Guest composer uninvited to School of Music due to sexual assault accusations

Guest composer uninvited to School of Music due to sexual assault accusations

Dr. Dan Welcher, a professor of composition at the University of Texas Butler School of Music, was accused of making multiple inappropriate sexual remarks and advances toward his students over the past two decades. The School of Music at the University of Redlands found out about these allegations on September 27th  2019. They had previously invited Dr. Welcher in January as a guest composer for the Frederick Loewe Symposium that has happened bi-annually since 2011, but have since cancelled his visit.


Students at the University of Redlands School of Music were the first to bring attention to an article published in Van Magazine, which shed light on the many allegations against Dr. Welcher from his former and current students. Although alerting professors to Welcher’s actions meant giving up the opportunity to perform with him at the symposium, the students did not hesitate. According to Co Nguyen, a professor and orchestra conductor at the School of Music, the students responded well to the news.


“The student response has been very proactive, very good… they actually had a very measured, very mature response,” Nguyen said. 


The original article that exposed Dr. Welcher’s action was written by Sammy Sussman, a junior studying composition at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater, and Dance. He discovered that many of his peers had experienced sexual abuse from Welcher when they previously attended the Butler School of Music. Realizing how widespread the reports were, Sussman decided to write an article to alert the University of Michigan, as well as other schools.


Dr. Joseph Modica, the interim director of the School of Music, said in an email to students and staff that “after careful consideration, I have decided to cancel Dr. Welcher’s visit to our campus.” Nguyen explained that when staff learned of the allegations, it only took about 28 hours for the university to respond and cancel Dr. Welcher’s visit. 


Although this takes place at a time when the School of Music is currently searching for a permanent director, Nguyen emphasized that it had no effect on how quickly staff and administrators came together to take action. 


“As a woman, I am very happy to live in this day and age,” Nguyen said.


Nguyen explained that when she was a young woman in school, she often heard rumors about sexual misconduct of well-known musicians and artists from her peers. However, she feels much more comfortable now that people can speak out against their abusers. 


In the world of art, it can be difficult for young musicians or actors to advance, and, historically, instructors in places of power have a “cult following,” Nguyen explained. This has enabled them to use their advantage to sexually abuse and exploit their students, promising them that it will help them move forward in their careers. 


Nguyen thinks that by cancelling Welcher’s visit, the School of Music is sending a message that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated any longer, especially in the artistic world. Professors have even gone so far as to discourage students from playing Dr. Welcher’s music, as it does not send the message of positivity they strive for. 


The School of Music has already paid for the symposium, causing them to be unable to afford another event. They have also completely cancelled the symposium, so students will not be playing Welcher’s music. Although Nguyen expressed her disappointment and frustration with what happened, she knows it will influence how the School of Music chooses guest composers in the future in order to ensure the safety of all students.

[hr gap=””] Photograph by Miracle Cariaga.