The Amsterdam Conservatory terminated its collaboration with two instructors last year due to instances of sexual misconduct, as revealed in an investigation by Pointer. A third teacher, who had just retired, faced renewed complaints from (former) students last year, leading to his exclusion from the conservatory and extracurricular activities. The current management has confirmed these actions. 


The misconduct ranged from sexually suggestive remarks and WhatsApp messages to unwelcome physical contact and even sexual relations with a student. Several reliable sources have confirmed the latter. These transgressions occurred within two different departments of the largest conservatory in the Netherlands, with two of the three involved instructors working in the same department. Pointer interviewed various former students of that department who studied there between 2002 and 2020.

Alcohol and sex

They described a prevalent informal "drinking culture" where students and instructors would often gather at cafes after classes and recitals. Under the influence of alcohol, instructors would make verbal and physical advances toward students. They recounted instances of crude and sexist jokes and female students reporting unwanted touching. Additionally, instructors would sometimes offer home lessons, contrary to conservatory rules, and serve alcohol in those settings. In one account, a former student described being too intoxicated to bike home after such an evening and ended up staying the night at a teacher’s place.

Klassiek grensoverschrijdend gedrag

How our investigation into transgressive behavior in classical music came about

Deze vrouwen werden seksueel belaagd in de klassieke muziekwereld

These women experienced sexual harassment in classical music: ‘I was prey’

One of the two teachers involved in this particular case responded to Pointer’s regarding the allegations. He acknowledged that it was customary, and still is according to him, for students and teachers to frequent bars after recitals: "In general, you could describe the atmosphere as very relaxed due to the relief after a performance"... "Perhaps certain students were irritated by the informal atmosphere that existed at those moments between students and instructors and the comments made back and forth. He asserted that home lessons were standard practice at the Amsterdam Conservatory. However, he declined to comment on the sexual contact due to the "sensitive nature of this matter." The rest of his response can be found here.

Sexually suggestive messages

The third instructor, who lost his job last year, taught in a different department at the conservatory. He sent sexually suggestive WhatsApp and Facebook messages to at least three female students. Pointer obtained access to this message exchange, spanning over four years. In a few cases, the instructor messaged a student who was still a minor at the time, attending a summer camp for young musicians he had organized. When asked, this individual declined to respond to the accusations.

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Pointer spoke to dozens of (former) students who shared their stories, also from other institutions. According to them, conservatories are structured in a way that creates significant power and dependency relationships with instructors. Often, a principal instructor is with a student throughout their entire academic journey, and lessons are generally conducted one-on-one. Teachers also have control over auditions and exams, and through strong connections in the orchestral world, they can influence a graduate's career. Consequently, most students find it challenging to report misconduct.

Response of the Amsterdam Conservatory

Complaints about the behavior of two of the three former instructors had been previously filed with the Amsterdam Conservatory. It was only last year, under new leadership and when the former students raised their concerns again, that the conservatory ended its collaborations with these instructors. Director Okke Westdorp described the incidents to Pointer as "very regrettable." He stated: "What people have experienced is very painful and distressing. It's bitter that when someone has the courage to raise a signal and make a report, it somehow gets stuck." As a result, existing protocols and structures have been further reinforced. Westdorp added, "What we are currently working on is the culture. We're doing this through workshops and lectures and by maintaining open communication with instructors and staff. Culture is an ongoing process."

An external agency is currently investigating how social safety is perceived at the Amsterdam Conservatory. This ongoing research, conducted throughout the Amsterdam University of the Arts, is still in progress. The Association of Dutch Orchestras is organizing a meeting at the end of October where concerned parties will collectively consider the questions necessary to form a clear picture of social safety in the sector.

Pointer's coverage of transgressional behavior in classical music was aired on Sunday, October 1st on NPO2. The editorial team interviewed more than fifty (former) students and musicians associated with various orchestras and conservatories throughout the Netherlands. You can find an explanation of the research and the editorial choices here.