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Cleveland concertmaster suspended over sexual harassment allegations

Cleveland Orchestra concert master William Preucil has been suspended pending an investigation over sexual harassment allegations. (AP)

The Cleveland Orchestra has suspended violinist William Preucil, its concertmaster of 23 years, “until further notice” while opening an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment leveled at him in an article in The Washington Post.

“The Cleveland Orchestra was not aware of the allegations reported by The Washington Post about William Preucil in their July 26, 2018 article,” said the statement from André Gremillet, the orchestra’s executive director, released to the media on Friday afternoon. “We take this matter very seriously and will promptly conduct an independent investigation. Mr. Preucil has been suspended until further notice.”

The Cleveland Institute of Music, where Preucil is a longtime faculty member, was less decisive Friday, when the school’s president and CEO, Paul W. Hogle, said in a statement that the school was “deeply troubled by The Washington Post story discussing issues of sexual harassment in classical music but will not comment on specific allegations made in the article.” On Saturday afternoon, however, Preucil resigned his teaching post, CIM spokeswoman Amy Brondyke confirmed.

In the article, violinist Zeneba Bowers said Preucil assaulted her in his hotel room after a lesson when she was a fellow at the New World Symphony, the country’s leading training orchestra for young professionals, in 1998. Other musicians confirmed Preucil’s reputation for inappropriate ­advances.

Classical music is rife with harassment, say dozens of artists.

The story also mentioned an article that ran in 2007 in the publication Cleveland Scene, in which it was alleged that Preucil made an unwanted advance to a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music. The student subsequently transferred to a different school, at CIM’s expense. At the time, Preucil responded to the Cleveland Scene reporter, Rebecca Meiser, in an email that “the issue was fully reviewed by the institution and was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Speaking to The Post on Friday afternoon, Gremillet, who has been at the Cleveland Orchestra for 2½ years, said this was his first time hearing these allegations. “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.”

Gremillet also said he hoped the fact that the orchestra responded so quickly shows how seriously it takes the matter.

There have been other consequences. The Grand Teton Music Festival, where Preucil was one of four listed concertmasters this summer, has uninvited him. “Upon reading the recently published accusations against Mr. Preucil, the Grand Teton Music Festival acted swiftly and decisively yesterday to rescind his invitation to participate in this year’s festival,” said Andrew Palmer Todd, the festival’s president and CEO, in a statement. “This sort of behavior has no place in our organization.” The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, where Preucil was scheduled to perform this week, removed him from those concerts, and a scheduled recital at the University of Texas at Austin in October was also canceled.

Preucil was not the only alleged perpetrator identified in the article. The conductor Daniele Gatti, who two women alleged attacked them in his dressing room during rehearsals, has retained a publicity firm called the Reputation Doctor. In a statement sent to the media, Gatti said, “To all the women I have met in my entire life, especially those who believe I did not treat them with the utmost respect and dignity they certainly deserve, I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

He added, “Today and moving forward, I plan to focus much more on my behaviors and actions with all women. This includes women both young and old, to be sure no woman ever feels uncomfortable ever again, especially women that I work with in my profession in classical music. I am truly sorry.”

The Florida Grand Opera, where Bernard Uzan is a co-director of the young artists program, issued a statement of support. Four women spoke on the record in The Post article with allegations about Uzan, a longtime artists manager and stage director, including verbal and psychological harassment, groping and inappropriate propositions.

“In regards to the recent allegations about Bernard Uzan,” Susan T. Danis, the company’s general director and CEO, said in a statement on Friday. “Florida Grand Opera holds itself to the highest standard against sexual harassment. It is our obligation to ensure that every one of our employees feels safe, valued and protected. The alleged allegations are over a decade ago and Mr. Uzan remains to be a valued member to the ­company.”

Two days later, Uzan and his co-artistic director and wife Diana Soviero resigned. “It is with great sadness that we submit our resignations as volunteer, non-contracted, Co-Artistic Directors of the FGO, Studio Artist Program,” they said in a joint statement Sunday.