Just in: Cleveland sacks its concertmaster

The Cleveland Orchestra today published its investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and took drastic action against its highest-ranked musician. It also confirmed the dismissal of principal trombone Massimo La Rosa.

The orchestra said in a statement: After a thorough, independent investigation led by a special committee of its board, The Cleveland Orchestra today announced findings leading to the termination of concertmaster William Preucil and principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa.  Mr. Preucil and Mr. La Rosa had been suspended from the Orchestra following allegations of sexual misconduct raised earlier this year by female musicians…

The investigators found that Mr. Preucil and Mr. La Rosa engaged in sexual misconduct and sexually harassing behavior with multiple female students and colleagues over a period of years while employed by the Orchestra.  Moreover, the abusive conduct by both performers was made possible by their positions of power within the Orchestra and in the broader world of classical music.  According to the investigation, women who were victims were intimidated by Mr. Preucil and Mr. La Rosa, and were afraid to take action after they were subjected to the unwelcome behavior.  Details related to any specific individual will remain confidential and the identity of those who came forward will remain known only to the investigators.

You can read the full investigation report here.

Preucil’s sacking creates huge issues for the orchestra. Reputedly the highest paid concertmaster in the US, he is a violinist of the highest calibre and a massive figure of authority in the orchestra. He will not easily be replaced.

At least two members of his family play in the orchestra. Their position will be delicate.

 

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  • “He will not easily be replaced.”

    Nonsense.

    (Reminds me of the old saw about the circus performer – The Human Cannonball – who passed away. We’re not likely to find a man of his caliber again soon.)

  • It’s nonsense to say that he will not be easily replaced. There are many fantastic, highly-trained, eager, kind, skilled, passionate, musical violinists out there waiting to audition for that job who are also not sexual abusers. Good luck to them!

    • Yes, of course a great new concertmaster is easily found. Seattle only took 3 years to find Noah Geller (and has had issues prior to that search as well). And the great new concertmaster does not always work out perfectly, as Philadelphia found with Erez Ofer.

  • IRS Form 990 filings rarely show Preucil as being the highest-paid concertmaster in the US in the last decade or so. Yes, in 2016 he was, but the 2017 filing from the orchestra has his compensation at a lower figure, and Sasha Barantschik in San Francisco appears to have edged ahead of him again. I wonder if perhaps Preucil got some sort of one-time bonus payment in 2016. The reports don’t have to break down the basis for the compensation, just the amount.

    The members of his family in the orchestra should be fine, if perhaps uncomfortable. They are tenured members of the orchestra.

    • An interesting comment. In Cleveland $350,000 can buy you a 10 bedroom mansion and an acre of property or more. Even if Preucil’s pay was 3/4 of just about any other major CM, his money would go a lot further. Relative to cost of living Preucil made more than anyone else, that is a certainty.

    • I’m not sure why this would elicit a thumbs-down.

      Anyway, as to who is the highest-paid, cost of living (especially housing) in Cleveland is a LOT lower than in SF, so in terms of purchasing power, Preucil (and the CO in general) is probably #1.

      • Yeah, I was wondering the same – it’s all factual material. The two family members that I know of in the orchestra have been there for more than a decade. Why would their position be in any jeopardy?

        I’m sure real-estate dollars go further in Cleveland, at least if you don’t need a swimming pool and palm trees you can enjoy in January. But Sasha B. wouldn’t likely get the loan of Heifetz’ violin from the San Francisco museum that owns it if he was playing in Cleveland. Throw in income from teaching and outside performing and I doubt it really matters after a few years. I have yet to hear anyone claim that the food is better in Cleveland, and that is clearly the most important factor!

        • …and Sasha certainly isn’t a sexual predator, either in SF nor at the LSO when he was their leader. (About time creepy concertmasters were shown the door.)

          • How about creepy former Vice Presidents? Say, for example Mr. Joe Biden. When will HE be sacked for his sexual adventures throughout the years in office?!?

  • I disagree. There are lots of great orchestral musicians, as well as competition also-rans who might figure out that they will never grab the brass ring. Joseph Silverstein was a silver medalist, no? I heard his farewell Elgar concerto (no public recordings exist, AFAIK), and it was the most moving violin-concerto performance I ever heard.

  • It’s about time. Everyone in the Cleveland music scene had heard about Preucil’s behavior, and the CIM debacle seemed to prove that he was above the law. So glad to see this happen, and hope that it doesn’t stop here. Everyone is replaceable, and artistry does not excuse any action. Perhaps some of the great violinists who have left the orchestra because of Preucil (or not auditioned at all) will take their rightful place.

    • Especially former associate concertmaster Ellen dePasquale, who opted to leave, who is a superb violinist from a family of superb string players!!

  • <>

    Ya think?

    Maybe it’s time for the Cleveland-Nepotism Orchestra to make a few additional reforms while they’re at it.

  • I’m sure that report won’t satisfy the internet but it sure sounds like the orchestra management has heard enough and discovered enough to remove any doubts they had.

    The only remaining mystery is how it took them so long to hear and discover these things in the first place.

  • “Details related to any specific individual will remain confidential and the identity of those who came forward will remain known only to the investigators.”

    Very interesting (eye roll). So you can tell a few unverified (or even unverifiable) stories to a biased investigator (whose fee is paid by what is essentially an adversarial party) and never be challenged in any way.
    Let Messrs. Preucil and La Rosa sue and let the accusers repeat their accusations under the penalty of perjury and be cross-examined by the plaintiffs’ counsel.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, right ?

    • Read the report. 11 victims were interviewed, a 12th report was confirmed. They found evidence of
      an additional 8 victims. You really think these people got together in a group chat and came up with this story? I know one of the victims personally – what he did was disgusting and I’m glad he was fired. It was a long time coming.

      • Are you violafan, the supposed human ?

        If this investigation is so reliable and through, I am sure it will be found so in a court of law.

        But it’s too easy to make anonymous accusations.

        @Emil – have you ever considered envy as powerful motivation?
        Mediocre students (who might have expected a favor or two from their professor in return for obliging him with …) are now able to destroy him.

        Consensual sex under less than appropriate circumstances isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a crime or a reason for termination in the absence of a clear rule forbidding such sexual relations (e.g. in an employee handbook or an employment contract)

        All this said, if they can prove in court that Preucil committed sex crimes within the meaning of the terms in OH criminal laws, well, let him follow Bill Cosby and enjoy some state hospitality.

        • You are aware that you can lose your job for things that aren’t crimes, right? I want you to stay employed, Mark, so I’m just making sure you understand that concept. The OH criminal laws have nothing to do with this.

          By the way, the accusers aren’t “anonymous.” Their identities are unknown to you, a random internet commenter, but not to the investigators who interviewed them and corroborated their accounts. It’s not like an anonymous tip line.

          • Anson, yes, if you are employed on an “at will” basis. But I sincerely doubt that that’s is the case with the concertmaster of a major orchestra. He must have a personal contract that may or may not have a termination clause, a morals clause etc. This opens up a possibility of litigation.

            Let me offer two vignettes pertinent to this discussion:

            Somehow, it’s difficult for me to imagine that all these complaining women were innocent lambs preyed upon by the big bad concertmasters. When I was a student (at one of the Ivies in the US) it was common knowledge that the “easiest” girls were found in the arts and music departments. In fact, I recall being vastly amused when I saw a notice on the board at the music department warning students of the severe consequences of having sex in the practice rooms. Funny, I never saw such notices anywhere else on campus

            As a corporate lawyer, I advise financial companies and Wall Street executives. The main result of this #MeToo business is that the hiring of women has dropped to the 1970s levels. Furthermore, many executives now refuse to mentor or promot their female employees, because they wish to avoid spending time with their female colleagues without witnesses present.

            The victory celebrated by the over-excitable feminists and their beta-male minions is a Pyrrhic one …

          • “He must have a personal contract that may or may not have a termination clause.”

            Don’t be daft. “May or may not” have a termination clause? Would you let a client ever enter into a contract with an employee that has no way for the client to terminate the employee? Of course the Cleveland Orch has a contract with Preucil, and of course it provides them the ability to terminate him for cause. Precisely what it says, none of us knows, but as a (former) employment litigator myself, it’s hard to imagine a contract worth its salt that would saddle the orchestra with a musician who *admits* that he had sex with students and *admits* that he knew it was wrong and refuses to answer yes or no when confronted with other accusers’ accounts.

            I also suspect that an orchestra that would spend millions to hire a Wall Street firm to conduct an internal investigation would also double check the contract before dismissing Preucil, your vague insinuations about litigation notwithstanding.

            And I’m sure your recollection that music and arts girls in the Ivy League (you sure dropped that one in there, didn’t you?) were “easy” will be comforting to Preucil and his ilk. Any grain of truth in the remainder of your post is lost in the unwarranted hysteria and bizarro “alpha/beta” verbiage.

          • Anson, baby, look up James Levine’s contract that had no termination or morals clause of any kind. Do you think Preucil (and whoever was his counsel during the contract negotiations) made it so easy to dismiss him, especislly given his “extracurriculars” ?

            Having sex with students might be “wrong”, but isn’t illegal in most jurisdiction (although there is a trend to
            make it so – e.g. NJ, CT). Was there a written rule in the orchestra employee handbook or anywhere else making it a violation to have consentual sex under such circumstances?
            “Termination for cause” in a well-drafted employment contract (as I am sure you know) usually contains a recital of such causes and/or references another document (e.g. an employee handbook).

            And furthermore, I suspect that just as was the case with Levine at the Met, the Cleveland management just expects Preucil and La Rosa to melt into thin air.
            Not filing a lawsuit would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.
            Of course, there might be a mandatory mediation/arbitration clause …

          • Mark: Really, be a grown-up. An employee can be fired even without breaking the law if the behaviour is viewed as reprehensible or damaging to the institution. There does not need to be a particular clause for every example of poor behaviour. Your claim about employment contracts simply isn’t true.

            Preucil can, I suppose, try to sue. But he is VERY unlikely to win since the Cleveland Orchestra do not have to prove the allegations are true. They just have to show they are credible (twelve independent accusations will ensure that) and that firing him is a reasonable response. And, given it is a civil case, they will get the benefit of any doubt.

        • Hi Mark,
          How likely are you to find 20 women who are so envious that they are willing to suffer professional harm to take you down? Come on, this is ridiculous.

          And by the way, a teacher having sex with students *is* inappropriate. Always. Very inappropriate. Why? He is in authority. He controls their careers. The line between consent and coercion there is too fine to be meaningful.

          • Do you think that this case will serve as precedent to strengthen the Met’s case against Levine. Conversely, do you think that Preucil will follow Levine’s example and sue?

          • One thing we can be sure of – Mark does not feel so strongly about protecting the rights of the fired individuals that he is offering to represent them.

    • Yes, because all these women got rich, famous, and successful thanks to their anonymous testimonies from which they stand to gain nothing at all, right? (sarcasm)

      If there’s one thing that should be blatantly obvious after the Kavanaugh/Blasey Ford hearings, is that the idea that a victim of assault stands to gain anything by going public is ludicrous.

      P-S: Even in the event that you completely ridiculous assertion were true, what would it say about Preucil that investigators could find TWENTY women who studied or worked with him who were willing to accuse him of assault and harassment?

    • Read the report. Preucil *admitted* to having sex with students during or after lessons, and admitted that he knew that that behavior was wrong. And he declined to say yes or no with respect to allegations by accusers whose names were not public. All that alone is enough to dismiss him.

        • Pardon me. Admits that he “engaged in sexual contact” during lessons. Downright Clintonian parsing of the phraseology if you ask me, but you’re right, I should have been more precise.

          • While I think termination was appropriate either way, I do think there is a non-trivial distinction between an individual who perhaps fondles the breasts of a female student and an individual who penetrates her without her consent. I’m not sure what the law is about the former, but the latter is criminal behavior.

            I wonder if Preucil would have been accepting if one of his daughter Alexandra’s violin teachers had been the perpetrator?

    • But the stories are not “unverified.”

      And there weren’t just “a few”.

      The behavior Preucil and LaRosa themselves admitted to would be grounds for firing for most employees. Their status as luminous musicians seemed to protect them along with the blind-eye of the often-mentioned “former management.”

    • If you bothered to read the report, you would have read that LaRosa all but admitted he made an unwanted advance on the student in the Iowa incident, but he tried to qualify it to the investigators. There is no qualifying it, end of story. That he even admitted as much as he did is pretty telling, it must have been pretty bad. That alone is grounds for termination, let alone the other accusations against him which appear to be pretty substantial.

      This is not a court of law, they aren’t going to spend the rest of their lives in jail; this is an employment decision by an employer that is perfectly within their rights to fire them. They can try and get employment elsewhere, I have no doubt they will either retire on their nice pension, or find employment with some lesser ensemble abroad who is willing to take the chance.

      They’ll be fine, they aren’t going to end up on the street with a tin cup begging for change for a sandwich. Hopefully they will learn from this.

      If either of these men worked at Walmart as managers and were found engaging in the same behavior by using their positions of power over underlings or potential employees, most wouldn’t give it a second thought if they were immediately terminated.

    • Perhaps Preucil, La Rosa and Levine can form a truly unique trio and you can extol it’s virtues. Hope you are richly rewarded for ensuring the rights of serial predators.

    • I hope they sue. I’m not a lawyer and no insider information. But it does seem questionable to lump the two together. William Preucil will be a HUGE loss I don’t care what anyone says. He hadn’t been accused of anything anonymously or otherwise since 2007 when as punishment for his behavior he taught for free for years at CIM. He has been “replaced” by 2 people Peter Otto and a conductor who was available at such short notice in the Vivaldi 4 seasons. Also the concert has been changed the Rhenish Symphony to Haydn’s Surprise Symphony………I heard him perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto a couple of years ago after he had a fall and could barely walk. It was literally to die for. I’m so tired of #metoo.

  • From the report:

    The investigators spoke directly with 11 women who described experiencing
    sexual misconduct or sexually harassing behavior committed by Preucil. All of these
    events occurred during Preucil’s tenure with the Orchestra. Debevoise credits these
    reports, many of which were corroborated to the investigators by witnesses with whom
    the women discussed the incidents contemporaneously. Debevoise also obtained
    documentary evidence supporting a twelfth direct report. Additionally, the investigators
    received evidence from persons who were not direct victims that Preucil engaged in
    misconduct with at least eight additional women. The earliest instance of misconduct
    directly reported to the investigators took place in 1996, and the latest reported incident
    took place in 2007. The youngest victim was 17.

      • Tell that to the Berliner Philharmoniker, whose three current concertmasters were all hired at the age of 30.

        Why shouldn’t young musicians be able to be a concertmaster of a major orchestra? In terms of technical musical skills, it is plainly wrong to say that young musicians aren’t capable of meeting the demands of the position. In terms of non-musical skills … I would say the ability not to engage in sexual harassment is pretty important, and that is not an ability that depends on your age.

        But given your posting history on this website – in which you demonstrate a strong personally motivated grudge against all women who have been sexually assaulted by men – I think we know what this is really about.

      • We’ve been through this before. There have been a number of very young, very successful concertmasters of major orchestras who got the job without much prior experience. Admittedly, this is more common in European orchestras, where there are several concertmasters, and the new one can learn on the job from the more experienced one sharing the stand.

        I expect that there will be enough high-quality candidates interested in being TCO CM that any decision to take a relative youngster will be because they demonstrated to many people’s satisfaction that they are up to the demands of the job – there won’t be any need to settle.

  • It is terrible this happened to these women. And while history cannot be erased fully, I hope this result brings them some relief. Preucil finally got what was long overdue.
    It is also reasonable to say he was an exceptional concertmaster, if not the exceptional CM. He won the Philadelphia CM position on the same day that he won the Cleveland position, flying from one city to the next, and chose the orchestra of his former teacher, Josef Gingold, the legend of Szell’s years. I visited Cleveland on a business trip about ten years ago and heard him lead some Mozart from his position. I have yet to hear again such a Musique de Chambre playing in the US. I later heard his solo in the famous Strauss Hero’s Leben in Miami, and it was the most expressive and exciting. His musical leadership was unmatched from others I knew. It seems he worked his way to the top not by winning a competition. From his bio it seems Concertmaster was his natural field, but he took his power off-stage.
    We live finally in a world where powerful people are increasingly less able to exert their power over subordinates. May this result be a reminder to those and help them think twice before hurting someone so that they don’t—now there are consequences, no matter how exceptional your abilities

  • “He will not be easily replaced” is a ridiculous statement. No matter his musical talent, this investigation makes clear – even notwithstanding the disastrous PR fallout from the publicization of the accusations – that he has caused much more harm to the Orchestra and to the American musical scene than any benefit his playing might have brought. Twenty women assaulted means twenty careers broken, impeded, or harmed. Just like with Dutoit, his career was built on breaking other people’s careers.

  • One element of the full report I find a bit murky is the distinction it draws between the actions of “former management” and of “current management.”

    What is the demarcation between the two? Was there some recent tumult that ushered out all the old and brought the new?

    It’s a bit implausible that there is no overlap.

    • I find it not implausible that any accusation that was made in the past directly to management might have been kept as quiet as possible (read: only the people absolutely needed to be told were told) and may not have felt it at all necessary to “read in” their successors on what had happened.

      It’s easy to say “oh, that guy has a reputation for being a lecherous old man” but without some actual specifics, I don’t think anyone is well-served by acting on whispers. And if an accusation was made and deemed not credible (rightly or wrongly), again, the management is probably going to want even the existence of such an allegation kept under wraps. If there isn’t such an allegation during the management transition, where someone who was involved with a previous allegation is still around to say “not this again” the institutional memory may be pretty close to non-existent. I suspect if you had reason to be suspicious and time to dig through the archives, you might find some documentation, but the likelihood that a new management team wants to go dig up old problems and make them fresh again is small. You’re the new management at a fabled orchestra with a long-time concertmaster who still is playing very well, music director isn’t demanding a change, and you’re going to eagerly start down a path that ends with needing to find a new concertmaster and a black eye for the orchestra? Not a chance.

      I do agree that someone who had been involved in covering up any such behavior in the past would probably be motivated to cover their tracks. Hopefully they would also be motivated to make it clear that such behavior in the future would not be tolerated, so they didn’t have to risk their own position.

      • Reading the report from top to bottom I get the sense that “former management” had, during its watch, enough credible information on which to act; most of the same relevant information as “current management” does.

        The big difference is that during “current management’s” watch, the facts also appeared in a Washington Post article and elsewhere that made it impossible to defer acting.

        Yes, it entirely plausible that someone in management would want to hush these things up if they could.

        What is not plausible is that all those negligent people characterized as “former management” in the report are all gone and not any part of “current management.”

        It may depend on who is defined as “management” and the report doesn’t really do that.

  • A sad day and a major blemish for the CO. It is unfortunate that the musical discipline that Szell brought to the orchestra did not translate into the personal lives of some of the players of this era. He is replaceable. Everyone is and it is hubris to think that in an orchestra, one person makes the product. I hope that his home life survives and that in retirement he contemplates his actions.

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