Overdue Housecleaning: Suzuki #MeToo

William Preucil has long been one of Suzuki’s biggest success stories.  Heralding from the first family of American Suzuki, he traveled the world as a young performer.  Early in adulthood, he established himself as a first-rate concertmaster, holding the post with several prominent orchestras.  He settled into the top job at The Cleveland Orchestra in 1995.   Due to his stature in the field, Preucil has been called the most powerful concertmaster in America.  We Suzuki kids know him best, however, as the torchbearer of the Suzuki Sound – it is Preucil’s playing that has long graced the recordings of the Suzuki Violin School.  Since learning by listening is at the heart of Suzuki’s pedagogy, those of us on the Suzuki path have spent many hours listening to and trying to emulate his bright, crisp technique and solid intonation.

But for years, we now know, William Preucil used his position as one of the most powerful musicians in the world as a platform from which to sexually harass and abuse young women.  In July, the Washington Post broke the story that, apparently, had been an open secret for years.  Indeed, in 2006 Rebecca Meiser published a story in the Cleveland Scene that detailed a specific incident and a cloud of rumors that even then stretched back many years.  Last month, after a long-overdue internal investigation by The Cleveland Orchestra, Preucil was fired.  Suzuki is also, finally, after years of grumbling from some teachers, mounting a project to re-record its violin school repertoire.  Meiser recently posted this entry at Cleveland Magazine, which ponders the question that many of us have puzzled over since the fall of Harvey Weinstein last year: What the hell took so long?

I don’t have any answers.  I do know that I watched in horror as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, tainted by the strong testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, resulted in two of the nine seats on the highest court in the United States being occupied by men against whom remarkably credible and specific allegations of sexual impropriety have been publicly discussed.  We also have a well-known and boastful serial groper in the White House.  Manifestly, large percentages of the public remain willing to excuse (dare we say reward?) even egregious sexual misconduct.

I suspect our collective tolerance has something to do with the ubiquity of the problem; virtually all of us have seen sexual misbehavior up close.  We all have plenty of stories to tell, if not about ourselves then about others dear to us.  I was touched to read that Meiser, the first reporter to publish a story on Preucil over a decade ago, now makes working with young women a big part of her vocation.  She says, “I urge them to speak out, even if it seems as if no one is listening.”

Hear, hear.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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