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Curtis Institute offers another apology — for voices ‘not heard at critical moments’

Friday’s apology does not address allegations by violinist Lara St. John or other women recounted in a recent Inquirer investigation. “Seems like they are apologizing to everybody but me," said St. John.

Roberto Diaz, president and CEO of the Curtis Institute, issued another apology.
Roberto Diaz, president and CEO of the Curtis Institute, issued another apology.Read more / File Photograph

Following an Inquirer investigation into sexual assault allegations at the Curtis Institute of Music, the school’s leadership Friday afternoon issued another apology — this one for “times in Curtis’ earlier history when the voices of its community members were not heard at critical moments when they needed the school to listen with empathy and support.”

The Inquirer article, published online July 25 and in print last Sunday, detailed an account by violinist Lara St. John that she was sexually assaulted as a Curtis student in the mid-1980s by her teacher, Jascha Brodsky, as well as instances in which her allegations were ignored by the school. The article also said that four other women were sexually pursued by Brodsky as well.

Friday’s apology did not address the allegations made by St. John or the other women in the article, nor did it acknowledge any incidents of sexual assault at the school.

Rather, the note, signed by Curtis president and CEO Roberto Diaz and board chair Deborah M. Fretz and distributed on social media and elsewhere, says that they "sincerely regret that our past institutional culture may not have always provided the safety net needed to thoroughly address the full gamut of our community’s needs.”

Diaz and Fretz did not respond to requests Friday to further explain.

Curtis spokesperson Patricia K. Johnson said that “they both feel that the statement today reflects everything there is to communicate about the steps we’ve taken so far.”

“Seems like they are apologizing to everybody but me. I find their statements really hollow,” St. John said Friday evening. “It’s disappointing at best. I think the Curtis management would have contacted me if they were serious about their intent to handle this properly."

»SPECIAL REPORT: Violinist says she was abused, silenced as a student at elite Curtis Institute.

Curtis’ initial reaction after publication of The Inquirer investigation was to ask its alumni and other constituents to "refrain from discussing the matter publicly, online, or on social media,” a directive that struck some as a continuation of the same culture of silence around sexual assault detailed in the newspaper’s investigation.

After public criticism of Curtis for attempting to quash discussion, Diaz issued a statement saying the school had communicated in a way that was “not consistent with our values. We have understandably lost your trust and for that I am profoundly sorry.”

Diaz and Fretz’s statement reiterated Curtis’ intention to set up a hotline “so that individuals from our community will have an additional channel to report inappropriate behavior from the past or present,” though the school again offered no details on how the hotline would be staffed or how reports would be handled.

The note encourages visiting the Curtis website section with state and federal guidelines relating to sexual misconduct, sexual or gender-based discrimination, and harassment.

“At Curtis," the note said, “we condemn sexual violence, racism, discrimination, harassment of any type, or any form of intimidation.”