extensive article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Wednesday detailed allegations of sexual abuse by the late violinist Jascha Brodsky, who taught at Curtis from the 1950s until shortly before his death in 1997. The most serious allegations of abuse were described by well-known violinist Lara St. John, who was pictured prominently in the article, as well as allegations by four other former students, who were not named.The Curtis Institute of Music is under fire after an
The school's reaction to the article -- sending an e-mail to Curtis alumni, parents, and students asking them not to speak to journalists about the story -- is under equal scrutiny. (Click here to see the Inquirer's article about the e-mail, which contains a copy of it at the bottom of the article.)
The e-mail outraged many Curtis alumni, many of whom went straight to social media and shared the story widely. Here is one reaction, from alumnus Bronwyn Astra Banerdt, as she shared the story on Facebook: "I have never been as disappointed by the Curtis Institute of Music as I was this morning, when I opened an alumni email containing a request not to discuss the recent allegations made by violinist Lara St John against her former teacher Jascha Brodsky 'publicly, online, or on social media.'....Frankly, I wasn’t planning on it; I’ve never met Lara, and Brodsky died years before I went to Curtis — but the request itself offended me to my core...there’s a larger issue at stake, and it’s way too late for an institution the caliber of Curtis to be missing the bus on this one. Curtis should be following the example of countless institutions and individuals that have stepped up to the plate by admitting that mistakes were made, and seeking out the truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be."
In the article, St. John said that Brodsky sexually abused her repeatedly and raped her when she was a 14-year-old student at Curtis in the 1980s. She said that when she reported the abuse to the school's dean in 1986, she was told that no one would believe her. Stress over the abuse led to a suicide attempt in her third year at Curtis, after which she left the school at age 17 and moved to the Soviet Union to study at the Moscow Conservatory.
The Inquirer story also describes allegations by four other former students of sexual advances and abuse by Brodsky.
Brodsky was a Russian violinist and pedagoque who studied in Belgium with Eugène Ysaÿe and then at Curtis with Efrem Zimbalist. He taught a long list of accomplished violinists, including many current members of the Philadelphia Orchestra as well as star soloists such as Hilary Hahn and Leila Josefowicz. He also played for nearly 50 years in the Curtis String Quartet and was a co-founder of the New School of Music in Philadelphia.
Click here to read the Philadelphia Inquirer story.
Curtis alumni received the following e-mail on Friday:
To the entire Curtis community:
Yesterday we communicated with all of you in a way that was not consistent with our values.
We have understandably lost your trust and for that I am profoundly sorry.
I promise you we will do whatever is needed to make this right. As a first step toward this promise, Curtis will establish an anonymous reporting hotline. We will reach out again with more information about this service in the coming days.
President and CEO
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