Principal Conductor of Cleveland Institute of Music is Under Investigation
Carlos Kalmar is facing a Title IX investigation following allegations against him for inappropriate behavior
The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) has initiated a Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) inquiry into Carlos Kalmar, after accusations of his “inappropriate behavior.” He was appointed CIM's principal conductor and director of orchestral studies in 2021.
A federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal funding, Title IX is being coordinated by Vivian Scott at CIM, who addressed the claims about Kalmar in an email that was sent to students on April 27, 2023.
“It was with great horror that I read one of Carlos Kalmar’s course evaluations,” Scott wrote. “This is not the first time that I have heard his name — detailing inappropriate behavior of varying degrees.”
“I am conducting an investigation into Mr. Kalmar’s behavior, but I need your help...If you have experienced (or observed) behavior on Mr. Kalmar’s behalf that can be considered sexual harassment, please contact me if you are willing to provide details.”
Kalmar has denied the allegations against him. As reported by Cleveland.com, his attorney, James Wooley, stated that Kalmar “has never been accused of wrongdoing in his impeccable 40-plus-year career,” and that “Title IX matters are confidential under federal law…He has done nothing wrong. We have nothing more to say about the matter.”
In addition to his roles at CIM, Kalmar is the principal conductor for the Grant Park Music Festival and was music director of the Oregon Symphony for 18 years. He has undergone scrutiny before — in 2009, the Portland Monthly criticized his treatment of musicians, pointing to a 2006 incident where he abruptly fired longtime principal flutist Dawn Weiss, leading to the voluntary departures of six other musicians.
“We are not going to go into detail about any personnel issues, but as with any situation like this one, CIM will conduct a thorough and fair investigation,” stated CIM spokesperson Kathleen Drohan. “We have retained an outside, independent party to conduct this investigation. To protect the process and privacy of all involved, we do not plan to comment any further.”
“Under the federal regulations, Kalmar is presumed “Not Responsible,” observed the Friedman Nemecek & Long law firm. “From a legal perspective, Vivan Scott’s statements are concerning, as she has already given credibility to the Complaint at issue, alleging that this is not the first allegation of inappropriate conduct,” they continued. “Questions must be raised about whether the Institute is capable of conducting the fair and impartial investigation they are required to conduct in light of Ms. Scott’s comments.”
Since the allegations, CIM’s students have called for transparency and sought assurances from CIM leaders of their professional safety in case they come forward with allegations.
“There’s a lot we just haven’t heard from the administration, a lot of questions haven’t been answered yet,” said student government graduate ambassador Sol Rizzato, serving as the liaison between students and the administration. “It can be very scary when you’re working with people in an established position of power. People that start speaking out have tended to get a lot of blowback…There’s no issue that is too small to report.”
Additionally, the launch of the investigation recently saw former longtime music critic Anne Midgette decline an honorary doctorate and keynote presentation from CIM that was to take place on May 20, 2023 — for which CIM has yet to announce a replacement.
Midgette was the first woman to write about classical music on a regular basis for the New York Times, and became known for her 2018 #MeToo article in the Washington Post, which saw her and reporter Peggy McGlone uncover allegations of sexual harassment against former Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil, who was also a CIM faculty member at the time. Their reporting resulted in Preucil’s resignation from CIM and dismissal from the orchestra.
“It is not usual for multiple people to come forward to a journalist they don’t know,” Midgette said, after hearing from many staff and faculty about the allegations against Kalmar following Scott’s email. “I felt that the school needs to improve its internal culture. It’s not OK to have so many people so upset and I don’t want to endorse that because I’ve worked so hard to try to improve things.”
“I was essentially hearing the same story over and over. I didn’t have anybody come in with, ‘Oh, no, that’s not true.’ Everybody was amplifying what the others had said,” she explained of her final decision to decline CIM’s honorary doctorate. “I spoke to enough people to feel that it was just not going to be appropriate for me to be there…I am rooting for the school to work out its problems and be able to celebrate and truly foster all that great potential.”