Trinity Church conductor furloughed following investigation

Trinity Wall Street, one of New York’s wealthiest and most powerful churches, said on Saturday it was furloughing its high-profile music manager as it investigates an allegation of sexual misconduct against him. .

The director, Julian Wachner, a much-loved bandleader, composer and keyboardist who has been an integral part of the church for more than a decade, has been accused of sexual assault by a former Juilliard employee, Mary Poole. Ms Poole said in an interview with The New York Times that at a music festival in 2014, Mr Wachner pushed her against a wall, groped her and kissed her, and ignored her. stop requests. Mr. Wachner denies the charges.

In a statement to The Times on Saturday, Trinity did not mention Ms Poole’s name, but said the church first learned of ‘allegations of sexual misconduct’ against Mr Wachner last month on the networks social. Ms Poole recently posted a detailed account of her encounter with Mr Wachner on her social media accounts, saying: ‘I was totally raped.’

Trinity said it hired an outside attorney to investigate. “Julian was placed on administrative leave on March 1 and will remain on leave during the investigation,” the church said in its statement. “Trinity takes these allegations very seriously.”

Mr. Wachner, through a lawyer, denied the charges.

“We respect Trinity’s decision to conduct a thorough investigation,” said attorney Andrew T. Miltenberg. “Mrs. Poole’s outrageous allegations are categorically untrue and my client looks forward to the case being resolved. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.

Ms. Poole helped organize a 2014 Juilliard Festival in Aiken, SC, which featured Mr. Wachner and the famous Trinity Choir. During the interview, Ms Poole said that one evening at a house where Juilliard staff members were staying, Mr Wachner asked her to bring him a drink. As she was making the drink in the kitchen, she said, he pushed her against a wall and began groping and kissing her for almost two minutes, even as she repeatedly told him to stop.

Two people interviewed by The Times – a friend of Ms Poole and a former colleague – recalled hearing Ms Poole describe the details of meeting Mr Wachner at the time. Ms Poole said she did not report the incident to the police as she was in another state and pressing for time in the middle of a tour.

In the interview, Ms Poole, who was 24 at the time, said she felt powerless against Mr Wachner, an influential figure in the classical music industry. “I felt like I couldn’t defend myself,” she said, adding that at the time she feared she would face professional consequences if she spoke out. She said she still had panic attacks which she attributes to the encounter.

Ms Poole reported the incident to Juilliard, who pledged not to hire Mr Wachner again.

In a statement on Saturday, Juilliard said it was aware of “unacceptable conduct” by Wachner in 2014.

“Sexual misconduct or discrimination is not tolerated at Juilliard, and we take all allegations very seriously,” the school said in a statement. “At the time, we offered our full support to Ms. Poole and informed Mr. Wachner that he would not be invited back to Juilliard in the future. Since that time, we have had no relationship with Mr. Wachner.

Trinity, one of the wealthiest churches in the city, has a portfolio of office buildings, equity investments and residential development worth $6 billion – and a critically acclaimed music program .

As director of music and arts, Wachner oversees the church choir, its baroque orchestra, and its contemporary ensemble, which together present hundreds of events each year. He is perhaps best known for his annual performances of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ – in 2018 The Times credited him with conducting “New York’s best ‘Messiah'”. He has been nominated for Grammy Awards and has collaborated with leading organizations including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Los Angeles Opera.

In recent months, Wachner has has emerged as one of three finalists to become the next artistic director of the famed Oregon Bach Festival. The festival did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

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