Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Institute

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jserraglio
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Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Institute

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:31 am

Thanks to a poster on another board who occasionally posts here:

Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist Lara St. John says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher Jascha Brodsky at the Curtis Institute, and then disregarded when she reported it.

Philadelphia Inquirer
https://www.inquirer.com/news/a/lara-st ... 90725.html

John F
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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by John F » Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:57 am

Jascha Brodsky was first violinist of the Curtis String Quartet, which made some recordngs in the 1950s. The headmaster of my school, a classical music enthusiast, arranged for the quartet to come out to Lancaster and give a concert: Smetana quartet 1, Haydn quartet op 76 no 2, Dvorak American quartet. I was too young to be able to judge, but I liked it.

Brodsky died in 1997, age 90. Even if this is true, and I've no reason to disbelieve it, what's the point of complaining about the misconduct of somebody who's been dead for 22 years?
John Francis

jserraglio
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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:04 am

John F wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:57 am
Even if this is true, and I've no reason to disbelieve it, what's the point of complaining about the misconduct of somebody who's been dead for 22 years?
'cuz, since there's no reason to disbelieve St. John, others were involved who are still very much alive.

Furthermore. St John gave her own rationale in the report and it came thru loud and clear to me:
St. John said that in that climate [of recent revelations of misconduct by classical musicians in positions of authority], she now feels a responsibility to tell her story, if only because her success may provide a protection not afforded less established musicians who have suffered similar abuse.

“I do have means. I do have recourse. I do have resources,” she said. “How many people don't who are now in that same situation?”

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by maestrob » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:15 am

Corruption of this nature is an old story that goes back in time to the beginnings of the human race. That we are dealing with it now, in the open, is real progress for our civilization. The more people who come forward, the better it is for future generations.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:19 am

maestrob wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:15 am
That we are dealing with it now, in the open, is real progress for our civilization. The more people who come forward, the better it is for future generations.
Agreed. St. John now has the means to command attention from a newspaper with a national reach, and that puts administrators of these arts tanks on notice: think twice before you 'blow off' a distraught teenager who comes to you for help, because she may grow up to haunt your twilight years.

I finally read this PI story thru to the very end. There the reader learns that she has accused Brodsky of a crime, molesting her on occasion, then raping her at age 14. That she reported the molestation but not the rape to an administrator with two of her classmates and was told she would not be believed 'cuz they were just kids and Brodsky was a mainstay of the faculty. The two classmates at the mtg corroborate her account.

The administrator is still alive, has written about the evils of covering up sexual abuse at elite private institutions including the Curtis Institute but denies St. John ever told him Brodsky had been been anything but "touchy-feely" with her and states that subsequently he told Brodsky to be more mindful of decorum around his female students. Further than that, he would not go other than to call St. John's account of their meeting "nonsense."

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:52 pm

The Curtis Institute marketing and communications director responded to today's story in an email to its alumni giving assurances and asking them to remain silent.

Link to Philadelphia Inquirer followup plus a copy of the confidential email it obtained from upset alum.
If you are contacted by journalists for comment on this story, please refer them to me . . . Additionally, out of respect for all those involved, we request that you refrain from discussing this matter publicly, online, or on social media.
https://www.inquirer.com/news/lara-st-j ... 90725.html

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:03 pm

Where were the parents during all of this? If they did not believe the woman then they are equally guilty. Historic claims of sexual abuse do nobody any good; they must be dealt with at the time in the name of fairness and legal process. I've worked with grubs over the years who've tried to act inappropriately with me and I was able to handle it quick smart. I worked in a number of places in my late teens/early twenties and I never had any trouble during that time. The offenders didn't emerge until I worked in the media; at the ABC!! Their standard method was humiliation and abuse and I wouldn't tolerate it for a second, standing up to them. On one occasion the offender was so contrite that flowers arrived on my desk the next day. I thanked him and assured him that in no way did this negate my opportunities to complain about his abusive rant. One Executive Producer screamed at me outside the domestic airport in Sydney; I quietly stood there and next day went up to TV Operations and complained, asking for a transfer. They did it for me. So, yes, the ability to cover up abuse was alive and well but I managed to stay ahead of the curve.

Neither men nor women picked on me because they could see that I'm a strong person and would unlikely be a silent victim. These abusers choose their victims very carefully, it needs to be said. A female who talks straight is their last choice for indiscretion. Childhood is a different proposition and that's where parents should act.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:10 pm

You are you. She is she.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:21 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:10 pm
You are you. She is she.
No foolin'?

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:03 pm

Lara St. John finally musters the courage to speak out publicly about being molested and raped at age 14 by her esteemed teacher who threatened to have her brother dismissed from the school if she did not submit to his advances, a prospect that so terrified her that she never told her brother (and presumably not her parents either) about any of it. This teacher victimized at least four other girls and young women.

Then St. John describes being ridiculed by the Curtis Institute dean she turned to at age 15 for help but who took the teacher's side, an account two of her classmates who were there with the Dean at that meeting say is true. Later the sum total of investigative action this Dean took on the matter was to warn the teacher in an offhand way to be 'more mindful with female students' without ever bringing up St. John's story. Did the Dean bother to inform her parents that Brodsky had been "touchy-feely" (the Dean's words for what the girl told him) with their 14-year-old daughter? The article never says. Apparently not.

I would say that St. John is admirably strong for pushing this narrative when she is likely to get nothing but grief from it. Her coming forward today should do some good. It might help others to speak up in the future. And it should send a shot across the bow of anyone in authority in any institution that is tempted not to listen to what they don't want to hear.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:40 pm

The girl in question made a decision at the time that her brother's career was more important than her own sexual assault.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Fri Jul 26, 2019 4:30 am

Belle wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:40 pm
The girl in question made a decision at the time that her brother's career was more important than her own sexual assault.
That's what she told the Inquirer. He, not she at the time, 1986, is expected to have the important career. She's just a little kid, terrified that Brodsky, as he once hinted to her, could have her big brother dismissed from Curtis, so she keeps absolutely silent, except to tell a few close friends in a roundabout way what was done to her. Nobody else knows.

She gets herself a new teacher at Curtis and elaborately plans out her daily itinerary so as not to cross paths with Brodsky who repeatedly had asked her: why don't you love me anymore? At 17, she tries to kill herself. She then drops out of school and refuses to continue her education. My career, she thinks, is done for. But her big brother who was slated to have the important career, knowing nothing about what had happened to his beloved little sister, continues to take lessons from the very same teacher who had attacked her. For her part she keeps the story locked up inside her. Nobody knows nothing.

A few years pass. 1995. She gets a phone call from a counselor at Curtis asking about what had happened to her at Curtis (the counselor had heard rumors), and the whole story spills out of young Lara. A day later, another woman, the same woman at Curtis who in 1986 had asked her to tea as a kid and coached her then to be silent, calls her in NYC and asks her once again not to discuss this matter with anyone else b/c her teacher was frail, likely to die soon and now was teaching only one student. She agrees.

More time passes. Now it's 2012, St. John's career has blossomed (concert engagements, recordings, interviews, etc.), but she gets wind thru a friend that an administrator at Curtis has been questioning why in her new-found success she's so ungrateful (all students accepted to Curtis go free), i.e., why she never gives them any money. So she writes to this administrator privately, pulling no punches in detailing the abuse, but asks her not to share the message. So nothing happens.

Two months later, the same Dean who had ridiculed her as a 15-year-old, now retired from Curtis, publishes an article for a classical-music blog about the cover-up of sexual abuse in music schools, comparing these schools to the Catholic Church. The piece is entitled When Curtis Was Known as the Coitus Institute.

The logjam of silence finally breaks. In 2013, St. John, infuriated, contacts the Curtis Institute president and lays out the whole story privately. She tells him her only goal at this point in time is to stop the former Dean who had mocked her as a child from posing now as an expert on sexual abuse. Deeply disturbed, the Curtis head informs his Board immediately which then orders an no-holds-barred outside investigation, wherever that might lead. But St. John is never interviewed in that investigation (reason? that would've have been unfair to the dead teacher). And only two from Curtis are ever interviewed: one is the derisive Dean in question, the other a world-renowned musician in his own right who as fate would have it, happens to have been the husband of the woman at Curtis, now dead, who once at tea and again over the phone had asked St John to remain silent about her abuse. So nothing much comes of the investigation. But Curtis administrators do ask the former Dean to please stop writing about sexual abuse and cite to him the sensitive matter of Lara St. John which to this point has remained out of the public eye. The Dean peremptorily refuses: "My conscience is clear", he tells Curtis.

In late June of this year, St. John, about to go public to the Philadelphia Inquirer after failing to resolve matters privately, takes a train back to her hometown Philly and revisits some of the places that brought her such pain 34 years ago. The ceiling of the room where she took tea with the famous musician's wife who asked her not to talk about the attack looked a lot higher back then, she notes. It must be because I was so small, she states.
__________________________________________

So if true, and to me it rings deeply of the truth, Lara St. John's narrative is a thrice-told tale.

Particularly wrenching is the fact that the girl, thinking the beloved boy in her family is the important one, all but torpedoes her own career and sacrifices her own mental health to protect him.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Fri Jul 26, 2019 6:58 pm

In life we often have to make very hard choices, like it or not. If we disempower people by continually victimizing them it doesn't auger well for them going into the future - no matter what age they are. Life is very tough and people are exploitative; fact. As I said earlier, these predatory grubs often pick the people they know won't stand up to them. In this case that seems to have applied.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:18 pm

Hit yesterday with a volley of criticism from their alumni for trying to impose what the alums saw as a code of silence, Curtis announced today that they are thoroughly reevaluating their procedures so that such a thing, rare as it may be, never happens again. If they had done that 6 years ago when St. John first contacted them, her story probably would never have gone public.

As I see it, St John made some very hard choices and saw them thru. She's made a difference.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:41 am

Albeit way too late. The offender is dead. Choices are not 'hard' when an offender is dead.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:14 am

Belle wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 2:41 am
way too late. The offender is dead. Choices are not 'hard' when an offender is dead.
Sorry, late but not quite too late.

The retired Curtis administrator, the guy who allegedly 'blew off' the girl in 1986 and presumably never bothered to inform her parents (her elder brother states he never knew anything): that gentleman, Robert Fitzpatrick, is very much still with us and able to defend his behavior.

Now the former Curtis head hasn't been sending St. John many odorous bouquets of repentance. He told Curtis: "My conscience is clear" and called the woman's claims "Nonsense". So Brodsky got a little "touchy-feely" with a 14-year-old student? That's his appraisal today of what happened back then. Not a big deal. Problem is, two classmates went with St. John to that meeting with the Curtis dean; both say he was dismissive of all three of them. He just didn't want to hear what these 15-year-old kids had to say.

In 2012, that same guy published an article online entitled "When Curtis Was Known as the Coitus Institute"). It compared Curtis to the Catholic Church and talked about how sex abuse at conservatories should not be tolerated. It was the appearance of that article that caused St. John to break her silence: she wrote to the Curtis Institute in 2013 asking them to get Fitzpatrick to stop. Fitzpatrick refused Curtis's subsequent request and denied everything. Curtis was able to do nothing more for her. Only after all that did she go public. Up to then, she had remained and when coached on two occasions by a member of the Curtis community, had agreed to remain, almost totally silent.

Yesterday, facing intense pressure from outraged alumni, Curtis was forced to announce a top-to-bottom review of its policies and procedures and apologize for giving the appearance of advocating a code of silence.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:18 am

One of the problems for the music world is the intimate nature of music lessons themselves; an air of secrecy about what may or may not go on behind closed doors. The potential for abuse is huge which puts the onus of vigilance squarely on the parents.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:26 am

Belle wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:18 am
One of the problems for the music world is the intimate nature of music lessons themselves; an air of secrecy about what may or may not go on behind closed doors. The potential for abuse is huge which puts the onus of vigilance squarely on the parents.
In this case, mom and dad apparently never knew because the adult in charge at the school never told them.

As for the intimate nature of violin lessons, leave the door ajar. Her violin teacher closed and locked the door at every lesson, St. John recalls.

If leaving doors open is considered impracticable or unsafe, then why not mandate that windows just large enough to allow any passer-by to see into the room be installed and remain uncovered?
Last edited by jserraglio on Sun Jul 28, 2019 6:34 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Belle » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:31 am

Lord, there are grubs out there!! Parents must counsel their children when they are in the intimate settings of music instruction. I would have run away at 14 if any man did this to me - as far as I could. The nun used to hit me across the hand with the edge of a ruler during piano lessons when I was 7 and I refused to go back (and my mother didn't expect me to). These low-grade but sordid experiences of abuse have become lore for unwitting and (mostly) untalented, young piano students. I think, looking back, that these bullies derive/d a sadistic pleasure from hurting and controlling others. Seriously.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:40 am

Belle wrote:
Sat Jul 27, 2019 6:31 am
Lord, there are grubs out there!! Parents must counsel their children when they are in the intimate settings of music instruction. I would have run away at 14 if any man did this to me - as far as I could. The nun used to hit me across the hand with the edge of a ruler during piano lessons when I was 7 and I refused to go back (and my mother didn't expect me to). These low-grade but sordid experiences of abuse have become lore for unwitting and (mostly) untalented, young piano students. I think, looking back, that these bullies derive/d a sadistic pleasure from hurting and controlling others. Seriously.
I agree. Teachers abuse their authority over students all the time in various ways, mostly verbal, the kids often suffer it in silence, and parents are often left out of the loop.

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Re: Abused, then mocked: Acclaimed violinist says she was sexually assaulted by her renowned teacher at the Curtis Insti

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Jul 28, 2019 12:16 pm

Although the online version of this article was available on Thursday, 7/25, the Inquirer waited until today (Sunday) to publish this article in the print edition. That seemed unusual to me, but I think the explanation for the delay has to do with the placement: the print article is given the most prominent place in the entire Sunday newspaper--front page of the first section, above the fold with a huge headline.

Also, on an inside page, there is a separate article about the Curtis Institute's response:

https://www.inquirer.com/news/lara-st-j ... 90727.html

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