Curtis admits to ignoring student rape, among other abuses

Curtis admits to ignoring student rape, among other abuses


norman lebrecht

September 23, 2020

The Curtis Institute has published the results of an independent legal inquiry into allegations by the violinist Lara St John that she was raped at 14 by her teacher Jascha Brodsky, among two-dozen other complaints of a similar nature.

The report is uncompromising: Many of these accounts sounded a recurrent theme: a reluctance to report abuse driven by the perception that “students remained at Curtis at the discretion of their major instrument teacher,” which created an unhealthy climate and had a chilling effect on reporting misconduct because of the “real threat that one could be dismissed for any reason at any time”.

In other words, a state of terror.

Earlier today, Roberto Díaz and Board Chair Deborah M. Fretz expressed their sincere apologies on behalf of Curtis to Ms. St. John for the way in which she was treated by the school and those leaders in whom she confided, and specifically for failing to provide any opportunity to help her cope with and recover from the abuse inflicted upon her or the school’s continued dismissal of her concerns.

We were wrong, and we express publicly our sincere apology to Lara St. John for the way she was treated by Curtis for the past 34 years. We failed to provide her with a safe learning environment, failed to carefully investigate her claims, failed to communicate our grave disappointment in how she was treated by Curtis, and repeatedly failed to communicate the steps that were taken to prevent such abuse from occurring in the future.

None of this should have happened to Ms. St. John, and we are profoundly sorry that it did. We are in awe of her courage and spirit, which led to a long-overdue public reckoning about the pain and suffering that she and others endured over a number of decades. For this reckoning, we owe Ms. St. John a debt of thanks, along with the public recognition that as a direct result of her coming forward, Curtis today is far better equipped to protect students against sexual abuse or misconduct.

All past victims have been offered counselling, along with the apology.

Read the full report here.



  • Scarlet says:

    Wow. Good for Lara. How I wish my arts high school would do something similar and apologize to me.

  • Angry says:

    Disgusting, all of it. I hope the victims will be able to find some level of peace and healing. I had to deal with this type of thing at every school I attended, and other student colleagues of mine sometimes had it worse. As for Graffman’s comment of “…it was another era….” – that speaks for itself.

    • V. Lind says:

      Ah…the Domingo excuse.

      • Ms.Melody says:

        I usually enjoy reading your articulate, literate,
        well written comments, but to imply that Domingo ,with all his indiscretions, should be thought of in the same vein as a rapist or a pedophile in just not fair!

      • Marshall says:

        Whatever one thinks of Domingo’s behavior-there is no accusation at all that he raped underage girls-that he raped anyone. Too easy and dangerous to play that card

  • Fred Funk says:

    These institutions breed their own problems. How many of these “conservatories”, are just sex amusement parks for talented predators? How many credits for Sex Abuse are the Curtis students required to take?

  • Karl says:

    I don’t understand. I read the report and saw this: “She said that Zivian threatened to go to the police or the press. St. John said that she was surprised by Zivian’s threat to report the conduct, and that she starting sobbing and said “no” to Zivian’s suggestion. ”

    How could no one have told the police? This was the mid eighties, not the dark ages.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    How about refunding Lara’s (and the other victims’) tuition?
    It’s the least you can do, Curtis!