I blogged recently about two prominent members of the Cleveland Orchestra, concertmaster William Preucil and principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa, who had been placed on leave pending investigations into sexual harassment and misconduct. Today, after an outside investigation delivered its report, the two were fired. People outside Cleveland and the orchestra world may not realize what a powerful figure Preucil was in the classical music circles, so this is not an insignificant event. It will have wide repercussions and I hope it will deter such behavior in the future.
The process that led to the terminations began in July, when a report detailing incidents involving Preucil were published in The Washington Post. Shortly thereafter, the orchestra placed Preucil on suspension and formed an independent committee to investigate the matter, with the assistance of an outside law firm.
The primary conclusion of the investigation, according to the announcement, was that Preucil and La Rosa “engaged in sexual misconduct and sexually harassing behavior with multiple female students and colleagues over a period of years while employed by the orchestra.”
Additionally, it said, “the abusive conduct by both performers was made possible by their positions of power within the orchestra and in the broader world of classical music.”
The committee also found that the alleged victims of sexual misconduct were “intimidated” by Preucil and La Rosa, and were “afraid to take action” after their experiences.
As usual, it is about the abuse of power. It is important to note that the power to abuse does not come only from official superiority in a hierarchy. It can also exist informally, when one person is overawed by the celebrity status of the other and is hesitant to react forcefully or speak out because of fears that their lower status will result in their word not being believed against that of the more prominent person.