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James Levine accuser speaks about alleged abuse during time at Cleveland Institute of Music

Posted at 9:25 PM, Dec 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-09 09:52:30-05

Former Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and the former Music Director at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, James Levine has been accused of sexual abuse by four former students.

Some of the students studied under the famed conductor at the Cleveland Institute of Music in the late 1960s and Early 70s.

“The Cleveland Institute of Music is the school for orchestral playing,” said Albin Ifsich, one of Levine’s accusers.

Ifisich always knew he wanted to play violin. So what better place to study and who better to study with, than revered conductor, James Levine at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“I listened to what he said and it made sense to me at the time because I had no experience, I was a kid and in those days we were a lot more naïve,” he said.

It was at the Institute he says, Levine developed a sexual relationship with him and many other young men, all a part of a group they called, the Levanites, 20 devout students, of James Levine.

“I know it was abusive now but at the time I thought it was like, well we have to improve your bow arm or we have to improve your sense of rhythm and I can’t understand you musically unless I understand you sexually,” said Ifsich.

The sexual abuse and manipulation, Ifsich says, lasted for six years.

“A student teacher to me, that shouldn’t be. You shouldn’t trust a teacher who then does this. I find that a little bit worse,” he said.

Ifisch says the naive, young, impressionable students were quick to believe Levine.

“Didn’t see it as abuse, we saw it as a way to develop and better ourselves,” he said.

Ifsich is now one of four men accusing Levine of sexual abuse during his time as a teacher.

“Maybe I owe it to the next generation to at least explain what happened so it doesn’t happen again and maybe set the record straight. As I said, I don’t want vengeance, I just want the truth,” said Ifsich when asked why he came forward.

Levine has said all the abuse allegations against him are unfounded.

In response to this story, the Cleveland Institute of Music provided the following statement:

Everyone at the Cleveland Institute of Music deeply regrets the reported behavior of conductor James Levine during his tenure here from 1965-72. We are deeply troubled to hear of these incidents, and disturbed to confront evidence of a culture that simply would not be tolerated today.

From the moment I walked in the door in July 2016, I found a culture obsessed with creating and nurturing a safe, creative learning environment and a set of organizational practices that highly value transparency and service to our students. We have a rigorous requirement that every staff and faculty member attend regular training on preventing sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace. We talk with our students in a variety of forums about personal safety, and we actively encourage them to seek assistance from mental health and crisis counselors which we make available – through the extensive resources available through our partnership with Case Western Reserve University – to our entire student body.

CIM has a well-defined policy regarding sexual harassment and reporting and our Title IX officer and designated reporters thoroughly investigate all claims related to sexual discrimination and harassment.

Let me be clear: In this administration, if due process finds any member of the CIM community guilty of sexual misconduct, that person will be immediately terminated. There is absolutely no tolerance for behavior that puts our students at risk.

Paul W. Hogle, President & CEO of Cleveland Institute of Music

In response to this story, the Cleveland Orchestra provided the following statement:

James Levine last conducted The Cleveland Orchestra in 1970 and held the positions of Apprentice Conductor and Assistant Conductor from 1964 to 1970.

We are not aware of any complaints made during his time with the Orchestra.

Justin Holden, Director of Public Relations, The Cleveland Orchestra