and colleague. She’s also hilarious, makes insanely delicious food, and is a highly respected travel writer. If you only know her as “the girl from the WaPo article,” consider instead linking her inextricably with the kind of strength, conviction, and backbone so often lacking in our line of work, especially from us dudes.”

I guess there is an opening for a violinist or two in Cleveland. Oh, and apparently a conductor in Amsterdam. Maybe it might be time to start to have a mandatory “appropriate professional conduct” class in conservatories?


  • barry guerrero says:

    I don’t know what to make of this. I’m sympathetic, but there’s too much ‘fire and brimstone’ for my liking. I think it IS a tragedy to lose people of this caliber, and that it’s ridiculous to take a, ‘they can be replaced by most anybody’ type of attitude. But I also agree that ‘enablers’ are opportunistic, greedy and/or lazy. All of this is really a shame for everyone involved, including the listeners. All of that said, I do have an issue with people making accusations years, or even decades later. I think the burden of proof should be upon the accusers, and not upon the accused to have to prove their innocence. The flip side of that: the accusers should not have to face character assignations and threats. Let them go about their business of making their case, free of interference.

    One thing I believe most everybody would agree upon: it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep the work place a safe and hostile free environment for all.

    • Anon says:

      “the burden of proof should be upon the accusers, and not upon the accused to have to prove their innocence”

      The burden of proof is now upon the dismissed to prove to the court that there has been a breach of contract.

    • Jack says:

      How can you prove that a despicable act that did in fact occur but it happened while you were in a room alone with your perpetrator and nobody else was present?

      Perps thrive on their ability to deny what only the victim knows. It’s part of the ultimate power they have over their victim.

    • her royal snarkiness says:

      “I am sympathetic, but. . . ” is the analog to my middle-schoolers “I’m sorry but. . . ” which they have learned never to try with me as it simply means, “I’m not.” Cut it out.

      • barry guerrero says:

        I’m not cutting it out because I meant exactly what I said. Sorry if you don’t approve.

      • her royal snarkiness says:

        Of course you did. I’ll stop here, as my mom told me shooting fish in a barrel is not sporting.

    • Anthea Kreston says:

      The Post spent 8 months investigating the allegations before printing them. They used legal teams, investigative reporters, and several editors. Let’s focus not on the victims here, but on creating a safe environment from here forward.

  • Mark says:

    All this reminds me of nothing more than than life under Communism. A person denounced is a person guilty; mediocrity gleefully claims that “talent is a myth” and everyone is expendable; some revolutionary claptrap about “patriarchy”.

    I am fairly sure that such accusations will sooner or later end in a hefty defamation judgment in favor the accused. That will chill the screeching feminist banshees immediately.

    • Sue says:

      Are you now or have you ever been a man who invaded a woman’s privacy?

      My husband had a woman kiss him after a staff lunch 30 years ago. She invaded his privacy and he was married to me. But the Spanish Inquisition wasn’t on then so he let it go. It was all amusing to him anyway.

      • Bruce says:

        Did she have the power to threaten his career if he resisted her? Just wondering.

      • Thomasina says:

        Your husband was not also a victim of violence from a neighbor woman? You said that you had to move because the police did not do anything.

    • The View from America says:

      “I am fairly sure that such accusations will sooner or later end in a hefty defamation judgment in favor the accused.”

      We’ll see.

    • Feelin’ so sad says:

      The accusations were thoroughly investigated by CIM. I suppose you are also wondering why all those little alter boys waited so long to call out the priests. And if there was any evidence. I am sure those priests were also one-in-a-lifetime talents. And what about poor Sandusky? What an amazing coach. And Woody. Too bad there aren’t any other directors. It’s really a bummer.

  • Sue says:

    It’s all about meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

    • Alex Davies says:

      No, it’s all about people not wanting to be raped and sexually assaulted or otherwise harassed and abused. It’s about upholding the law and the standards of a decent society.

      • Bruce says:

        “No, it’s all about people not wanting to be raped and sexually assaulted or otherwise harassed and abused.”

        That’s what Sue said. “Poor meeee, I don’t want to be molested, I’m soooooooooo important…”

  • The View from America says:

    Gatti and Preucil are such a loss to classical music (lol).

    Not to worry — classical music will get along just fine without them.

  • A.SDO says:

    Bravo to Norman for posting “AND MEN”! Finally some acknowledgement of the facts. What Ms. Bowers and others fail to acknowledge in their language choice is that this is NOT a situation that affects only women. There is plenty of harassment in the business towards men, from both artist managers (who select and artificially promote for capital gain) and orchestra administrators (who hire often based on personal satisfaction). Why do you think that many describe the “gay mafia” in the world of orchestra administrators (not my term…quoted to me by several in the field with whom I’ve worked, even about themselves). Take a look around. The story is right in front of you. Who do these administrators promote for young talent at orchestras? They have no choice in the “big names” that people want anyway but what about the younger artists so dependent on getting a “big break”? This is not meant as homophonic, far from it. But let’s be honest and decent: no one should be exempt from the standard whether gay or straight. A harassment-free environment should be the norm. But that just isn’t always the case and it will continue as long as people cover for each other like a “club” or “mafia”. Time will tell. The stories of truth are just beginning to surface and from my experience there is much more to be brought to light.

  • Bruce says:

    “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”

    (I learned this as a Benjamin Franklin quote, but apparently its parentage is questionable)

    Preucil can be replaced, just as Daniel Majeske was. Will the replacement necessarily be of lesser quality?

    Who was Glenn Dicterow’s predecessor? Joseph Silverstein’s? Etc. etc.

    Without Galamian and Delay, somehow US conservatories are still producing excellent violinists. It’s weird.

  • #metwo says:

    Interesting to see how all these things come up more and more on one hand, on the other hand there is this „grab em by the pussy“ president – coincidence?

    • Bruce says:

      “on the other hand”

      I saw what you did there.

      But seriously, no I don’t think it’s a coincidence. There’s enough outrage in this country that a man who has proven himself to be a terrible human being in so many ways (pussy-grabbing, mocking the handicapped, and on and on) is president and appears to not only suffer no consequences but whose approval ratings rise the worse he shows himself to be, that people are gaining the courage to say “hey, it’s not right when the president does it, and it’s not right when my boss does it.”

  • anon says:

    Here’s a thought: Perhaps one of the reasons more women don’t come forward is because of attitudes like the one Mark expressed here: “That will chill the screeching feminist banshees immediately”. I emphasize “feminist banshees”….

  • Vienna calling says:

    The reasons women hesitate can be found in the above reactions to the question.

  • Anon! A Moose! says:

    “There are plenty of amazing violinists, conductors, etc. out there who could replace ANYone in any position of power and prestige, and do the same job with at least as much artistry and charisma.”

    I’ve never understood why the myth has persisted that horrible people have to be enabled in exchange for their art, when there are plenty of examples of great artists who are also decent people.

    • The Ghost of Karlos Cleiber says:

      Heartily seconded. This extends not just to sexual predators, but to dickheads and spoilt man-children generally. Rampant egotism and arrogance of the kind we hear too much of in the music business is tolerated far less in other walks of life

    • Mark says:

      Because artistsic talent (or any talent, for that matter) and personal behavior, morality etc. are unrelated.

      Great talents are by definiton rare – they are a deviation from the normal, average capabilities of the central nervous system.
      If we demand perfection from their personal behavior, too, how many such people would we even find ?

      One doesn’t suggest that talent should absolve one from criminal or civil liability. But as far as the subjective moral standards are concerned, I am of the opinion that the contribution made by a talented individual to civilization is of much greater importance than their moral character.

      • DB says:

        For crying out loud. Nobody demands “perfection”. We demand simple respect and decent behaviour. It’s not that difficult.

      • Anon! A Moose! says:

        “If we demand perfection from their personal behavior, too,”

        They don’t have to be perfect, just keep their hands to themselves and avoid abusing their power. Soooooo many of the rest of us manage to avoid this, it’s not hard.

        “how many such people would we even find ?”

        Just as many as now, but if they were raised in an environment in which bad behavior actually affected their career, they would learn to behave differently.

      • V.Lind says:

        *I am of the opinion that the contribution made by a talented individual to civilization is of much greater importance than their moral character.*

        How far does that extend? To murder? stealing instruments? torture of children? separation of immigrant children from their parents?

        Is it just offences against women that are unimportant to you?

        Somehow a Preucil pizzicato does not strike me as more important than any of that.

        • Mark says:

          V.Lind – try re-reading my post. “I said
          One doesn’t suggest that talent should absolve one from criminal or civil liability. But as far as the subjective moral standards are concerned …”

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Subjective moral standards are subject to the moral standards of ones colleagues, friends, and the audience. If your colleagues don’t like it you get fired; if your friends don’t like it then you lose your friends; and if the audience don’t like it then no-one shows up for your performances (if you are a performer, it means you get fired).

            That someone hasn’t been convicted in a court of law just means he won’t go to jail. But I see no reason why I should have to accept extremely poor behaviour in my private life.

      • Bruce says:

        “I am of the opinion that the contribution made by a talented individual to civilization is of much greater importance than their moral character.”

        So Preucil’s contribution to civilization is more important than the well-being of the women he molested allegedly molested. We get it.

        I would submit that the contribution made by Peter Salaff (for example) to civilization is of much greater importance that Preucil’s.

      • Juliet says:

        ‘I am of the opinion that the contribution made by a talented individual to civilization is of much greater importance than their moral character.’

        It’s a shame though, when we decide that somebody’s ‘moral character’ is so untouchable by us mere mortals that we mustn’t criticise a tendency to grope and violate the young and/or powerless.

  • Nelson says:

    “2 The myth of the “once-in-a-generation talent” is exactly that – a myth. There are plenty of amazing violinists, conductors, etc. out there who could replace ANYone in any position of power and prestige, and do the same job with at least as much artistry and charisma”

    Bullshit. If you REALLY believe this, you simply don’t understand what criterion with which to judge the absolute top echelon of seminal masters of the field. I’m not defending the Levines, Dutoits and Preucils or calling THEM irreplaceable. But at SOME point you have to recognize transcendence. To call this a myth is to deny the existence of those who have changed the entire course of history and advanced our art.

    • her royal snarkiness says:

      I would say relationships and interaction are where transcendence really takes place. TCO is a case in point; it is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. Egotists, thwart this potential. To quote from a recent New Yorker article which overlaps somewhat with your asswretions and my challnge to them:

      “Prince’s virtuosity was uncontestable, and perhaps nobody else could have played those parts in the same way. But collaboration, even when it’s difficult, can sometimes yield a richer, stranger document; work generated and realized in perfect solitude often feels airless.”—New Yorker, June 25, 2018, “Princes Lonely Palace” by Amanda Petrusich

      and, yeah, my attribution is not up to any stylebook standard. I know this and don’t care to dive down that internet rabbithole.

      • her royal snarkiness says:

        erroneous comma followed “egoists”. oops.

        • barry guerrero says:

          More to the point than your erroneous comma, we’re talking about replacing musicians with the amount of skill and training as Preucil and Gatti, and you’re dredging up Prince!?!

          • her royal snarkiness says:


          • her royal snarkiness says:

            Here, let me help you focus:
            “But collaboration, even when it’s difficult, can sometimes yield a richer, stranger document. . .”
            It’s kind of sad that you missed the meat of that commment. It is actually a worthy discussion, the exceptional talent vice the power of collaboration, but I’m not feeling you as my chosen discussant.

          • barry guerrero says:

            Snob or not, I can tell you first hand that every rehearsal and concert in a wind ensemble or symphony orchestra contains precisely what you’re calling for: “collaboration, even when it’s difficult, can sometimes yield a richer, stranger document”

          • her royal snarkiness says:

            Well, duh. Being an orchestra musician was the second best thing to ever happen to me, the first being my kids. I had all the thrill of performing and none of the stage fright. It was more than work, and more than music. We were a tight bunch, musically and socially.

          • The View from America says:

            I’m quite sure classical music will get along just fine without Daniele Gatti and William Preucil …

            Come to think of it, Preucil’s own daughter, Alexandra Preucil, can step into his shoes. She’s a young talent on the make — and she can make it at the expense of her father.

            Plus, it keeps things “all in the family” in the grand Cleveland-Nepotism Orchestra tradition.

      • adista says:

        “But collaboration, even when it’s difficult, can sometimes yield a richer, stranger document. . .”

        Yes, imagine what great music Bach and Beethoven could have written if they’d only had collaborators! What idiocy.

        • Bruce says:

          Collaboration is not the same as “artistry by committee.”

          Mozart and da Ponte collaborated. Heifetz/ Piatigorsky/ Rubinstein collaborated. Were any of those artists less interesting as collaborators?

          For that matter, was Bach less of an artist when he “collaborated” by setting Bible verses to music (or with whoever wrote the words for the Coffee Cantata, for that matter)? Was Beethoven less of one when he set the Latin mass or the libretto of Fidelio? Come on.

  • Doubtful says:

    Why is everyone believing these women? I knew I had heard the name Alicia Bernache before. Years ago when Kathy Battle was fired from the Met, Bernache was filmed excitedly retelling a famous Battle story about the limo driver. At the time, I remember thinking what a gossipy little tattletale Bernache was and how did it come to be that Bernache, of all people, was interviewed? Did she call her agent and ask to be filmed? After all, Bernache was at that time an unknown, B-level house singer of no importance. Probably never met Battle. Did she think publicity would help her career? I guess it didn’t, because Bernache is a retired singer who teaches voice. Trust her accusation of Gatti, when she freely admits to sending him a letter apologizing for coming onto him? Not me.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks, very interesting info !

    • Robert Holmén says:

      Hmmm… who should we regard as more credible … Alicia Berneche who speaks, on the record, using a real name, or… the anonymous internet poster who can’t spell “Berneche”?

      • Bruce says:

        Gosh, I dunno… I think calling someone a “gossipy little tattletale” and an “unknown B-list singer of no importance” gives DOUBTFUL a <huge amount of credibility. As does dismissing someone for being a retired singer who teaches voice. (Because omg, who would even do that?)


    • Bruce says:

      And because this one woman is not credible (in your view, not everybody’s), no woman making or reporting an allegation is credible? Okay.

    • Alicia Berneche says:

      Hi, Doubtful, Alicia Berneche here. Thanks for misspelling my name. Let’s get some facts straight. I was in Houston winning 2nd place at the Eleanor McCollum competition over 500 people who sang that year. The press was in town because the president was making an appearance nearby when the news broke that Ms. Battle had been fired. They decided to interview the winners and staff at the opera about the opera world. None of us knew she had been fired at the time since we had just sung a competition. They interviewed us for at least 20 minutes about divas and if we had any stories, which we didn’t since we had a lovely experience with each other and we babies in the opera world (this was a few years before my first assault, because there have been many as most women in the business can attest). I was the last interviewee, so they needled me and needles me for diva stories. I finally said I knew one from a friend who worked in the costume shop at IU when Ms. Battle came to town, but I only knew it secondhand ( of course that did not make the tape, as did my extremely high praise of Ms. Battle). The minute I finish the story, they pack up and leave. It was a stupid moment from a young person and I regret it. That in no discounts what happened to me, which was corroborated by my contemporaneous friends at the time (he did it to another soprano in the same production who refused to come forward but did corroborate my story), and he had been proven to do it everywhere he goes. My career did not benefit by my coming forward. I did not gain any money. What it did get me is a lot of young people who reach out with their own stories of assault and harassment, and I find it a huge honor that they entrust their pain to me. I’m sorry you lost a conductor, but I lost trust, safety, and a part of my youth that day. No one should be unsafe at their job.

    • Alicia Berneche says:

      Also, the letter was to send him a message that I wasn’t open to his advances, not to say I was sorry. He got the message, especially when I mentioned his wife.

  • Christian Moon says:

    Perhaps the prospect and practice of ‘abusable’ power is part of what motivates the highest dedication and achievement in some of these outstanding individuals.

    Perhaps we really do sacrifice their talent if we prioritise the comfort of those they work with.

    Perhaps those who suffer know this, and still choose it, and we do them no real favours by taking them at their words now rather than trusting in their choices of the time.

    • Bruce says:

      (a) So these great artists are motivated to become great artists because that way they’ll be able to fuck anybody they want (whether the other person wants it or not)?

      (b) There are those of us who would suggest that their talent is not worth it.

      (c) “Choices of the time” meaning what? Do you think these allegations stem from consensual sexual encounters about which the women later changed their minds?

      Oh, and your use of the term “outstanding individuals” makes you sound like a cop/ ex-military type for whom power over others is the only thing worthy of respect, and who doesn’t recognize (or maybe just doesn’t care about) the difference between being respected and being feared. Just sayin.