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Cleveland Institute of Music postpones student concert in wake of protest

A person in blue jeans and carrying a white backpack walks past the Cleveland Institute of Music's Kulas Hall.
Annie Wu
Ideastream Public Media
After students at the Cleveland Institute of Music held a sit-in last Wednesday, the school postponed its student orchestra concert slated for Sept. 26

Just days after student demonstrations at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the school postponed its student orchestra’s upcoming performance at Severance. Students encouraged one another to wear blue as a sign of unity and to stage a sit-in Sept. 13 in protest of Carlos Kalmar, principal conductor and director of orchestral studies and the conducting program.

On Friday evening, CIM released a statement saying the administration and board respects the students’ concerns, and they are “working with them to create opportunities for discussion.”

The school also announced the postponement of the Sept. 26 concert at Severance, which has not yet been rescheduled.

The student orchestra, led by Kalmar, would have been in-rehearsal for the program of Sibelius and Shostakovich last week.

The student demonstrations come after Kalmar was cleared by CIM last month of accusations of inappropriate behavior. Meanwhile, student government has been circulating a petition calling for his resignation. A flyer about the protests said students have “lost trust” in him and are uncomfortable under his leadership.

Prior to the protest, administration told students via email that they “may receive an unapproved absence” for participating in the sit-in. Ideastream was not able to confirm if any students have been punished since the demonstration.

The protest stems from a Title IX investigation into allegations against Kalmar started in April. About 30 students, faculty and staff were interviewed by former U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon. In dismissing the case, acting Title IX coordinator Dean Southern said "the conduct was not on the basis of sex, nor was it so severe or pervasive as to create an objectively offensive environment such that it denies anyone equal access to educational opportunities at CIM based on gender." The school has not commented further on the allegations, protest or investigation.

After the investigation was announced, Title IX director Vivian Scott departed the institution for undisclosed reasons. In July, the school cut 15 percent of its administrative staff.

On Sept. 8, the editorial board of the Observer was highly critical of CIM’s handling of the investigation and questioned why Scott was removed. The paper is part of student media at CIM’s neighbor, Case Western Reserve University. The schools run a joint music program.

Uruguayan-born and Vienna-trained, Carlos Kalmar was named director of orchestral and conducting programs at CIM in 2021, following a three-year search. He left the Oregon Symphony after 18 years as its music director to take the post. He has been artistic director of Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival since 2000. Following the dismissal of charges, festival CEO Paul Winberg told the Chicago Tribune that the outcome “reinforces our decision this spring to move forward with Carlos Kalmar as our Artistic Director and Principal Conductor through the 2024 season.”

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.