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 this in an email to students, faculty and alumni on Thursday, June 8. Five organizations that were once professionally affiliated with Beaser have also taken steps to distance themselves from the composer, with three severing all professional affiliations.
Juilliard will also change school policies this summer to explicitly prohibit “amorous or sexual” relationships between faculty and graduate students. Previously, their sexual misconduct policy prohibited relationships between faculty and undergraduate students or graduate students over which faculty might have a “power imbalance.”
This comes after VAN and the Investigative Reporting Workshop reported in December on previously undisclosed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Beaser. These allegations range from repeated sexual advances towards female composition students to prolonged sexual relationships with female students. VAN found that these allegations were reported to the school’s administration in the early 2000s and again by two separate individuals in 2018. It is unclear what steps Juilliard took to investigate the allegations at the time.
Juilliard committed to the recently concluded investigation on December 8 after they were contacted by VAN for that article. On December 16, four days after VAN’s article was published, Juilliard announced that Beaser would be placed on paid leave during the investigation. (An open letter calling on the school to further investigate the allegations was eventually signed by over 500 musicians.)
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.”
In an email to VAN, 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 an interview with VAN, 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.”
The latest from VAN, delivered straight to your inbox
Over the course of six months of reporting, VAN learned that Beaser was the subject of multiple, previously undisclosed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct from the late 1990s and 2000s, ranging from repeated sexual advances to sexual relationships with students. In one specific instance, Beaser was accused of offering a student a promising opportunity to have her music performed. “What will you do for me?” she said Beaser asked her in response.
Though Juilliard’s letter did not make public the extent of their investigation into all allegations against Beaser, the school wrote that it found one relationship that “violated policy in effect at that time.”
In an interview with VAN, Schoenstein explained that he did not know the name of the individual in the alleged relationship that violated school policies. “Assuming it is what we think it is, it was known to the school for many years,” Schoenstein said. (Schoenstein’s written statement, sent to multiple reporters, said that the relationship he assumed Juilliard was referencing was known to the school for 30 years.)
VAN’s reporting also 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. (It remains unclear if Rouse’s alleged propositioning of auditioning student Suzanne Farrin violated school policies at the time, or if it would violate the school’s new policy prohibiting relationships between faculty and students.)
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. A list compiled by VAN of approximately 190 former Juilliard composition students between 1997 and 2021 (sourced via Juilliard’s publicly-available online archive), cross-referenced by those students’ biographical info, confirmed that only one female composer listed Corigliano as their former teacher.
Juilliard’s 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.” (Juilliard declined to make public data on Corigliano’s studio.)
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 VAN. It is unclear why Beaser contacted these students. Juilliard declined to comment on Beaser’s attempts to reach these students.
In interviews after the December publication, Beaser’s spokesperson, Joe Baerlein, criticized VAN’s reporting without explicitly denying any of the underlying allegations. “If some of these allegations that you’re looking at, if they go back to the 1990s,” Baerlein said, “then how the hell can he make a comment about that? Especially if he’s cycled through, say, 500 students.”
Baerlein ended his last interview with a comment on VAN’s decision to grant some of Beaser’s former students anonymity in the December article. “You know the danger of anonymous sources, right?” Baerlein asked repeatedly. (VAN’s reporting relied on interviews with 10 women, five of whom were not named due to fears of professional retribution.)
In addition to Juilliard, five organizations that were once professionally affiliated with Beaser have taken steps to distance themselves from him. 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.
“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. ¶
Subscribers keep VAN running!
VAN is proud to be an independent classical music magazine thanks to our subscribers. For just over 10 cents a day, you can enjoy unlimited access to over 650 articles in our archives—and get new ones delivered straight to your inbox each week.
Not ready to commit to a full year?
You can test-drive VAN for one month for the price of a coffee.