The Cleveland Orchestra suspended concertmaster William Preucil (with pay) in July over allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Preucil, who has served as concertmaster since 1995, was suspended in response to a recent Washington Post exposé, in which violinist Zeneba Bowers accused Preucil of sexual misconduct in 1998.
Bowers, who is the assistant principal second violinist of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, told the Post that Preucil invited her back to his hotel in Miami, where she was working with the New World Symphony at the time, and once in his room, started “aggressively kissing her, opening her buttons, pushing her onto the bed.” After she fought him off and ran home, Bowers says Preucil called and “threatened to blacklist her if she told anybody.”
The Cleveland Orchestra’s executive director Andre Gremillet said in a statement that the organization “was not aware of the allegations reported by the Washington Post about William Preucil in their July 26, 2018 article.” He added: “We take this matter very seriously and will promptly conduct an independent investigation.”
Bowers’ account is not the first time Preucil has been accused of sexual misconduct. The Post cited another violinist, who wished to remain anonymous and was also a former member of the New World Symphony. She said Preucil invited her to his hotel room and asked her to “let me lick you all over” in 2000. And, according to a 2007 article in the Cleveland Scene, in 2004, Preucil allegedly made an unwanted advance toward a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he was a faculty member.
“When the relationship threatened to become public, CIM paid for the student to transfer schools and continue her musical education elsewhere,” reported the Scene.
Preucil tendered his resignation from CIM the day after his suspension from the Cleveland Orchestra.
Though Preucil is still on the Cleveland Orchestra’s payroll—and is its highest paid member, earning $579,030, according to an IRS Form 990 filing from 2016—at least three music organizations have canceled scheduled appearances by Preucil: the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Grand Teton Music Festival, according to the Post.
On her personal Facebook page, Bowers continued to urge fellow musicians and organizations to step up, support women, and take action. “Will you now say something to your management?” she wrote.
“Will you now take the step forward to support your female colleagues when you see this kind of [behavior] going on? I know that is a big step, but it is a step we all need to take.”
Anna Pulley is Strings‘ associate editor.