The Cleveland Orchestra has the reputation of being one of the best in the world. The city points proudly to it as one of its cultural crown jewels. But it too has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse. Three women have accused the long-time concertmaster William Preucil of sexually abusive behavior. (In an orchestra, the concertmaster is a major figure, the leader of the first violin section and second in command of the orchestra after the conductor.) One allegation was made back in July by Zeneba Bowers about what happened to her in 1998 and two more women came forward just yesterday. (Massimo La Rosa, the principal trombonist of the orchestra, has also been suspended because of sexual abuse allegations.)
One new allegation against Preucil was by Emilia Mettenbrink about what happened in Miami in 2005 when she was just 26.
Like Bowers, Mettenbrink alleges an encounter with Preucil in a Miami hotel room, in September 2005. At the time, she was 26 and a new member of the New World Symphony, an orchestra for young professionals, and Preucil, she said, was at New World giving master classes and private lessons.
Her one scheduled lesson with Preucil went forward without incident, she said. Then, citing lack of space at the school, Preucil offered her a second lesson, in his hotel room. Nothing about the offer struck her as risky, she said. On the contrary, she thought she was lucky.
A second lesson “was unheard of,” Mettenbrink said. “There was no doubt in my mind this was an excellent opportunity for me to gain more knowledge.”
For a time, it was. When she went to leave, however, Preucil asked about some jewelry she was wearing, asked her to sit down, and then grabbed her and “stuck his tongue down my throat,” Mettenbrink said.
Mettenbrink said she broke free of Preucil’s grasp, retrieved her violin, and bolted into an elevator. “I remember there were mirrors in the elevator,” she said. “I couldn’t look at myself.”
Another allegation was by Raffaela Kalmar that occurred in 2003 when she was 19 and in her first year at the Cleveland Institute of Music where Preucil was a faculty member. She described his weird behavior.
At the start of a private lesson in Preucil’s CIM studio in late May or early June 2003, Kalmar said, she looked down after unpacking her instrument and found Preucil lying face-up on the ground with his head between her legs.
“He was on the floor, looking up my skirt,” said Kalmar, now a member of the Pacific Northwest Ballet orchestra in Seattle. “He said, ‘I just want to see what’s up there.’ ”
Kalmar said she believes her “childish” reaction warded off any further advances. By giving Preucil “nothing to go on,” she said, she kept the incident from escalating into a physical encounter.
Kalmar said she’d heard from other students about incidents involving Preucil, and was on her guard.
“I knew it had happened to others, and I guess my time came,” Kalmar said.
Note that all three cases occurred some time ago but the women kept quiet because they felt that it would be career suicide to challenge someone so powerful in the music world. It is the new climate created by the #MeToo movement that has brought them forward now.