Manhattan School in misconduct storm

Manhattan School in misconduct storm


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2020

A growing rage of students have been posting misconduct allegations against the Manhattan School of Music on an Instagram microsite. The complaints appear to be increasing day by day. The site has more than 500 followers.

The school’s president James Gandre has issued this interim pacifying statement:

Dear Students and Alumni,

We have been made aware of an incident involving one of our faculty members, who was recently hired by a summer camp to teach a virtual master class. Her reaction to a question being asked during the session has raised concerns about cultural insensitivity of that professor and the professor’s work at Manhattan School of Music. In addition, we recently have heard from others in the MSM Community who have filed complaints unrelated to this incident (and unrelated to this faculty member) but that raise similar concerns.

Regarding the virtual master class referenced above, the faculty member in question yesterday posted an apology on Instagram for her handling of the incident. Although I believe this to be a positive step, all of us at MSM understand that there is much more to be done across our campus, in the performing arts world, and throughout society to address cultural and racial inequities….

We understand that creating a safe place for members of the MSM Community to share their experiences and suggestions is a critical part of making MSM a more inclusive place with a clear sense of belonging. As such, we are creating an MSM Community portal called “You Have a Voice at MSM,” which will be for use by students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This portal, launching Monday, June 22, at noon (and linking from a red bar atop the MSM website’s homepage), will provide for each of you in our extended MSM family a place where you can offer anonymous-optional concerns, grievances, information, and suggestions to MSM regarding any and all issues surrounding the broadest issues encompassing diversity, equity, and inclusion. This information will assist us in our effort to take real, practical steps to improve our collective culture here at MSM.



  • mary says:

    What was the initial incident that started all this?

    (One can’t access all the posts unless one creates an instagram account, which I won’t do).

    • V.Lind says:

      Also interested. I know people on the MSM faculty and hope they have not been implicated.

    • George says:

      A visit to the Instagram site doesn’t offer a lot of clarity either. The page’s owners seem to be speaking in a lot of coded language mixed with academic jargon. Until someone clearly blows the whistle on the alleged misconduct, we may never know what they’re all talking about.

      • NoLongerAFutureDonor says:

        Can you give an example of what you see as “coded language?” It is all very straightforward to me.

    • Jack Moris says:

      At the end of her masterclass, she turned to questions from viewers. The first one asked about her position in regards to racially charged productions MSM has produced and more specifically Lehar’s The land of smiles. She started telling someone to cut him off and then says it again before saying “this is a political statement” and although she acknowledges that this type of question isn’t new – meaning they have gotten criticism in the past for being racially biased – she doesn’t even have an answer to the caller. Kick him out is her solution. This from the Artistic Director of MSM opera.

  • RIGOLETTO says:

    What happened?

    • Jack Moris says:

      At the end of her masterclass, she turned to questions from viewers. The first one asked about her position in regards to racially charged productions MSM has produced and more specifically Lehar’s The land of smiles. She started telling someone to cut him off and then says it again before saying “this is a political statement” and although she acknowledges that this type of question isn’t new – meaning they have gotten criticism in the past for being racially biased – she doesn’t even have an answer to the caller. Kick him out is her solution. This from the Artistic Director of MSM opera.

  • E Rand says:

    ahh! Welcome, one and all, to the future! Empty-head students with wheelbarrows of outrage and just enough command of made-up academia speak will demand their institutions “bend the knee” and humiliate faculty. Those faculty who don’t debase themselves and apologize? Career over. The students, meanwhile, shiver with the cheap thrill of idealogical conformity and move on to their next target…probably you.

    Never mind that these kids are at MSM, and probably can’t play.

    • Fiddlist says:

      On what are you basing all of this? Are you saying none of the misconduct allegations have any truth to them?

      PS learn how to spell ideological, please.

      • Doug says:

        I can tell you how to spell Marxist useful idiot: “F.i.d.d.l.i.s.t”

        • Fiddlist says:

          What on Earth does Marxist have to do with allegations of sexual harassment? And were you calling me a useful idiot as well as a Marxist, or a Marxist useful idiot? What on earth is that? You might want to consider learning how to use commas and other punctuation marks too!

          You can go back to your Trump rallies now.

          • Bruce says:

            I think they just call people “Marxist” and “Socialist” without really knowing what the words mean (or maybe knowing but not caring), just because they know it’s somehow bad. Here in the US at least, it’s common for 10-12 year old boys (and sometimes older) to call things “gay” if they don’t like them, e.g. their math class is gay, a disappointing movie is gay, etc.

          • FOTRR says:

            Well I could say the same for “Racist”

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Public floggings will occur on the town square of Lincoln Center with “guilty” faculty members wearing a sign around their necks.

      And in true Maoist fashion, then exiled to teach ear training at North Dakota Community College.

    • Jack Moris says:

      True “let’s blame the victim” nonsense. If they believe in what they do then YES they should defend and argue their position. And like any other organization they will have to deal with the results of such positioning.

      We are talking of a prominent educational institution’s representative signaling to her own students (and the world) that there’s no space for discussion of conflicting ideas.

      • Kolb Slaw says:

        There was no place in a master class for a political discussion brought up in a belligerent fashion that in no way called for open discussion, only accusation and entrapment. There was no way for her to handle it otherwise. Of course, a male student attacking a female teacher is totally gender entitlement.

    • Suzelbuondi says:

      Did you even bother to read any of the posts/stories? Or do you just derive pleasure from bloviating on and on like an ignorant and judgmental a** of epic proportions? The only empty-headed one here is you, E Rand. I hope you fall off your high horse. Quickly.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      Whoa, this is one of the top conservatories in the USA, better than Juilliard in some departments, and rivalling it in most. What an ignorant insult.

    • Doofus1714 says:

      E Rand!
      You must have been a Juilliard or Curtis student, or just a ignorant wanna be.
      Such ignorance to put down MSM.
      And now, later in life, you point out that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and you are so aggrieved…..must be difficult…”wheelbarrows of outrage”!!!

    • KMMckowen says:

      you cannot be “anonymous” and have your picture posted. You are a walking contradiction.

  • ..Mike Schachter says:

    I think it is disgraceful that “students” at institutions like this are expected to work instead of focusing on their real task which is synchronised whingeing. So

  • Snowflakes in fbe Banana Republic says:

    The snowflakes have become a blizzard. Being locked up during the Covid blizzard has made everyone go bananas and the world has become a banana republic. God help us.

  • Paul says:

    I don’t really begrudge dumb 18 year olds making complaints. My contempt is for administrators who give in to these ever more ridiculous demands for the administrative guillotine, as it only emboldens these bad faith actors to attack more aggressively next time.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      Absolutely. But Gandre has already shown his colors by publicly kowtowing to the mob, sad to say. But then, he is not a musician in any way, just a skilled administrator. Oh, maybe his undergrad degree was french horn or something in an obscure school in Wisconsin.

  • not surprised. says:

    Perhaps others will have the courage to come forward now.

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Who cares? The end is nigh. We are all doomed !!!!

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    Who is the insensitive faculty member?

  • Simon says:

    Poor triggered students. Show me on the doll where the teacher’s naughty words hurt you. Pathetic. Practice your instruments and keep your politically correct nonsense to yourself. Oh, and you won’t have a career in music. There are no concert halls, orchestras, opera companies, etc. that will be around when you get out – not that they’d hire you anyway.

  • msmtenor says:

    At this time there is so much rage and need for blood that all you have to do is calling someone a racist to destroy their reputation and livelihood.
    It doesn’t matter if they can actually be quoted saying or doing something racist.
    She cut him off because she had been hired to coach teenagers on musical theater and not to discuss racism in opera.
    For what you see in the video, she’s just been rude to someone who’s being inappropriate.

    • NoLongerAFutureDonor says:

      Why would discussing issues of race be out of place because the audience is made up of high schoolers? Don’t you think it would be especially important to discuss these issues with young people thinking of entering a career in theater, who may have misgivings knowing that the field is fraught with racial toxicity? To assure them that their voice is welcome and that the issues are being addressed?

      It’s no different than high school health classes refusing to teach about LGBT issues because they are controversial, not considering how many damaged lives could be prevented by sharing valuable information.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      The comments are even more disgusting than the original post. Who is a Mannes student, by the way, New School, couldn’t get into MSM, no doubt.

  • sanchopanza says:

    Wow, a lot of very triggered people in these comments — get over yourselves, and recognize that there are plenty of qualified people to take the positions of musicians or administrators with patterns of racist behavior. It’s really not hard to be a decent person.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      Actually, that is totally not the case. Talented administrators are rare and hard to find. And no one deserves replacement.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Dr. Thomas Sowell says, “The Left dislikes facts because these leave them feeling emotionally unsatisified”.

    The snowflakes at the MSM will have to watch out that they can spend their lives acting out the same exacting standards of behaviour that they expect (demand) from others”.

    That’s a very high bar. But we’ll be watching.

  • MendelBRO says:

    I see a lot of judgement from people who are clearly making assumptions about the situation and playing into narratives to justify your opinions. Please have some integrity.

  • It is exactly the purpose of university education to let students ask challenging questions, and for the professors to answer them as best as they can, or honestly admit that they can’t.

    I think part of the problem in this case is that New York City has an extremely hierarchical cultural life. The displays of elite cultural plutocracy and insiderism are stronger than in almost any city in the world. From this follows a strong sense of gate keeping. Outsiders are to be kept out, and the ticket prices for good seats, among other things, insure that the atmosphere remains exclusive and oriented toward the wealthy. If there are challenges to these hierarchies, the offenders are to be silenced so that the cultural country clubs remain undisturbed in the name if high art.

    Another part of this ethos is that NYC is THE media center for the arts in the USA, and there seems to be a concern that dissenting voices not be able to tap into this.

    These conditions would certainly lead a teacher to expect that a dissenting student in a public forum be silenced.

    I’m glad to see MSM doing something to break down these barriers. Afterall, a good discussion about racism and misogyny in opera would be interesting and a benefit to the genre. And it’s hardly anything new. Such concerns have been a pillar of musicological study for about the last 30 years, as the MSM should know, and I’m sure it does.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    This is, on the face of it, utterly outrageous. Are they there to learn or to complain, to become something or maintain a pathetic sense of identity? They will never become artists of any sort like this. I feel so sorry for the teacher. Imagine having to worry about this. My teacher once said to her female students, “you have to play like a man.” They’d never let her say it today, but it would be no less true than it was then.

  • Larry W says:

    During a virtual master class with Dana D. Vaughn, Manhattan School of Music faculty, the question was: “With many arts organizations pushing for more social consciousness in regards to production, as MSM’s Director of Opera, what is your stance on resurrecting works like Léhar’s Land of Smiles, which play into racial stereotypes and portray Asians as one-dimensional caricatures?”
    Ms. Vaughn’s answer was: “Just cut him off. Cut him off. That’s a political statement. It’s a real political statement about some of our productions at MSM. So not to even worry. Been ongoing for a while. So just cut him off. Get rid of him. (lip smack) Okay!”

    • SM says:


      This kind of remark would only be to get a teacher in trouble and not to give the full story or to help and not to make any kind of progress in your concerns. Keep in mind this was a masterclass for high school students – the students were asking questions about their performances after their performances. This question that is being discussed came out of the blue by a non high school student. Not a question that had to do with the the performances -The teacher was caught off guard – didn’t know who was taking and didn’t give the kind of response the teacher would have given if in other circumstances I’m sure. The teacher has apologized for this. This teacher has shown she/he is always open to gaining better racial understanding. If you want to have a good conversation about this, do it in a situation where it will really be productive. We need to have these important conversations!! But obviously this student was trying to cause a problem for the teacher and has continued to do just that. How is that helpful? Let’s not make this all about one question at a masterclass. Let’s open up this discussion without blaming one person and make it count.

  • Nick says:

    Sounds like whining from snowflakes. This is a school for adults and they should be able to cope with real life situations and solve adult problems if any instead of whining!!

    • Greg says:

      The problem is that whining is being modeled by older people and these kids don’t know any better. They fail to realize that it takes a lot more than musical ability to survive as a musician. It takes being able to get along with people. That’s also a good skill for functioning adults to have. It seems to be in short supply these days. The Internet and social media have given everyone a platform and everyone a chance at their fleeting 15 minutes of fame. Pandora’s box is wide open and we will suffer the consequences for generations. Pity they don’t teach people to value history and social skills in school any more.

  • Gerald Martin says:

    “Cultural insensitivity”. New academic crime. I’ll have to remember it.

  • justsaying says:

    The operatic repertory – the repertory of all dramatic forms in which non-current works are still performed – includes pieces reflecting bygone attitudes towards societies that were, for the original audiences in a less globalized world, “foreign.” Many make generalizations that can now be seen as “exoticization” of “the other.”

    This is a valid topic for serious consideration. But if every present-day participant must be prepared to offer a philosophical defense of every out-of-date opera at any moment, there will definitely be no time for teaching, learning, rehearsing, or performing. Is that the goal?

    Yes, let these debates take place, but it is ridiculous to ambush every director with them in every forum, especially in a Q&A session that could scarcely leave time for anything but the merest sloganeering (and that DID seem to be the goal). If the offending faculty member had kept her cool better, she might have said “these are complicated questions that require in-depth discussion, and you can rest assured that that discussion is taking place.”

    But many of the the “woke” objectors to older artworks are just as reductionist and dehumanizing as the long-ago creators they condemn. Their argument is generally “White Oppressor Evil Case Closed,” and the required response is “Yes Sorry” – no further understanding needed, desired, or tolerated. This is not “progressive.”