[CW: James Levine, sexual predation, administrative neglect]
It was a sunny afternoon at CalArts at the beginning of my masters. This teacher wasn’t the first to discuss the Levine news that week—maybe even that day—but the others had been predictable. More generalized. For larger audiences.
It was a sunny afternoon at CalArts, and there were four of us in that office: me, my then-boyfriend, a member of my cohort, and our teacher. Any preexisting lesson plans had been thrown out the window (not uncommon among the faculty) in favor of discussing the violence at hand. Instead, though, we were . . . treated to an hour and a half of how James Levine’s violence was well known among the community. We were confronted with valueless worries: will the Met close? What will happen to the box seats? We were regaled with rumors of how a finalist for a then-recently-filled trombone seat in a major orchestra had to endure sexual harassment throughout her audition. (She did not win the seat.) We had to endure our teacher clearly telling us how he had failed to enforce protections for gender-marginalized students at his last institution, where he as department head was responsible for ensuring an abusive faculty member in his instrument family could not continue to harass female students. We watched him shrug it off in a “nothing I can do about it now” kind of way.
And then I, a childhood sexual assault survivor and the only gender-marginalized person in the room, had to listen to that professor tell my peers that if they had skeletons in their closets, they needed to keep them there.
That was his takeaway from James Levine.
And now Levine is dead, but Peter Gelb still adores him. Levine is dead, yet the New York Times and Slipped Disc still praise him. Levine is dead, yet when I met with CalArts’ music dean months later to discuss this instructor’s behavior, nothing happened.
So long as those in power are reticent to discipline people who excuse, dismiss, and enable predators, there’s very little in place to keep this kind of abuse from repeating itself again and again and again.
James Levine is dead. But that’s only half the story.
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