Panic stations at Curtis: Don’t say a word

Panic stations at Curtis: Don’t say a word


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2019

The following email has gone out to Curtis students, staff and alumni in response to a Philadelphia Inquirer article on alleged sexual abuse by a deceased tutor.

It’s the opposite of a textbook response to crisis management:

From: “Johnson, Patricia” <>
Date: July 25, 2019 at 6:23:06 AM EDT
To: Undisclosed recipients: ;
Subject: Philadelphia Inquirer Article
NOTE: This e-mail and its contents should not be forwarded or shared. It is intended
only for your information.
Dear Curtis Alumni,
Earlier today, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article online about an incident that
was alleged to have occurred at Curtis in the 1980s. This article will also appear in print
this Sunday, July 28.
We assure you that Curtis is committed to the safety, security, and well-being of our
students, staff, faculty, and audiences. We do not tolerate assault or harassment of any
kind and are proactive in efforts to create a safe and healthy campus environment.
Copies of current Curtis policies, handbooks, and other safety documentation is
available upon request.
If you are contacted by journalists for comment on this story, please refer them to me. If
you have any alumni-related questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Jason Ward
Additionally, out of respect for all those involved, we request that you refrain from
discussing this matter publicly, online, or on social media.


Patricia K. Johnson
Senior Director of Communications and Marketing
Curtis Institute of Music



  • Christian Leins says:

    Sounds quite nervous this lady….

  • John Smith says:

    A bit late for that…

  • The View from America says:

    “Additionally, out of respect for all those involved, we request that you refrain from discussing this matter publicly, online, or on social media.”

    Yeah, good luck with that …

    • Saxon Broken says:

      One of them is dead and the other made the statement to the press. Really…the first is past caring, and the second really does want it discussed publicly.

  • TubaMinimum says:

    Actually… I would say that is the textbook response: “Everything is fine and we’re taking this seriously. Only let the spokespeople talk to media. Don’t embarrass us by saying anything dumb of social media.” Whether you read it as sincere or not, that’s a very stock crisis plan.

    • The View from America says:

      … if you’ve read only half of the textbook.

      Sure, try to keep “just anyone” (current/former employees, alums, current students) from commenting. But equally or more important, get out in front of the story. Curtis is being reactive, not proactive, and I’ll bet it’s been that way for a while.

      The notion that the publicity department and/or the higher-ups at Curtis weren’t aware that the Philadelphia Inquirer was sniffing around this news story weeks or even months ago? That doesn’t pass the snicker test.

  • Alan says:

    Hard to believe a communications expert could come up with an email like that. Behind foolish.

    • Harriet says:

      Sadly, in the United States this sort of message is “normal” and usual. There are very few countries that would consider themselves free and democratic who treat mature adults in this way, giving them instructions on how to behave, what to say and what not to say and instructing them to let one official person do all the talking on their behalf! What is even stranger than what is written in the message, is the fact that in The U.S. many “mature” adults will respect the order in the message and obey! So much of the U.S. culture is the antithesis of what would and should be expected in a free thinking, free speaking society.A message like the one here sent by Curtis to their alumni reads exactly like something out of the former Soviet Union, other former Communist states or other totalitarian societies. Sadly, the very ones most concerned by this, namely the Americans themselves will, for the most part, see absolutely nothing wrong with this, o no use even discussing it with them, as it would be a futile exercise.

  • JM says:

    You’d that that a “communications and marketing” professional might anticipate how such a missive might backfire spectacularly, but here we are.

  • anon says:

    This sounds like witness tampering and/or obstruction of justice. In addition, in America there is something called “Title IX” and the “Clery Act” specific to criminal activity on a college campus; violence on campus must be reported. Seeking to sweep things under the rug is a very big legal problem.

    • MWnyc says:

      Since the alleged criminal died 22 years ago, and the alleged crimes happened 33 years ago, I don’t think a criminal trial is likely. So witness-tampering and obstruction-of-justice issues aren’t likely to arise.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Of all the ridiculous, over-the-top comments!!

      It isn’t either – nobody is suggesting that a witness should not report anything to the police, nor is any witness being threatened with “consequences” for going to the police.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Just when you thought “metoo” was out, they pull it back in.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      “metoo” is not, as you put it, “out”, Mick.
      And, dude, “they”?
      How about you start gaining a little respect for the women who surround you in this world?

  • aNOn says:

    “Copies of current Curtis policies, handbooks, and other safety documentation is available upon request.”

    – How about copies from the 1980s? lol

    – “other safety documentation”… fire drills? elevator inspection reports?

    Patricia is trying.

  • freddynyc says:

    Looks like the “perp” in question was already well into his 70s when the crime was supposed to have taken place. How ghastly especially considering the “victim” was barely into her teens…..

  • MT says:

    I don’t think the policy of keeping quiet is the answer. I got this from a friend of mine who attended Curtis with Lara:

    “She kept quiet to avoid ruining her brother’s chances for a career. People talked about her leaving, but I didn’t know the circumstances – only that Scott was still there, and for some reason she wasn’t. But of course that was the reason.

    There were some really nice guys at Curtis – many had led very sheltered lives and hadn’t been exposed to much of anything yet, and I’m sure they had no idea what their teachers were doing to their sisters and female friends. I remember being so envious of them. They were so earnest and focused and not [f-ed] up. And then there were us girls. My roommate, who was also a Brodsky student, skipped her lessons a lot, and she started getting drunk all the time and sleeping around with the older students (she was 16). We were pretty close, but she didn’t ever say much about her lessons…now I have to wonder. She went back to [home state] at the end of that year, and she’s still there. Just think how, if you were a female student, you had to be constantly calculating, making heartbreaking choices – self-respect or career? – contorting yourself, doubting yourself, hating yourself, punishing yourself…and if you were a boy, you just spent your days being exactly who you were, practicing your craft and vaguely wondering at the bizarre psychological issues all your female peers seemed to have.”

  • Andy says:

    Where’s Anthea ???

  • Peter says:

    I know this is a bit pedantic, but an “article on alleged sexual abuse by a deceased tutor” is a slightly different thing from an “article alleging sexual abuse by a tutor, now deceased”.

  • Monsoon says:


    Curtis really needs to reevaluate who it’s hiring.

    Even rookies don’t send out “super secret email, please don’t forward to the press, don’t talk to the press, uh, everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you.”

    • Curtis Alumnus says:

      If Curtis were a modern institution, which it sadly isn’t, Roberto Diaz would have stated in his letter that Patricia Johnson would be dismissed immediately, as a great institution does not communicate like that in 2019, or even in earlier years. I would suspect, however, that higher-ups at Curtis had to have signed off on her clumsy and amateurish letter to alumni. It would be hard to believe that Roberto Diaz was unaware of the content of that initial letter prior to it having been sent out, so they are all guilty of stupidity and hopefully the arrogant Curtis ivory tower mentality got the kick that it deserves in the place that it deserved it.

      • The View from America says:

        “I would suspect, however, that higher-ups at Curtis had to have signed off on her clumsy and amateurish letter to alumni.”

        100% certitude.

  • Bill says:

    Not consistent with proper grammar either: “copies is?”

  • harpist says:

    My teacher, Lucile Lawrence, married her teacher, Carlos Salzedo, as his second wife. However, being a Frenchman, he carried on at least one affair which ended their marriage. They both taught at Curtis. He continued on at Curtis, as the finest harp teacher in the world, apart from her, and he later married another student. Love happens where it happens. Whether this makes for good marriages or not, who knows? Maybe Janice Susskind?

  • H. Bosch says:

    For B and C-tier soloists, it’s all too easy (and necessary) to seek to bring attention to themselves in ways that have nothing to do with their playing. Sex sells – that certainly worked with her “sexy” album covers (Bach, Gypsy, etc.) way back when she was attractive. But the bloom is long off the rose now. The playing is sloppy and ugly too – so what’s left? Breathlessly grasping the limelight via scandal involving unproven sexy allegations and slander against a dead man who cannot defend himself. Grubby.