Juilliard is sued for defamation by fired church music director

Juilliard is sued for defamation by fired church music director


norman lebrecht

December 26, 2022

In March this year, Julian Wachner was dismissed from his $400,000-a-year post at Trinity Church Wall Street after being accused of sexual misconduct while on a 2014 engagement with Juilliard School of Music.

Wachner, who says he was bankrupted by the dismissal, is now suing Juilliard for defamation over the alleged incident which, he says, was not properly investigated.

In an affidavit, filed on december 22, Wachner alleges ‘unlawful and improper conduct by the Juilliard School that wrongfully destroyed his career and reputation.’ He adds: ‘Juilliard violated its own relevant privacy policies and provided a materially misleading, false and defamatory response to the New York Times.’

At issue are claims of sexual assault by a woman, identified as ‘M.P.’ who was managing the 2014 event in South Carolina on Juilliard’s behalf. According to the affidavit, the ‘Plaintiff’s Brief, Consensual, Yet Highly Regrettable Encounter with M.P. in March 2014’ was not consummated. ‘Ultimately, Plaintiff and M.P. fell asleep, fully clothed, in Plaintiff’s hotel bed. They did not engage in any sexual contact beyond kissing and over-the-clothes touching… Several hours later, on March 14, 2014, Plaintiff received a strange email from
M.P., generically accusing Plaintiff of “sexual harassment”.’

‘M.P.’ is further desginated as a former employee of IMG Artists with ‘a history of erratic behavior.’

The Juilliard School has not yet filed a defence.


  • Scarlet says:

    “A history of erratic behavior”. That’s their go-to defense. Women are hysterical liars. I hate these fuckers.

  • Anonymous says:

    Will a rotten conductor meet an even more rotten school in a court of law? Tune in at 6pm for the sordid results.

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    Between the Church job and IMG employee, how, specifically does Juilliard enter into this?

  • mem says:

    Logical move to get at money from deeper pockets than those of her accuser, while also easier to sue than the New York Times.

    Juilliard will settle, it’s cheaper and they’ve got plenty of skeletons they need to keep buried deep in their closet. A law suit by women composers and students are surely being filed in Manhattan court as we speak.

    So far, the score is 0 for 3 for Lincoln Center institutions: The Met settled against Levine, the NY Philharmonic lost in arbirtration against Wang, the New York City Ballet forced Martins to retire (and is now mired in a nude photo sharing law suit).

    (For this they razed an entire neighborhood and dislocated an entire population to build Lincoln Center?)

    • Impressed says:

      If only they had access to someone as sharp and well-informed as you! I’m sure they would be winning left and right in super-inexpensive and non-damaging trials. You should submit your resume the next time they have an opening in their legal department.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    $400k annual salary – impressive.

    Absurd use of initial caps – rather less so.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      My first thought.

      A church job pays $400K?

      Wow. And he blew it.

      • MWnyc says:

        I don’t know how much his predecessors were paid, but Julian Wachner did not earn $400,000 a year simply for directing the music at a few church services a week.

        Whatever his lapses in judgment (and I take Trinity’s word for it that they were serious), what Julian Wachner achieved at Trinity Wall Street was very impressive. He started both a very good new-music ensemble and New York City’s best Baroque orchestra from scratch; turned the church’s choir into by far the city’s best and busiest professional choral ensemble, engaged regularly by other ensembles for performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and elsewhere; established (up to the time that COVID shut things down) three different weekly lunchtime concert series, all fully professional and free; and got all of those performances (well, those that happened on-site) professionally recorded on video and archived for free viewing on Trinity’s website.

        Trinity Church Wall Street barely registered on New York City’s classical music scene before Julian Wachner got there; he turned it into a serious destination.

        However much he brought his troubles on himself, he achieved quite a lot at Trinity, and he deserves credit for it.

        • Think Will Ya says:

          James Levine also did a lot of wonderful things for the Met. Does that excuse his behaviour as well?

          • MWnyc says:

            I am not at all excusing the behavior Julian Wachner’s accused of. I refer you to the second sentence of my previous post, “Whatever his lapses in judgment (and I take Trinity’s word for it that they were serious), …” and to the last sentence, “However much he brought his troubles on himself, …”

            My point was to respond to Old Man in the Midwest’s “A church job pays $400K?” Julian Wachner evidently deserved to be fired, but I think it’s fair to say that he earned his salary.

  • Geige says:

    It is telling that there is not, as far as the public record shows, a simultaneous claim for wrongful termination against Trinity. He has a much better chance of winning a defamation claim, because his well-documented appalling behavior towards Trinity contractors and employees under his direction gave the church ample cause for dismissal without reference to MP’s allegations; suing MP would be financially futile, and the NYTimes has strong 1st amendment protections (plus a crack legal department). Juilliard is the logical target, as the deep-pocketed institutional source for the Times reporting.

    This lawsuit will not do anything to restore his reputation, but it certainly might put cash in his pocket.

    • MWnyc says:

      Yes — a good reminder here (a reminder which too many people in too many places need) that Julian Wachner was not fired from Trinity Church Wall Street for anything that happened at any Juilliard event. He was fired for things that happened at Trinity Church Wall Street, and the announcement of his dismissal was quite clear about that.

    • Petunia says:

      Geige do you know generally what he was accused of at Trinity? I admit I’ve followed this case as an outsider because a single allegation by M.P., followed by Julian’s firing and professional ostracization, seem incredibly disturbing unless there was other, consistently inappropriate conduct at his actual workplace. That certainly seems to be what Trinity is alleging but it still sends a chill down ones spine how easy it is to end up in the public blackbook these days.

      • Geige says:

        Petunia, I cannot speak to precisely what Trinity referred to in their official decision, but I am aware of at least two claims of inappropriate touching (falling well short of assault, however) by members of the choir. These were made semi-public on social media in the spring.

  • benjamin says:

    Far too often knee-jerk reactions will take the place of well- researched and possibly well deserved punishment.

    • Amy says:

      Even more often, abusers get the benefit of the doubt simply as a matter of course. For every high-profile sacking over sexual harassment, there are scores of people in power getting away with it.

  • Nightowl says:

    Julian vs Juilliard….

  • MacroV says:

    Who knew the Trinity job paid so well? Well, it IS Wall Street.

    Look, the guy’s reputation and career were destroyed by this. If there isn’t a super-strong case, that’s just wrong.

    • Maria says:

      He destroyed his own reputation. She was stupid, and no doubt booze probably was involved too.

    • imbrod says:

      Trinity Wall Street has very deep pockets, including a portfolio of over $6B as of 2019. “Trinity’s current affluence can be traced to a gift of 215 acres from Queen Anne in 1705.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/08/nyregion/trinity-church-manhattan-real-estate.html (paywall). Not surprising that they could offer competitive pay for a music program that burnished their reputation. I suppose Trinity could better afford to defend themselves than Juilliard, if it came to that.

      The guy’s reputation was an open secret; just less visible than Levine’s.

      • Me says:

        “the guy’s reputation was an open secret” what exactly do you mean? It’s vague accusations like that that are open to the worst kind of interpretation

        • Prof says:

          I agree. And the stuff about Levine is pretty mild, unless you conflate it with all the absolutely scurrilous rumors that are the stuff of adolescent

  • Helen Kamioner says:

    nothing says happy holidays like a law suit