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More than 500 musicians demand accountability after Juilliard misconduct allegations

An exterior shot of The Juilliard School in New York City, taken in September 2020.
Noam Galai
Getty Images
An exterior shot of The Juilliard School in New York City, taken in September 2020.

More than 500 musicians and leaders in the classical music community have signed an open letter to the administration of The Juilliard School, demanding that the famed performing arts institution take immediate action regarding sexual misconduct allegations against composer Robert Beaser, the former chair of Juilliard's composition department. The open letter was first published Friday.

Sexual misconduct allegations against Beaser, as well as the late composer Christopher Rouse, were first published in the German-based VAN magazine last week.

On Monday, Juilliard confirmed to NPR that Beaser stepped away from teaching and his other responsibilities at the school as of Friday afternoon. Both the composition faculty and students received notifications of this development from the school's provost, Adam Meyer.

The emailed letter sent to faculty reads in part: "We will continue to conduct the investigation in a confidential manner. We want to assure you that our processes and procedures provide for fair and impartial treatment of all involved, and we are committed to our work to resolve this matter."

As of Monday morning, more than 500 musicians and leaders in the classical music community had signed the open letter. Calling Beaser's alleged conduct "a decades-long abuse of women and power," the signatories wrote: "Though we recognize and appreciate the need for due process, the volume of allegations, testimony, and supporting evidence of Beaser's misconduct are undeniably unsettling. Until the investigation is resolved, Beaser's presence in the Juilliard composition department could jeopardize the emotional well-being of students and inhibit a safe and healthy learning environment."

The letter signers include dozens of leading composers, educators and performing arts presenters across the U.S., many of whom are Juilliard graduates. The signatories include composers Vivian Fung, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Nicholas Britell, Missy Mazzoli, Vijay Iyer and George E. Lewis, and current professors at such institutions as Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities as well as Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music and Juilliard itself.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.