Some Thoughts On The Washington Post Sexual Misconduct and Assault Article

Note: this post was originally published as an essay on my Facebook wall while I was away on hiatus. This is an updated version.

In the wake of the Washington Post’s 7/26/18 article that reports allegations of sexual assault against Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil, there has been no shortage of online discussion. Given how small this business is, the bulk of those conversations run emotionally hot. Simply put, it’s difficult to have more than a degree of separation from Preucil or his accuser, Nashville Symphony Assistant Principal Second Violin, Zeneba Bowers.

What I find surprising are discussions that endorse muzzling conversation under the guise of not having all the facts.

This problem can’t be ignored away and no stakeholder should feel coerced into remaining silent on issues realted to any of the allegations from the Washington Post article or the broader problems endemic to the field.

I would encourage as much conversation and questions as possible and if you’re interested in bringing out the best in some of these discussions, I can’t recommend enough you take the time and listen to this segment from comedian and actor Marc Maron’s podcast addressing the revelations surrounding the sexual misconduct perpetrated by his friend Louis C. K.

Listen to every single second.

It’s one of the most relevant and meaningful examinations of a vile and ugly situation from the perspective of someone who is close to the perpetrator that demonstrates why it’s important to maintain introspection.

If you’re conflicted about how to discuss the topic or wonder if keeping your head down and staying quiet is the best option (it isn’t BTW, it’s a cop-out), these 21 minutes will provide a wealth of clarity.

What’s particularly useful in Maron’s segment are the conditions he describes that foster abuse and misconduct inside the comedy world. The parallels to classical music are uncanny.

Whatever assumptions you may have about the content, I can all but guarantee you’ll be surprised.

Maron’s segment came to mind after reading some of the recent statements from Cleveland Orchestra executive director André Gremillet:

“There was no blind eye turned,” he said. “No allegations were made; no one came forward to anyone in management. I need to know about it to do something about it. I don’t want to make assumptions about Bill,” he added. “But we have to be careful that we don’t condemn someone in the court of public opinion. We need people to come forward. I know how difficult it is, but we need to hear about it.”

On both a personal and professional level, I find Gremillet’s outlook representative of why these problems exist in the first place. Moreover, it serves as an excellent example of  the broader problems endemic to the field mentioned above.

It is difficult to miss the complete lack of reference to any commitment about making it easier for victims to report abuses. Maron calls BS on similar attitudes in his segment.

Fostering an environment that allows predators to thrive only contributes to the problem.

Frankly, I would be surprised if Mr. Gremillet understands how difficult it is to come forward to report sexual misconduct, let alone sexual assault. The appropriate and empathetic response would have focused on a commitment to creating a better environment as opposed to finding the right balance between protecting an asset while simultaneously covering the institution’s ass.

To those among my own collection of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who are close with Preucil, I would implore you to listen to Maron’s segment, especially the end where he becomes emotional over what it means to be Louis C.K.’s friend. Maron describes what he intends to do as a friend to help contribute in a proactive way to the struggle that is becoming better people and creating a better field for all classical music stakeholders.

Ultimately, one of the least constructive things you can do is remain quiet.

Bring this issue up with your employer. Ask your organization’s executive leadership what can be done to create a better environment that stamps out the seeds of sexual misconduct and makes it easier to identify predators abusing positions of power.

You certainly don’t have to join a public conversation. But attempting to shame those who do engage in meaningful discussion is no different than the same harmful attitude portrayed by Gremillet.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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