High culture superstar sexual harassment claim

The mass wave of accusations of past sexual harassment by stars has reached the world of classical music. The Chicago Tribune reports:

James Levine, who spent decades as music director of the Ravinia Festival and the Metropolitan Opera, is being investigated by authorities in Lake County following a man’s report that the famous conductor molested him starting when he was 15.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim confirmed that the report was made to the Lake Forest Police Department, which has referred the case to his office.

“It’s information we’re reviewing,” he said Saturday.

The man who reported Levine to police met the conductor during Levine’s time as music director at Ravinia, a stint that spanned from 1973 to 1993.

This saddens me, though it doesn’t surprise me at all. I have a glancing familiarity with the world of classical music.  Though less appreciated in America than elsewhere, the glamour and competitiveness of classical music is intense. Mentorship plays an enormous role, because it is a craft that can be taught.  There are many opportunities, including Ravinia, for young artists to rub shoulders and more with high level musicians. And the time and favor of a great artist, especially teaching, van be a tremendous benefit to a talented youngster with ambition.

Human nature being what it is, in these circumstances of opportunity, there will, be transgressors who take advantage of the lopsided power relationship. High cultural status conveys no exemption.

Levine has been a superstar in this realm for a long time.

James Levine 2016

James Levine 1987

There is a possibility the claim is false, but the police are taking it seriously. Even if this claim is false, there will others, because I am certain that this sort of thing has been going on since classical music became a favorite of European aristocracy.  Opportunity plus human nature plus ethics that did not see it as outrageous, just private and maybe a little shameful, plus no social media.

That last point is the key to why waves of truth-telling are sweeping across every field that has celebrities. Inevitably, there will be some untruth-telling as well, and it will not be easy or pretty. We are in uncharted territory now. The only certainty is that there will be excesses.

The mass wave of accusations of past sexual harassment by stars has reached the world of classical music. The Chicago Tribune reports:

James Levine, who spent decades as music director of the Ravinia Festival and the Metropolitan Opera, is being investigated by authorities in Lake County following a man’s report that the famous conductor molested him starting when he was 15.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim confirmed that the report was made to the Lake Forest Police Department, which has referred the case to his office.

“It’s information we’re reviewing,” he said Saturday.

The man who reported Levine to police met the conductor during Levine’s time as music director at Ravinia, a stint that spanned from 1973 to 1993.

This saddens me, though it doesn’t surprise me at all. I have a glancing familiarity with the world of classical music.  Though less appreciated in America than elsewhere, the glamour and competitiveness of classical music is intense. Mentorship plays an enormous role, because it is a craft that can be taught.  There are many opportunities, including Ravinia, for young artists to rub shoulders and more with high level musicians. And the time and favor of a great artist, especially teaching, van be a tremendous benefit to a talented youngster with ambition.

Human nature being what it is, in these circumstances of opportunity, there will, be transgressors who take advantage of the lopsided power relationship. High cultural status conveys no exemption.

Levine has been a superstar in this realm for a long time.

James Levine 2016

James Levine 1987

There is a possibility the claim is false, but the police are taking it seriously. Even if this claim is false, there will others, because I am certain that this sort of thing has been going on since classical music became a favorite of European aristocracy.  Opportunity plus human nature plus ethics that did not see it as outrageous, just private and maybe a little shameful, plus no social media.

That last point is the key to why waves of truth-telling are sweeping across every field that has celebrities. Inevitably, there will be some untruth-telling as well, and it will not be easy or pretty. We are in uncharted territory now. The only certainty is that there will be excesses.

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