Very sad news: Curtis dean dies

Very sad news: Curtis dean dies


norman lebrecht

May 12, 2021

The Curtis Institute has announced the death of Robert Fitzpatrick, its dean from 1986 until 2009.

Bob, who was 75, had been living in Paris since his returement.

He continued to take a lively interest in the college and contributed often to Slipped Disc debates.

We shall miss him greatly.

Bob was a man of principle, humanity, wit and discretion.

Here is one of his articles on the decline of music education in the US.


  • Alex Klein says:

    And he was also a fine conductor, precise, well-prepared, direct, clear and contributed often to our sectional rehearsals and other orchestral activities. I always thought it was unfortunate, and a missed opportunity for us students, that multi-talented people like Fitzpatrick – and not only at Curtis – had to be limited to their main activities in their main title at a school, when they could serve so much more. I will miss Robert Fitzpatrick. He was a gentleman.

  • MacroV says:

    I greatly appreciated his contributions to SD. That’s definitely a loss to this site.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    I liked the lively comments from Mr Fitzpatrick in this SD thread. RIP

  • Lara St John says:

    He was, among other things, a child abuse enabler. Here is the Cozen O’Connor report of September 2020.

    • Ory Shihor says:

      Indeed he was, Lara.

    • I remember debating with Robert early on in this blog about his attitudes about abuse at Curtis and other places, well before I learned of Lara’s travails. He seemed conflicted and naïve about the problems that existed at the “Coitus Institute.”

      Some years after our debates, this commentary was posted by him on Slippedisc.

      I feel it illustrates his naivety and a troubling kind of ambivalence. On one hand he hated the abuse, and on the other he seemed unwilling to face the realities of the situation. It was weakness in the face of serious problems he had the responsibility to resolve. He was a decent man on many levels, but unfortunately not up to the job of dealing with the issues of rampant abuse at Curtis. To stand by and doing nothing, to be a facilitator through silence and inaction, was not decent. And it was not discretion.

      I hope administrators of a newer generation have learned better methods. If Robert had had the tools and knowledge we have now like Title IX and the MeToo movement, perhaps he would have had the courage and confidence to have taken better courses of action.
      Whatever the case about him, I can fully sympathize with Lara’s indignation.

      • Scarlet says:

        Thank you, William Osborne. I appreciate this comment, as I was triggered by NL’s description of Fitzpatrick as a man of principle and discretion. It seems that this is NL’s way of saying RF covered up abuses to protect the institution and teachers.

      • Lara St John says:


  • I am in deep shock and mourning. He was, as you said, Norman, perhaps the most consequential Dean of any conservatory of the past 50 years. I counted him as both a mentor and as a friend. Rest with the Greats, dear Robert.