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Preucil sexual-misconduct allegations prompt reflection, action

August 5, 2018

Preucil sexual-misconduct allegations prompt reflection, action

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Call it a sonic boom.

Accusations of sexual misconduct against Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil and resulting suspension sent a shock wave through Northeast Ohio’s classical music community, prompting reflection and action across the spectrum.

“I think that it shows that times have begun to change,” said Zeneba Bowers, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra violinist who set off the process by relating an alleged 1998 incident with Preucil to The Washington Post.

“It is long past time that we stop enabling, excusing and covering up this type of behavior. ... We can do so much better.”

Preucil has not responded publicly to his suspension from the Cleveland Orchestra or to Bowers’ allegations in The Washington Post that he began “aggressively kissing her, opening her buttons, pushing her onto the bed” in a Miami hotel room in 1998.

He also has not commented on a second incident reported in The Washington Post, also involving another female former member of Miami’s New World Symphony.

There has, however, been movement. Last week, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland Institute of Music, where Preucil served on the faculty, said the violinist tendered his resignation from the school on July 28, the day after his suspension from the Cleveland Orchestra was announced.

Colleagues of Preucil’s expressed relief at that news. While declining to speak on the record, fellow teachers and orchestra members said Preucil was right to step down and voiced the desire to move forward and strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy.

Bowers echoed those sentiments.

“I hope all organizations will reconsider their focus on protecting famous [or] highly regarded individuals and figureheads, and focus more on their moral responsibility to create and foster safe working environments,” she said via email.

Meanwhile, at the Cleveland Orchestra, Preucil remains on the roster and the payroll. A spokesman said the group is still investigating the situation. “I will be in contact once we have further information to share,” he said.

Concert presenters elsewhere are taking action of their own. In the wake of The Washington Post story and other related articles, at least three organizations have canceled scheduled appearances by Preucil: the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the University of Texas at Austin and the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Bowers, for her part, said the response to her story has been positive. A few, she said, have accused her of naivete, asking why she allegedly joined Preucil in a hotel room, but ”[T]hose questions are less often asked, and more frequently pushed back on.”

Similarly, she added, she has gotten past questions of why she chose to speak up now, 20 years after the alleged incident. The answer, she said, is two-fold but simple: She was asked, and it was time.  

Just as smoking in public became socially unacceptable, so is a “sea change” with regard to sexual discrimination and harassment under way, Bowers said.

By speaking up now, Bowers said she felt she could make a difference and keep future generations of artists from experiencing what she did and feeling limitations on their careers as a result.

“I knew that many would not believe me, and that many would blame me, but I felt that the time had come to come forward and that it was at least possible that some change could happen,” Bowers said.

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