After an evening at the Concertgebouw, a famous violinist offers to drop Sophia home. She is just 18 years old at the time. Once in the car, he makes advances. "When I refused, he threw me out on the street, saying, 'then find a taxi yourself, whore!' After that, I was never asked for gigs again." 


In late June, Pointer asked for experiences of transgressive behavior in the world of classical music. To outsiders, this world is often characterized by shiny brass instruments, elegant costumes, and solemn-looking musicians and visitors. We received many responses to our call and held dozens of conversations with musicians. They revealed a different image than the clean and respectable reputation classical music is known for.

For instance, there's Giulietta story. As a freelance violinist, she traveled extensively, played with various orchestras and ensembles, and her unpleasant experiences date back to the conservatory where she studied. According to her, her violin instructor had somewhat of a claim on her. "You almost belong to someone. When I could take a lesson abroad through a fund, he completely lost it, accusing me of being chosen solely for my appearance."

Giulietta claims to have collected an abundance of stories ever since. Stories about a conductor who frequently entered the broom closet where she was pumping breast milk. An elderly concert pianist who placed his hand on her buttocks after a concert. The concertmaster of a major orchestra, who offered her private lessons but was already lying on his bed before she even entered the room. "Classical music has a soft image, a sector where this sort of thing supposedly doesn't happen. That's not true."

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Do you recognize the stories of Sophia and Giulietta? Our investigation into transgressive behavior in classical music continues. All tips, suggestions, and comments are welcome. Please fill in the form or reach out directly to Justus Cooiman or David van Unen. We guarantee discretion.

We also came into contact with Sophia. She was studying the violin at the conservatory when she received a guest lecture from the assistant of a famous composer. "I was an enthusiastic student and knew my parts well, so he noticed me quickly." In the evening, Sophia visited the man in his hotel suite for further study. Initially, they discussed the score, but soon enough, he began touching himself, lowered his pants, and pushed her head down, she recalls. "The next day, we had a premiere where his wife and children were present. I never dared to tell my then-boyfriend."


Sophia was young when it happened, which made her vulnerable, she says. "And you are much more vulnerable when you believe that everyone has good intentions. Everyone is passionately involved with music. With pieces that move you. You don't think about other intentions. Some men see that, and then you become prey."

Giulietta allowed more to happen than she'd like to admit. As a freelancer, she is often grateful for new opportunities. It's a small world where good relationships are valuable, both professionally and informally. "After a concert, you quickly end up at a bar together. It's fun until you're suddenly pulled onto someone's lap. Speaking up about it is very complicated." Sophia: "At the time, I froze completely. You just laugh, go along with the joke. That's how you try to deal with it."


We hear from many musicians that it's challenging to expose misconduct in the world of classical music. For this reason, names are pseudonyms in this article, and situations have been anonymized. Even if they are no longer active, many speakers indicate that they find it risky to share their story with their real names, fearing consequences and worried about their job prospects. Sabine: "But if everyone has their fingers in their ears, it creates an atmosphere where this is tolerated."

Sophia had many job opportunities as a freelancer with one of the country's largest symphony orchestras for several years. But when she didn't respond to sexual advances from someone in management, the flow of assignments dried up immediately. "I accepted it at the time, but it has nothing to do with music."