Juilliard fires professor after sexual-misconduct investigation

By Sammy Sussman

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Robert Beaser has been fired from his position on The Juilliard School’s composition faculty after an investigation by the law firm Potter & Murdock found Beaser had “interfered with individuals’ academic work,” engaged in “an unreported relationship” in the late 1990s and early 2000s and “repeatedly misrepresented facts about his actions,” the school announced in a letter on Thursday.

The letter also noted that in response to this investigation, school policies will be changed to prohibit “amorous or sexual” relationships between faculty and graduate students. (Previously, the policy prohibited relationships between faculty and undergraduate students or graduate students over which faculty might have a “power imbalance.”)

Juilliard spokesperson Rosalie Contreras wrote that the school plans to educate community members on existing anonymous reporting and anti-retaliation policies.

“We plan to more firmly underscore (i.e. emphasize, communicate, remind people, etc.) of these policies,” Contreras wrote in a statement to IRW.

In the past decade, Juilliard has taken steps to address the school’s climate. The school already has requirements that all lessons take place on school property and that teaching studio doors contain windows.

“Juilliard is committed to providing a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all members of our school community, and to addressing concerns past and present,” the school wrote at the end of the email. “No form of discrimination or harassment is tolerated and we take all allegations reported to us seriously.”

Beaser had been on leave from Juilliard since a December article by the Investigative Reporting Workshop and VAN, a leading online classical music publication, revealed previously undisclosed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Beaser. These allegations were from the early 2000s, and they had been reported to the school at the time and in 2018. It is unclear what steps Juilliard took to previously investigate these allegations.

Juilliard committed to the recently concluded investigation on Dec. 8 after they were contacted by IRW and VAN. On Dec. 16, Juilliard announced that Beaser was on leave; at that time, an open letter calling on the school to further investigate the allegations was going viral. The letter was eventually signed by over 500 people.

In an interview with IRW, Beaser’s attorney, Richard C. Schoenstein, said that Beaser had cooperated with the recent investigation.

“He sat for a lengthy interview. He provided information,” Schoenstein said. “I have no idea how they can say that he misrepresented anything.”

Schoenstein noted that Juilliard has not made its investigation public.

“We don’t know who they talked to, if anybody. We don’t know what documents they reviewed, if any,” Schoenstein said.

IRW reported in December that Beaser had engaged in behavior ranging from repeated sexual advances to sexual relationships with multiple female students. Juilliard’s letter referenced one unreported relationship found by the investigation that “violated policy in effect at that time.”

In an interview, Schoenstein said that he thought he knew the specific relationship that Juilliard was referencing. “Assuming it is what we think it is, it was known to the school for many years,” Schoenstein said. (Schoenstein’s written statement to reporters said that it was known to the school for 30 years.)

IRW’s December article uncovered a previously undisclosed allegation of sexual misconduct against former composition faculty member Christopher Rouse. Though Juilliard’s investigation found “concerning allegations” against Rouse that were “considered credible,” the allegations could not be fully investigated because Rouse died in 2019.

The December article also found allegations from eight former female students of the department saying that they were told that John Corigliano, a longtime composition faculty member, refused to take female students. Juilliard wrote that “the investigation noted that until recent years, far fewer women than men were taught by Mr. Corigliano. The investigation did not, however, find that he or the school had either a formal or informal policy of excluding women from studying with him.”

(IRW compiled a list of approximately 190 former composition students listed in recital programs and other archival documents in Juilliard’s publicly available online archive for the December article. IRW then found websites, biographical statements and other pages created by these students that listed their pronouns and former teachers. This confirmed that only one female-identifying student composer listed in archival documents between 1997 and 2021 currently describes Corigliano as their former teacher.)

The night before IRW’s reporting was first published in December, Beaser attended a concert of The National Sawdust-Juilliard Blueprint Bridge Fellowship, a mentorship program that pairs women composers with Juilliard composition students. An individual affiliated with the program said that Beaser had never previously attended a concert of the Fellowship. (The individual requested anonymity for this article, citing fears of professional retribution.)

IRW had emailed Beaser numerous times over the four months before the concert, requesting an interview. A week before the concert and eight days before article was published, IRW and VAN sent Beaser and Juilliard detailed emails seeking specific comments on the sexual harassment and misconduct allegations against Beaser. Individuals at the concert questioned why Beaser was present at this concert, given that he knew of the reporting that would soon be published. Through a spokesperson, Juilliard declined to comment on Beaser’s actions.

Beaser contacted multiple former students in the weeks after the article was published, seeking to speak with them about the reporting, according to interviews with three former composition students and a copy of a message obtained by IRW. It is unclear why Beaser contacted these students. Juilliard declined to comment on Beaser’s attempts to reach these students.

Further reporting has also found five organizations besides Juilliard that were once professionally affiliated with Beaser and have since taken steps in response to this reporting. In statements made after the publication of the December article, the American Composers Orchestra, where Beaser previously served as both the Artistic Director and Artistic Director Laureate, and the American Academy in Rome, where Beaser remains the youngest winner of the prestigious Rome Prize, noted that they no longer have any professional affiliation with Beaser. The American Academy also noted that Beaser has not served on the organization’s recent juries.

Composers Now, a new music organization founded by composer Tania León, removed Beaser from its Distinguished Mentors Counsel in late December. In an interview, León explained that she called Beaser after the initial article was published.

“I told him that I was disappointed, and that we would immediately remove his name,” León said. “I don’t want to hide the fact that we were collaborators, but I can’t now have him in any list” on the organization’s website.

The Aaron Copland Fund for Music placed Beaser on leave from his position as president in December.

“We deplore any form of sexual harassment or discrimination,” the Fund noted in a statement at the time. In an email yesterday, the organization’s executive vice president said that the Fund’s Board had not had time to review Juilliard’s findings.

Beaser was also placed on leave in December from the Board of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. In a statement at the time, the organization’s executive director said: “Until the investigation conducted by Juilliard is complete, BYSO will have no further comment.” Representatives of the orchestra did not respond to emails requesting comment about Juilliard’s findings.

Juilliard’s investigation noted that in the 1990s and 2000s, “some students, especially women, experienced an environment in the department that did not live up to the school’s values and expectations.”

Paola Prestini was one of the first alumni of Juilliard’s composition department to speak out publicly after IRW’s reporting was published about her experiences.

“Beaser was responsible for creating a toxic environment,” Prestini told The New York Times, adding that Beaser’s actions were “predatory” and that they “hindered my career.”

In a screenshot of her email to Juilliard’s president posted on social media, Prestini wrote that “the damage that Robert did was immeasurable.” Beyond removing Beaser from the school’s faculty, Prestini demanded that Juilliard take further steps to address the effect these allegations have had on former female students.

This article has been updated to further clarified the timeline of events and the school’s policies.

Freelancer Sammy Sussman is a former IRW intern. He recently completed a master’s degree at Columbia University’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.