Disgraced Violin Professor Sentenced for Sex Crimes

April 14, 2022, 2:02 PM · Former University of Michigan violin professor Stephen Shipps, 69, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for transporting a minor girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual conduct.

Stephen Shipps

In November 2021 Shipps pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of transporting a minor girl across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual conduct, admitting that he in 2002, he drove the then 16-year-old girl from Michigan to New York and engaged in sexual activity with her. Shipps entered the guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors that resulted in the dismissal of a similar charge involving the same girl, thus reducing the potential penalties, which could have brought up to 15 years in prison.

On Thursday, Shipps’ attorney John Shea requested that Shipps be spared prison time, filing a memo that cited alcohol addiction recovery and caretaking several family members, according to The News&Observer. They also presented 27 letters from his supporters. Prosecutors asked that Shipps receive a 68-month prison sentence, citing accounts of similar abuse from five of his former students.

In addition to the prison time, Shipps will pay $120,000 in restitution and spend three years on supervised release.

Shipps taught at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance from 1989 until he retired in February 2019, following a December 2018 article in The Michigan Daily that described allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct against Shipps that spanned a 40-year time period.

At the time of his retirement, Shipps was Chair of the Department of Strings. He was also director of the String Preparatory Academy, a pre-college music program for middle school and high school students. Before coming to Michigan he taught at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, from 1980 to 1989.

* * *

UPDATE: I will add reactions from members of the violin community following Shipps' sentencing.

From Lara St. John, who traveled to Detroit for the sentencing: "I know the scale of the damage he wrought, from ruined careers to mental health issues and even suicides. He altered many lives in a tragic way, so I find the prison sentence far too short. I am glad there is jail time, but he should be locked up for good."

Shipps enters courthouse
Stephen Shipps enters the courthouse Thursday, with witness Stephanie Silverman on the right. Photo by Lara St John.

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Replies

April 14, 2022 at 10:11 PM · Tragic. What a monster. I don’t think the punishment is severe enough.

April 15, 2022 at 12:24 AM · The revelation that he was in his 20s when he was already about this business of raping students means that he made a whole career of it.

Also, I'd rather not look as his picture.

April 15, 2022 at 01:45 AM · I’m appalled that 27 people wrote letters in support of this monster.

He should have received a life sentence, since that’s what his victims got.

April 15, 2022 at 02:21 AM ·

Uff-da

April 15, 2022 at 06:40 AM · Here we go again!!! What the hell is it with these people who think they have the right to get away with this abhorrent behavior?

Like ALL of the others who have committed these crimes around the world, the sentences are never enough.

These people should never ever be allowed to be given positions of power, authority, influence over pupils..... Thank God my teacher Herbert Whone was a decent human being who could be trusted and respected in every way possible.

Unfortunately, predators come in all walks of life, though the classical music world seems to have more than others, what gets me is that a lot of the so called elite music schools and establishments employ these people and give them a platform from which to preach and then go on to abuse their positions of trust and authority.

What a shame it is that many aspiring young and vulnerable musicians have to collide with these monsters, they should be jailed for whole life, no excuses ever!!!!

April 15, 2022 at 03:05 PM · 5 years sentence for a lifetime of atrocity. 21 letter writers supporting him publicly.

And then we wonder why victims don’t come forward.

April 16, 2022 at 05:47 PM · Forty years ago known monsters were simply 'moved on' - not just in the catholic church but also in teaching.

Professions where you get one-on-one contact attract these monsters. They also give people where it is all too easy to develop into a monster should they have that tendency - and this includes some who wouldn't specifically seek out such an environment .

To my mind, prevention is far more important than punishment. And this is a major problem - especially as counselling services are equally vulnerable.

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