Amid allegations at Juilliard, classical music leaders demand change


An open letter calling on the Juilliard School to reprimand composer Robert Beeser for alleged “decades of abuse of women and power” includes the support of nearly 450 composers, musicians, educators and artistic mentors. signatures are collected.

By late Friday, after the first 120 people had signed the letter, Beeser, 68, was the former chairman of the composition department at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, and his teaching position was denied as the school launched an independent investigation into the allegations. resigned.

Juilliard President Adam Meyer said: “In light of the ongoing investigation, and after speaking with Bob earlier this afternoon, he will be stepping down from his teaching and other faculty responsibilities while the investigation is being conducted. I want to let you know,” he said. Letter to the faculty on Friday. “This change will take effect immediately.”

last week, VAN magazine, a Berlin-based classical music website, has published the results of a six-month investigation into allegations of misconduct against several Juilliard faculty members, including Beeser. From the late 1990s to his 2000s.”

These included allegations of “repeated sexual advances into sexual relationships with students,” and allegations that these relationships directly influenced key decisions Beeser enacted as head of Juilliard’s department. increase.

The report cites the account of an anonymous former student who described “incidents in which Beeser offered her a promising career opportunity and then sought to obtain sexual favors in return.”

“What would you do for me?” Beezer is said to have asked.

“In order to protect and protect my reputation, I am willing to participate in an external investigation by Juilliard,” Beeser wrote in a statement to The Washington Post on Sunday. has agreed to take a leave of absence from teaching.”

The VAN article included allegations from students alleging uninvited advances by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer and Juilliard Professor Christopher Rouse, who died in 2019, as well as allegations against Juilliard Professor John Corigliano. and other descriptions of abuse at school were also included. One of the longtime composer and faculty member accused by eight former Juilliard attendees of alleged “unofficial policy” on accepting female students. (Coriliano denied his allegations in an email to his VAN.)

An open letter hosted on a Medium account attributed to the “Composers Collective” focused on Beaser.

“Although we recognize and appreciate the need for due process, the amount of Beeser’s misconduct allegations, testimony and supporting evidence is undeniably disturbing. The presence of beezers in departments can jeopardize the emotional well-being of students and interfere with a safe and healthy learning environment.”

“Sexual discrimination and sexual harassment do not exist in our school community,” Juilliard vice president of public affairs Rosalie Contreras said in a statement Saturday. “We take all such allegations very seriously.” I accept it.”

The VAN report could not confirm whether complaints filed against Beezer by two students in 2018 led to Juilliard officials opening a Title IX investigation, but Contreras said the school I have confirmed that an internal investigation has been conducted. 18”, but did not elaborate on their findings.

“The allegations previously reported to the Juilliard School were dealt with at that time based on the information provided,” the statement read. “However, in order to review new information and better understand these past allegations, the school’s current administration has initiated an independent investigation.”

Juilliard’s policy on consensual faculty-student relationships expressly prohibits faculty-student relationships and “discourages” them from graduate students.

“Such relationships not only create the potential for coercion, they can jeopardize the integrity of the educational process by creating conflicts of interest and undermine the learning environment for other students.”

Students contacted for VAN’s report characterized Beeser’s behavior as far more than “open secret” and described the overall atmosphere of women enrolled in prestigious music schools as stubbornly toxic and toxic. It is described as having

Composer Sarah Kirkland-Snyder, who helped write and post the open letter on Friday, is part of an anonymous coalition of female composers who said the school has “tolerated and covered up sexual misconduct and discrimination.” We are facing a long history. In the wake of #MeToo, Snyder formed a coalition to provide a forum for female composers to discuss their experiences of professional abuse and harassment.

Snyder did not attend the Juilliard School and has no professional affiliation with Juilliard (in addition to his work as a composer, Snyder is co-artistic director of New Amsterdam Records). Her high influence on her composing career – that’s what gave her the freedom to “speak on behalf of many of my female colleagues who couldn’t.”

She also points out that the scourge of sexual harassment in writing programs extends far beyond a single school. It’s deeply embedded in the culture of classical music education, she says. During her school days, Snyder encountered sexual harassment at the hands of a powerful professor (who declined to specify).

“That’s why I hooked up with these women in the first place,” she says. “I could really relate to what they went through and the feeling of helplessness and helplessness. It’s about a network of men at the top of our field who are friends and protect each other. …previous If you go out and name one, you’re basically seeking retribution from a secret society of older, successful men who hold the key to all opportunities.

After posting the open letter, Snyder received a note from a man at Juilliard who also feels unable to come forward for fear of retribution.

“They’re masters, they’re foolproof, they can make you or break you. ‘Gatekeeping doesn’t cover that.'”

Composer Jefferson Friedman, who attended Juilliard School from 1998 to 2001 and then taught for several years, commented on one of Snyder’s recent Facebook posts. [Beaser]”

“Did you know what Beezer was doing back then?” Friedman wrote. “Yes, everyone did. Wish I had spoken out? In hindsight, of course I did. But Beeser was the ultimate gatekeeper back then. We have created a realm with as much power imbalance as possible.

As of Sunday, prominent figures in the fields of classical and new music, including Missy Mazzoli, Gabriela Lena Frank, Vijay Iyer, Tiondai Braxton, Andrew Norman, Claire Chase and Nico Muhly, signed the open letter. .

Snyder encountered a certain fear from men in the music community who were hesitant to sign for fear of retaliation. Although sympathetic, the cacophony was not lost.

“What I tried to convey gently was that this is the same kind of fear that women have always had,” Snyder says. and no one is outspoken about it, moreover, these abusers need to stand still. like us Enough to write a letter of recommendation or recommend us for a prize. A situation in which it is impossible for a woman to defend herself. “

By the 3 p.m. signature deadline on Friday, Snyder says 90 percent of the men on the fence signed last minute.

“I think they’re starting to realize that the higher the number, the safer.”

Snyder and the as-yet-unnamed Union of Composers are planning their first face-to-face strategy meeting in January to address directly the “intersecting” abuse and harassment in the composing community and classical music generally. We will discuss further actions. It has deep roots that go back centuries.

“To say something positive about all of this,” Snyder stand up and protect each other. I think it’s a very significant opportunity in our field and says a lot about the potential for growth and change. “

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