Cleveland Orchestra sex abuse allegations

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.


  1. Matt says

    I lived in University Circle for 10 years and went to maybe at most two Cleveland Orchestra performances. Both times it was because I got free tickets. In other words, I am most definitely NOT plugged in to the orchestra scene. Yet even before reading the details of this post, I both knew a) who Preucil was, and b) that he was super shady and had a history of this kind of stuff. I didn’t know why I knew this until I did some searching and found out why. Over 10 years ago I read this in Scene Magazine:

    It reminds me of Bill Cosby. I’m not a comedian, not a woman, not anything that would have given me inside knowledge of his actions, yet even I knew for over a decade that he was a serial abuser. If someone as distant to these two people as I am knew for so long, obviously many, many others also knew. Yet it takes 10+ years for anything resembling justice? It’s shameful.

  2. mnb0 says

    “The Cleveland Orchestra has the reputation of being one of the best in the world.”
    “One of the best” is unspecified and hence vague. It’s not considered to be in the top five. Those are Leningrad/St. Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam and New York. Also I’d bet that San Francisco generally is rated higher (I’m not sure how well various Russian orchestras survived 1991, besides the Leningrad of course).
    As a consequence Preucil only has an entry on English Wikipedia. Jaap van Zweden has entries in ten languages and Herman Krebbers in six. They were both concertmasters in Amsterdam.

    “the women kept quiet because …..”
    It has been widely known that classical orchestras have been controlled by male chauvinist pigs for many decennia. So I expect more scandals to be exposed.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Matt @#1,

    Thanks for that link. I had not been aware that this was being whispered about so long ago. I read the comments to that article and the number of people who dismissed it was quite remarkable. I guess that that is reflective of the attitudes before the #MeToo era where we learn that powerful men abusing women is not unusual.

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