On December 3, the New York Times reported that the Metropolitan Opera had suspended James Levine, its former longtime music director, and launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse. The announcement followed accusations from four men that Levine had abused them decades ago. Levine has denied the allegations. After the news broke, the Ravinia Festival—where Levine was previously music director for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s summer residencies and was about to begin a five-year term as conductor laureate—severed its ties with the conductor. The Boston Symphony Orchestra, where Levine was music director from 2004 to 2011, stated that it had received no reports of misconduct and that it would not employ the conductor in the future. In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Institute of Music—where Levine worked in the 1960s and ’70s—stated that “faculty and staff are instructed in both the spirit and letter of our long-standing policies and complaint procedures regarding sexual harassment and misconduct.” Levine will not face criminal charges in Illinois regarding one claim of sexual misconduct in Lake Forest in 1986 and 1987 because at the time the statutory age of consent in Illinois was 16—the age of the accuser.
The revelations indicated that the classical music community is not immune from the same workplace concerns about sexual misconduct that dominated headlines in 2017 in politics and entertainment. At press time, developing stories had surfaced about sexual misconduct by conductor Charles Dutoit and by faculty members at the Boston Conservatory of Music, University of California at Davis, and Boston’s Berklee College of Music. As arts organizations reevaluate their policies regarding sexual misconduct, they are looking at ways to prevent incidents, including improving the vetting process when hiring staff and revising procedures to respond to incidents when they occur. The Boston Symphony Orchestra has stated that it is “committed to a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who exhibits inappropriate behavior in the workplace” and that such behavior will “not be tolerated.” The orchestra added, “The classical music industry must seriously reflect on this moment and determine ways to ensure sexual misconduct has no place in our industry.”
The League of American Orchestras is deeply disturbed by the allegations of sexual harassment across various industries, including the classical music world. There should be no tolerance for harassment of any kind. The League encourages its members to collaborate with musicians and all key constituents to promote healthy workplaces. To that end, the League has posted resources for harassment prevention and response in the orchestral workplace at https://americanorchestras.org/learn/equity-diversity-and-inclusion/gender-equity/sexual-harassment-prevention/. There you will find information and links to evidence-based methods for preventing harassment, practices from the Society for Human Resources Management, and a comprehensive set of guidelines from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.