November 14, 2019

To begin to understand the unusual power equation at play between teacher and student at the Curtis Institute of Music, consider something one former student said: When she was studying there, her music professor told her that if she didn’t follow his philosophy of teaching and playing, he would have her sent back to her home country.

It’s not tough to see how this lopsided power dynamic might lead to the kinds of abuses now being investigated at the famed music conservatory on Rittenhouse Square. In the wake of an Inquirer report in July detailing allegations of rape and other forms of sexual misconduct, the school said last week it has hired Cozen O’Connor to investigate any claims of sexual misconduct past or present.

Some have questioned whether decades-old incidents are still relevant. But there are good reasons for taking the long view, says Michael Dolce, who heads the sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and domestic abuse team at the Cohen Milstein law firm in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

“The only way to assess the attitude that permeates the institution today is to look at the entirety of what’s happened over the last 20 or 30 years — not just whether the same people are involved, but how the sensibilities have been handed down and may apply to the leadership today,” he says.

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