How Much Longer Will The Field Enable Rampant Sexual Misconduct?

Over the past week, news of multiple sexual misconduct allegations within the classical music business have emerged.

One incident involved the Cleveland Orchestra being struck by lightning…again.

Adaptistration People 194In addition to the ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against concertmaster William Preucil, the Washington Post reports that the orchestra has now suspended principal trombonist, Massimo La Rosa, as part of that inquiry.

La Rossa has been the subject of sexual misconduct allegations since 2013 when an article by Colleen Flaherty in the July 30, 2013 edition of Inside Higher Ed reported claims of an incident involving the trombonist and student at the University of Iowa.

On Jan 12, 2018, La Rossa pursued legal action against individuals he claimed were promoting discussion about the incident with the intent to cause professional harm. That suit was ultimately settled via mediation (details) and the case was ordered dismissed on May 18, 2018.

It’s worth pointing out that La Rossa’s lawsuit had nothing to do with the validity of the allegations against him from the student in question, rather, comments made by others.

Next up is what I hope will become another watershed moment for the field.

The 9/13/2018 edition of Van published an article by Olivia Giovetti that reports on a culture that enables sexual misconduct within the artist management sector, one of the few strictly commercial enterprises operating within a larger nonprofit community.

This is a long article but well worth your time. One item that stood out was the decision of an artist agent to follow one of her top earners to another agency after the artist was accused of sexual misconduct by the agent’s assistant. The assistant managed to provide documented proof to support her claims and the artist was subsequently dismissed by the agency.

The decision by the artist agent to continue working with the artist is one example that demonstrated just how deep the enabler waters extend.

At what point will this field take these issues seriously enough to form accepted best practices that effectively ban doing business with known offenders and those who enable the abuse to continue?

Apparently, we have further to sink before we hit bottom.

POSTSCRIPT: after writing this article, the NY Times published an article Sunday evening by Michael Cooper that reports the New York Philharmonic dismissed two musicians; principal oboist, Liang Wang, and associate principal trumpet, Matthew Muckey. At the time that article was published, it is unknown whether the issues are realted to sexual misconduct.

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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