An open letter to the arts community
In March 2014, I was engaged by Juilliard to work at their residency in Aiken, South Carolina. At a post-concert reception, the administrator of the department of Historical Performance, Mary Poole, and I had a few drinks together and were very publicly flirting. This led to us leaving the reception together, with her driving. We joked that it was a LEXUS RX, the exact same model I had, and that we had the same taste in cars. We ended up first at a donor’s house where we kissed briefly in the kitchen and then she drove us back to my hotel room where we spent hours talking and kissing by the living room fireplace in my suite. She kept saying that the other conductor on the tour was boring and no good, and she wished she had hired me, and intended to do so in the future. I shared that I wasn’t sure about my marriage and that Emily and I had moved too quickly to get married. Everything physical (limited to kissing) was totally consensual and often initiated by Mary.
The next morning, Saturday, it was clear that she had regretted being with me and said, “you’ll be hearing from me later.” I tried to reach out to her later that day by email and on Facebook and sent her a sincere apology after receiving a note from her that made it very clear she was unhappy about our consensual activities the evening before. This is the communication that has now been so widely spread on social media and has been tweaked to imply maximum proof of guilt. I was immediately incredibly afraid, and later that day, I got a lawyer.
The following Monday, I had lunch with a high-level member of Juilliard’s faculty. I told him what had happened, and that I was concerned. He said I was overreacting and that what happens between two consenting adults shouldn’t be categorized as sexual harassment. Later that afternoon, I received a note from Mary’s supervisor, Ben Sosland, informing me that I was being investigated as a title IX case. I went home and told my wife about what had happened.
The title IX investigation then gets murky. Juilliard reached out to my lawyer with a boilerplate questionnaire which he refused to fill out, requesting the exact allegations. We never heard from Juilliard again. They never even asked for my side of the story, unless the professor shared what I had told him at lunch.
The results of my actions that evening, particularly the extended intimate discussion of my marital problems with a strange woman in front of the fireplace in my hotel suite, which any spouse would find unforgivable, were two years of individual and couples therapy where several times we almost decided to divorce. Emily and I worked very hard to get over this infidelity to her, and I’ve been living my amends ever since – doing my best to provide for my family and raise our two beautiful, innocent children, Tabitha (age 2) and Tallis (age 5).
Several months later in 2014, the same Juilliard professor and I were having lunch together again and I asked him about the status of the title IX investigation, since I was never interviewed by Juilliard, nor had my lawyer or agent been informed of any outcome. He replied, “I wouldn’t worry about it, it’s just a piece of paper in a file.”
That’s the last we heard of the investigation until Monday, February 28, 10pm when a blood-curdling cry came from my wife’s office. At that moment she and I immediately called the Rector of Trinity, when Emily grabbed my phone out of my hand and spoke directly to Father Phil saying, “I am fully aware of this woman and of everything that actually occurred in 2014. Please believe and know: this was a totally consensual event between two adults, both in positions of power.” Emily then looked at me and said, “I love you so much, and I love our family. You are an excellent husband and an amazing father – you know we are going to lose everything, and your career is over because it’s 2022.”
And that is exactly what has happened: we are going to need to file for bankruptcy, we’ve put the house on the market, and are planning to move in with Emily’s parents in Indiana. Thank you to my mother-in-law for paying for our lawyer, we couldn’t have survived this long without your help. Thank you to my mother for being such a loving source of support. And thanks and love to all the hundreds of friends who reached out and to the many others who were told not to reach out. We also have incredible respect for the “Believe Women” movement, as our political leaning has always been to lift up the silenced voices of our human race. It’s just that this is NOT one of those cases.