Robert Fitzpatrick, 75, clarinetist and conductor, a fixture at the Curtis Institute of Music, and a member of the administrative team that failed to act on sexual-abuse claims by a teenage student at the famed music conservatory, has died.
Mr. Fitzpatrick died Monday in France after an illness, a Curtis spokesperson said.
“During his 23-year tenure, Fitzpatrick was central to numerous academic and technological developments at Curtis,” the school stated in an email this week to students, alumni, and others.
“While Fitzpatrick’s tenure as dean was marked by many achievements, it also was clouded by actions with which we are still reckoning,” the statement continued, citing a report it commissioned after an Inquirer investigation detailed allegations by violinist Lara St. John that, as a 14-year-old student at the school, she was sexually abused and raped over a period of months by violin professor Jascha Brodsky.
Mr. Fitzpatrick served as dean at Curtis from 1986 to 2009 and was dean of students and executive assistant to the director from 1980 to 1984.
While Curtis’ dean, he was key to the school’s accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 1993, its reciprocal arrangement with the University of Pennsylvania and the development and expansion of the school’s audiovisual and technological capacity, the school said in its email this week. For the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Fitzpatrick organized numerous European tours.
It was during Mr. Fitzpatrick’s second Curtis stint, in 1986, that St. John, then 15 years old, came forward with her experiences in Brodsky’s studio. The Curtis-commissioned investigation by the law firm Cozen O’Connor said that while St. John did not reveal to Fitzpatrick that Brodsky had raped her, she did disclose to him that the violin professor had sexually abused her. The report found St. John’s account of her experiences to be credible.
Mr. Fitzpatrick dismissed her complaint at the time, as detailed in the 2019 Inquirer investigation. He did speak privately with Brodsky about his “overt and inappropriate shows of affection toward some of his female students,” the Cozen O’Connor report stated, and St. John was moved to another teacher. Brodsky continued to teach at Curtis until just before his death in 1997.
In 2019, Mr. Fitzpatrick sent Curtis president and CEO Roberto Díaz a written apology and offered to apologize to St. John, said the law firm’s report. “At that time, I did what I thought was correct, but I now realize that my response was inadequate, especially in the eyes of the victim and according to current standards of institutional response,” wrote the former dean.
Mr. Fitzpatrick was himself Curtis-trained, graduating in 1968 and building a career that blended performing and administration. Born in Philadelphia, he also earned two music degrees from Temple University.
He was musical director of the Garden State Philharmonic from 1976-82, played with the Philly Pops from 1979-90, and was principal clarinetist of the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia. He performed with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia (previously called Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia) and as a freelance musician from 1963–2003.
He received awards from Temple and St. Joseph’s Prep, as well as a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for his graduate studies at Temple, says a biography provided by Curtis.
“He was a very strict dean,” said Alan Morrison, head of the Curtis organ department. “When I was a student, when you walked by his office you always felt like you were in trouble for something.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick’s presence in classrooms and concert halls seemed like a constant, said Morrison. “He was always at school for whatever event, student recitals, anything that was happening.”
After retiring from Curtis, Mr. Fitzpatrick moved to Paris. A Curtis spokesperson said the school knew of no surviving family.