Sistema conductor responds to rape accusations

The founder of El Sistema in Guatemala, Bruno Campo, has been accused by several women in a magazine article in that country of rape and other sexual abuses. Campo, who studied in Austria and co-founded the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra, denies the allegations which, he says, are being used as political ammunition in this weekend’s Guatemalan elections.

Bruno Campo has gone to the police in Denmark in an attempt to clear his name.

Slipped Disc has no independent means of validating either the accusations, or the credentials of the magazine involved.

Bruno Campo, with whom we have previously corresponded, has issued an interim statement, which we publish below. He cannot respond in detail to the accusations without prejudicing the Danish police investigation.

Sistema England has rushed to issue a statement dissociating itself from Bruno Campo, with whom, it says, it has never worked.

Sistema Europe also says it has cut ties with him.

We present the raw documents. The facts will have to be tested by the police and the courts.

*

Statement by Bruno Campo

1. The accusations and allegations raised in this article are extremely severe. I have met with Danish authorities, shared detailed documentation with them and there is now an ongoing investigation by the Danish police that I fully support. I have offered my full openness, transparency and cooperation.

2. I fully support the struggle for more equality and against abuse of any sort. I also have the highest respect for any victims of abuse that have the courage to share their experiences. If any way I have ever acted in or behaved has not been experienced as fully respectful, I profoundly apologize. I rigorously work on myself and will continue to do so. However, I must strongly reject all allegations of any criminal conduct regarding myself according to what the article may imply.

3. Unfortunately, and in spite of having been presented with documented proof that shows otherwise, the journalist of the article falsely claims that my studies in Europe had been financed by the Municipality of Guatemala. That is not the case: An Italian co-operation and private donors financed the studies. This was audited by PNUD (Program of United Nations for Development).

4. The fact that presentation of evidence plus testimonies by other students and people who worked in the project at the time dismissing the accusations and were totally disregarded by the journalist, raises the suspicion that the article is a political hit-piece against the Municipality of Guatemala few days before the elections that take place this coming weekend in order to influence the outcome of those elections. These types of campaigns shortly before elections are unfortunately common practice in my country. In addition, the false claim regarding the financial support of my studies also echoes past defamatory campaigns by a group of musicians in Guatemala that has attempted to discredit me for years, for example through printed pamphlets and anonymous Emails with claims that then aren’t backed up when people inquire.

*

 

Sistema England Statement – Guatemala: Bruno Campo
This statement, dated 11 June 2019, is made in response to allegations that have come to light through an online article published on 7 June 2019 by Nomada, an independent platform for investigative journalism in Guatemala. Sistema England has yet to independently verify the legitimacy of this online article.

The Trustees and CEO of Sistema England are deeply shocked and concerned to hear of the serious allegations of rape and abuse made against Bruno Campo, youth orchestra conductor and teacher from Guatemala, over several years.

Sistema England extends its support for all individuals who may have been victims of this abuse, and praises the courage of those who have come forward to share their horrific experiences.

For the avoidance of doubt, Sistema England has never employed, contracted or invited Bruno Campo, whether as a guest or to work with or participate in any activity led or organised by Sistema England.

Moreover, Sistema England has never arranged any activity that brought children and young people into contact with Bruno Campo.

Sistema England did make a discretionary donation to The Nucleo Project to help with travel costs for 8 children from England to participate in the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra camps in Istanbul in 2014 and Athens in 2017, where Bruno Campo was present.

Sistema England will fully support the executive and board of The Nucleo Project, who are seeking expert advice to ensure best practices for engaging with the children and the parents of children who participated in these projects where Bruno Campo was present.

As the host and organising body of Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra 2018, Sistema England excluded Bruno Campo from any involvement in the project, having determined a cause for concern as to his suitability for this role.

*

From a statement by Sistema Europe

Members of the Sistema Europe Board have had a recent online article about Bruno Campo brought to their attention. This article contains shocking and serious reports of rape, sexual abuse and other abuses of power by Bruno Campo during his time working in Guatemala. Sistema Europe has not yet been able to independently verify the legitimacy of this online article.

Bruno Campo co-founded the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra (SEYO) in 2013 and was the co-artistic director of SEYO between 2013 and 2017. However, as Sistema Europe’s processes subsequently revealed an area of concern, he has not been involved in Sistema Europe projects in any capacity since then.

 

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  • Geoff Baker says:

    The general depiction of Bruno Campo and El Sistema Guatemala in the full investigation is highly revealing. It will also be very familiar to anyone who has read my book “El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth” or this insider’s account of El Sistema (https://van-us.atavist.com/all-that-matters).

  • Geoff Baker says:

    “Bruno Campo co-founded the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra (SEYO) in 2013 and was the co-artistic director of SEYO between 2013 and 2017. However, as Sistema Europe’s processes subsequently revealed an area of concern, he has not been involved in Sistema Europe projects in any capacity since then.”

    In April 2018, Campo lectured in Graz on “The Adaption of El Sistema in Europe” and “The Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra, Athens 2017 and introducing SEYO London/Birmingham 2018,” alongside leading El Sistema advocate Eric Booth.

    http://kultur.graz.at/kalender/event/1522310626

  • Alvaro F Rodas says:

    Sir, just to clarify your opening statement: Bruno Campo is, by no means, the founder of El Sistema in Guatemala. That statement is insulting to anyone who was there supporting the first seminario led by Simon Bolivar musicians in 1997, in which Campo was just another among many other very talented children. This goes to show you the extent of his lies and manipulative character. I hope a correction is made.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Sistema has acknowledged him in the past as the Guatemala founder and Abreu, who gave him the authority, has not denied it.

      • Levy says:

        I am totally agree with you Norman!!

      • Alvaro F Rodas says:

        As the original article explains, he started a second, competing organization called “sistema”, but the “el sistema” movement in Guatemala, and the organization that led its beginnings, started even before the English-speaking decided to adopt “El Sistema” as the name for these projects worldwide.

      • Alvaro F Rodas says:

        What is this “sistema” you mention in your reply, anyway? (And as you may very well know, Abreu passed over a year ago).

        • Penelope says:

          Mr. Rodas:

          We can observe that you want to win this argument. However, I believe you’re getting hung up on something that doesn’t matter very much, compared to this man’s alleged actions.

  • M.K says:

    I’m glad someone finally complained…

  • Maria says:

    I just read some of the victims’ testimonies… I’m absolutely horrified, shocked and discussed. It looks like most of them were minors when he abused them and that the school’s management knew what was going on, but instead of firing him and getting the police involved, they got him a scholarship and sent him to study conducting in Austria till things calm down. Here is a link to the article (in Spanish): https://elperiodico.com.gt/domingo/2019/06/09/los-abusos-sexuales-en-la-escuela-municipal-de-musica-de-la-ciudad-de-guatemala/

  • Maria says:

    Here is an English translation of some of the victim’s testimonies… Absolutely horrifying:

    1. Italy. “ I’m going to show you why a woman can not direct an orchestra” – Bruno Campo
    Rossana Paz was 19 years old when she was accepted for a chello course in Italy during July 2012. She was traveling alone but found that a familiar face would be traveling with her, Bruno Campo. “For me he was someone that was very very close. Within the orchestra he was an authority figure, someone who always made you fearful, though outside of the orchestra he was more like a brother or a father figure.” It took a lot of work to really understand the meaning behind what he was doing to me (grooming) in the past. Still, that is the night that is absolutely the clearest in my mind, the night that he raped me. In February 2019, Rossana discovered she wasn’t the only victim to fall into the hands of Bruno Campo.

    3. The regiment of abuse.
    Maru Amato is a 26 year old flutist who began in the Orquestra Juvenil in 2008, then 15 years of age. The abuse from Bruno Campo began little by little before advancing towards disgusting acts of humiliation. He began by verbally harassing Amato to physical aggression and finally committing humiliating acts to the young girl in front of her peers calling them “games”. For example, one day Amato wore pants to school and Bruno decided to pull them down in front of all her classmates. Another one of his games involved Bruno touching the 15 year old girl’s breasts and making them move around. His favorite game was to surprise-kiss the girl on the mouth when he was alone with her or in a room filled with students, then laugh and run away.

    4. The dream of music, broken.
    Azucena Salinas dreamt of playing the violin professionally. She was 12 years old when she joined the Orquesta Infantil. She would travel 30 kilometers from her home to practice with the orchestra. One day, Bruno Campo called the 12 year old girl into his office, and showed her a set of keys. He took her into a classroom where the double basses were kept and closed the door behind him. Campo was molesting and raping the 12 year old inside the locked room. Even though Salinas wanted to tell someone what was happening, she was afraid no one would believe her. Eventually she did tell her mother, who then confronted Campo at a meeting “…at no time have I ever molested your daughter. Azucena is the typical girl who likes to seduce his male teachers. And you know what else? sometimes she grabs me, she hugs me, and she kisses me behind the ears,” was Campo’s response during that meeting (that was attended by the coordinator Blanca Lopez).

    7. A ticking time bomb that will reach “Muni”
    In the years 2009 and 2012 parents accusing Bruno Campo of sexual violence within Funacion Musica y Juventud was escalating and pressure to remove him began to rise. The new director of SOG Veronica Molina had the opportunity to share an office with Bruno Campo. As she recalls, since the very beginning she could see that there was something “not right” happening from within. One day she arrived to her office to find Campo over a desk and receiving a massage from a 13 year old student. On another occasion she found Bruno Campo showing students pornography directly from his office computer. Rossana Paz has also commented that when he returned from Italy, Bruno Campo wrote to her asking that she erase one of his pornographic archives from his “old office computer”.

    • Orpheus says:

      Wow, this is unbelievable. Raping a 12 years old child in school multiple times??!! touching a 15 years old girl and pulling her pants in front of the whole class?! making your own students watch porn?! what world are we living in???? If this is true (and I suspect it is since there are more than 10 women telling the same stories and filing charges against him now), then his career should end immediately. He shouldn’t be walking free and definitely shouldn’t be part of our profession and community.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        These are allegations. They have not been proven.

        • Mary says:

          You should look for cases in Europe. I do not think this person has changed his habits.

        • Alexander says:

          I guess when you are the child (little girl in this case) of a single mother who lives in a very poor area the general consensus is that whatever a man of social prominence does to you will always be considered an allegation. Most of the victims did not want to tell anyone what had occurred for the fear on losing out on a future within classical music. For most of these young Guatemalan girls it was their only chance of practicing their instruments as their parents could not afford lessons let alone an instrument. There are many cases through history of children being taken advantage of within organizations that promise to foster education, personal growth, and safety for the underprivileged.

          This man never thought he would get caught and actually apprehended by the law because of the organization and political figures playing him to conduct. If he were truely innocent he would not have the need to write full essays about how wrong everyone is, he should be able to prove that by his own character (which is abominable if you have ever met him). You have to be a truly blind person to not be able to see the amount of abuse the youth, especially young women and girls face within the arts, especially the classical arts. Maybe it’s time that those responsible for their action pay.

        • sycorax says:

          Well, Norman, the “innocent until proven guilty” is an important and respectable principle.
          However I find it hard to believe in a guy’s innocence when a few women stand up to talk about him abusing them.
          I know both sides of such stories. I was abused (and though it’s now around 25 years I still feel ashamed that I didn’t have the guts to stand up against this monster because I’m sure he did it to other women, too) and I have a friend who spent almost nine months in jail (detention while awaiting trial) because a woman accused him of rape. However, in his case it was one woman while others believed in his innocence. I was among them because I’d experienced him flirty and charming and all that, but never once disrespectful against women. And in the end it was proven that he hadn’t raped this lady (she wanted revenge because he’d told her clearly he isn’t interested in her). “Luckily” (for him) she named a date for the rape on which a lot of people had seen him in St. Petersburg – too far away to raping a lady somewhere in Western Germany.

      • Jennifer says:

        Orpheus, I’m not sure Maria translated this correctly. The sentence “Campo was molesting and raping the 12 year old inside the locked room.” appears neither in the El Periodico article nor the original Nomada article. The Nomada article mentions “kissing the neck” – which is bad enough. But not what Maria wrote. I’m curious why she felt she had to (massively) exaggerate like that. It makes me a bit suspicious.

  • Another one tricked says:

    Thank god they’re handling this situation. It sounds like he’s already done tremendous damage.

    These creeps never get that the power differential means consent is impossible. The only way to prevent them from continuing to abuse is to deny them access to young people.

    At least society is reacting now, unlike when I was growing up. My teacher was promoted and allowed to continue assaulting teenagers for 40 years.

    • Anon says:

      With all due respect, the only way to prevent such abuse is to reduce the power differential and stop granting conductors such control over children.

  • Emilia says:

    If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual abuse, support is available at

    http://www.rainn.org

    You can research (U.S.) state laws and speak to a counselor anonymously.

    Hay ayunda e información en español también.

  • Laura P says:

    This quote from Bruno Campo himself in the Nomada article is very troubling and might reveal a lot about the kind of person he is. He is talking about Maru Amato, one of the students that he is accused of abusing when she was 15:

    — Feo que nunca me lo dijo, teniendo yo contacto con la familia hasta la fecha, y eso es algo que las nuevas generaciones deben aprender: (en vez de estar) gritándolo a la prensa años más tarde luego de cultivar sentimientos negativos en silencio, pero diciéndolo a la persona justo y directamente en el momento, resolviendo el conflicto, y comunicándolo a un adulto si fuese necesario y delineando una línea de respeto inmediato, eso es lo sano.

    — It is ugly that she never said anything to me, with me being in touch with her family even now, and that is something that the new generations need to learn: (instead of) shouting about it to the press years later after allowing negative feelings to grow in silence, they should directly tell the person at the time, resolving the conflict, and communicating it to an adult if necessary and establishing a line of immediate respect, that would be healthier.

    This kind of cynical and unrepentant victim-blaming needs to stop, this expectation that if someone (in this case a 15 year old girl) does not stop their abuser in their tracks or does not seek help or call out the abuse right away, then they are somehow to blame. No Bruno Campo, I have no idea if you are guilty of what you are being abused of, and I hope in due course justice will be done either way, but ‘the new generations’ do not need you or any other man in a position of power to dictate to them how they should respond to sexual abuse.

  • Carlos Guillén says:

    When Campo says that “the journalist of the article falsely claims that my studies in Europe had been financed by the Municipality of Guatemala” he is hoping that people who read his statement will not be able to understand Spanish. I’ve just read story in the magazine and it includes a letter from the Municipality of Guatemala specifically saying: “In 2014 we gave financial support to Bruno Campo to enable him to study in Europe”. Is he suggesting that the letter, and everything else in the magazine story, is made up? Anyone interested in finding out the truth about this could just contact the municipality via the contact details on the letter.

  • Tiana says:

    The second point Mr. Campo makes in his statement does not help his cause.

    “If any way I have ever acted in or behaved has not been experienced as fully respectful, I profoundly apologize. I rigorously work on myself and will continue to do so. However, I must strongly reject all allegations of any criminal conduct regarding myself according to what the article may imply.”

    I understand that to mean that he engaged in the alleged abuse but doesn’t think it’s criminal. It is. Even if a girl walked in wearing a negligée, he was the adult in the room.

    Points 3 and 4 of Mr. Campo’s statement regarding who provided the financial backing for his studies abroad is an attempt to distract from the issue at hand and completely misses the point.

    For those splitting hairs here, whether or not he is the sole founder of El Sistema in Guatemala is not the point, either. He was a powerful mentor who took advantage of his position to exploit young girls.

    The argument that this is politically motivated is absurd. False accusations of sexual assault are extremely rare. This is about holding a predatory adult accountable for using children to meet his sexual needs. There’s a reason such activity is illegal. He can try blaming the victims all he wants. I hope they always remember: HE committed the crime.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    It is remarkable to me that it takes rape allegations by a conductor from a Guatemalan El Sistema chapter to jolt European El Sistema franchisees to register moral outrage. Is the brand’s ownership by the most corrupt, criminal, murderous, human rights-abusing, state-destroying, mafia regime in Venezuela’s history not sufficient cause for distancing, or is that mythologized brand name still simply too alluring to donors that only rape provokes an existential crisis?

    We have been at the coal face for the last three years, getting former El Sistema musicians out of Venezuela. We have been finding them places in conservatories, personally handling their visas, fundraising, and housing them for months on end in our own home during transition. During that process, we have come to know their stories intimately. Many have sat at our kitchen table and shed tears of profound sadness and trauma. Their stories all bare the same common thread: abuse of power (sexual coercion, promise of career advancement etc.), neglect and abandonment, verbal and physical threats, control, monopoly, and the total loss of individual self-determination. Not to mention total, forced group subservience to an illegitimate, mafia regime employer.

    To this day, all are too terrified of the career implications to go on the record – a statement in itself – because the El Sistema brand has its tentacles all throughout the industry worldwide.

    If the Bruno Campo case serves to finally open the worm can, I predict that El Sistema franchises may have to get ready to pen many, many more statements of disassociation.

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