The Curtis Institute of Music on Friday issued another message to its community, saying that "We are heartbroken that there have been times in Curtis’s earlier history when the voices of its community members were not heard at critical moments when they needed the school to listen with empathy and support."
The message follows the publication of front-page story in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer that 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 and corroborated by multiple sources. The article also details St. John's multiple attempts -- all unsuccessful -- to report the abuse to Curtis. The article also described allegations by several other former students, who were not named.
Curtis was criticized for its initial reaction to the article: sending an e-mail to Curtis alumni, parents, and students asking them not to speak to journalists about the story, shortly after it came out online on July 24, prior to its publication in the newspaper. The e-mail caused great consternation among Curtis alumni, with alumnus Bronwyn Banerdt even writing an opinion piece for the Inquirer called "Don’t expect Curtis alumni like me to stay silent on sexual-assault investigations."
Several days later on July 27, Curtis issued an apology for its initial response, expressing regret that "we communicated with all of you in a way that was not consistent with our values." (Read that full apology At the bottom of this story).
The newest message posted on Friday from Curtis President and CEO Roberto Díaz and Board Chair Deborah M. Fretz says that its "past institutional culture may not have always provided the safety net needed to thoroughly address the full gamut of our community’s needs" and promises a new hotline for reporting "inappropriate behavior from the past or present." It also maintains that Curtis has "zero tolerance toward all forms of abusive behavior, and we will continue to go to great lengths to prevent it.")
None of the messages from Curtis directly address the initial allegations brought forth in the Philadelphia Inquirer article, and St. John maintains that Curtis has not communicated with her -- directly or in its mass e-mails to alumni -- about it.
"Seems like they are apologizing to everybody but me," Lara St. John said in a follow-up article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. On her Facebook page, St. John has maintained that Curtis has left her out of the loop: "Apology to their alumni, minus one of course," she wrote in a post about Curtis's reaction.
Here is the entire message from Curtis President and CEO Roberto Díaz and Board Chair Deborah M. Fretz that was issued on Friday:
To the Curtis community:
At Curtis, we condemn sexual violence, racism, discrimination, harassment of any type, or any form of intimidation. We are heartbroken that there have been times in Curtis’s earlier history when the voices of its community members were not heard at critical moments when they needed the school to listen with empathy and support. We profoundly apologize to and sympathize with anyone who may have had such experiences, and sincerely regret that our past institutional culture may not have always provided the safety net needed to thoroughly address the full gamut of our community’s needs. We have zero tolerance toward all forms of abusive behavior, and we will continue to go to great lengths to prevent it.
We believe that an informed, educated, and enlightened community can improve upon its past, and we invite you to join us in this effort. As this work continues, we encourage you to visit Curtis.edu/Policies where you can learn about the many ways in which Curtis has evolved to foster a vibrant culture while ensuring a safe and healthy campus environment.
We will continue to adapt our policies and procedures. Curtis is working with an independent vendor to establish a new hotline so that individuals from our community will have an additional channel to report inappropriate behavior from the past or present. Work on this hotline is in progress and information will be released shortly, once the hotline is active and testing is complete.
We promise to stay true to this essential work and elevate our commitment toward it.
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