Trinity Church Fires Conductor After Misconduct Accusation

An allegation of sexual misconduct against the music director of Trinity Wall Street, a prominent New York City church, led to his dismissal on Monday.

As part of its ongoing investigation into an allegation dating back to 2014, Trinity announced on Saturday that it had placed acclaimed director of music and the arts Julian Wachner on leave. The church’s rector, the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, said in a statement on Monday that Mr. Wachner had been fired.

According to the church’s statement, “The investigation is ongoing, and thus the investigator has not yet made any determination about the 2014 allegations.” Still, we have come to the conclusion, based on recent information, which is inconsistent with our expectations of anyone who holds a leadership position, that Julian has otherwise conducted himself. Therefore, Trinity has decided that Julian’s employment with Trinity will come to an end today.”

Mary Poole, a former employee of the Juilliard School, made the claim. Ms. Poole claimed in an interview with The New York Times that Mr. Wachner pushed her against a wall, groped her, and kissed her in 2014 at a music festival in Aiken, S.C., despite her repeated requests for him to stop.

Mr. Wachner denies the allegations made about him. In an email sent to him on Monday, his lawyer, Andrew T. Miltenberg, expressed disappointment that Trinity had taken action before conducting a thorough investigation. Depriving Mr. Wachner of the full narrative is an antithesis of due process and allows distortions to prevail over the truth,” he writes in the New York Times.

An old friend and a former coworker of Ms. Poole’s remembered hearing her describe her encounter with Mr. Wachner when they were both interviewed by The Times. Due to time constraints, Ms. Poole said she did not report the incident to the police because she was on a tour and in another state at the time of the incident. She did inform Juilliard of the incident, and on Saturday the school announced that it had learned of Mr. Wachner’s “unacceptable conduct” in 2014 and would not be rehiring him.

“Juilliard’s statement, which Mr. Wachner saw for the first time in The New York Times, is flawed and erroneous,” Mr. Miltenberg, Mr. Wachner’s lawyer, said on Monday. ‘Mr. Wachner continues to dispute the nearly ten-year-old, misleading and untrue allegations made against him,’ he said.”

According to a recent interview with Ms. Poole, she applauded Trinity’s firing of Mr. Wachner and stressed the importance of the church conducting a thorough investigation into his conduct.

As she stated, “I hope this is the beginning of a bigger conversation about how we handle harassment in classical music,” she said. “In the workplace, everyone must be held to the same standards of appropriate behaviour.”

As a conductor and a composer, Mr. Wachner led Trinity’s critically acclaimed choir, Baroque orchestra, and contemporary-music group. Perhaps their most well-known annual production is Handel’s Messiah, in which Mr. Wachner is credited with leading “the best Messiah’ in New York,” according to The Times in 2018.

Earlier this year, he was named one of three finalists to lead the prestigious Oregon Bach Festival as its next artistic director. Requests for comment have gone unanswered by the festival.