A world-renowned flute professor and performer faced accusations of sexually harassing students – some minors – at UC and elsewhere over two decades.
And he's still teaching, although no longer at UC.
The University of Cincinnati investigated complaints against then-professor Bradley Garner in October 2016 and found evidence of "unwanted sexual advances and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature," a "hostile environment" and conduct that was "severe, persistent or pervasive," according to a report completed by school investigators the following month.
The allegations date back to the late 1990s, the report concluded.
UC's preliminary report contained interviews with nine students who said Garner kissed them, touched them inappropriately or said inappropriate things to them. A former UC professor also told investigators he witnessed Garner’s sexual misconduct with students, including videos of Garner having sexual relations with two students.
Three of the nine students and the former professor made similar charges regarding Garner in interviews with The Enquirer. Two other women who studied with Garner detailed their own allegations of harassment to The Enquirer.
"If we were one-on-one, he tried to kiss me on my face," a 2016 CCM graduate told The Enquirer. "He makes the girls in the studio feel extremely uncomfortable and sexualized."
Another former student said she heard Garner say to a classmate: “I can tell by the way you play your instrument you are not good in bed. Would you ever have sex with a person the way you are playing this?”
In February 2017, the interim dean of UC's College-Conservatory of Music decided Garner should be fired.
Instead, the 61-year-old quietly retired from UC in December.
Garner, who taught at the university for 24 years, denied the accusations in documents provided to UC. He declined an interview with The Enquirer via his attorney.
In a sworn affidavit, Garner blasted UC's investigatory process.
"What should have been a simple investigation into false statements by two students instead turned into a wide-ranging, rumor-seeking, undisciplined witch hunt,” he wrote.
These accusations bring the recent national wave of sexual harassment allegations to Cincinnati's doorstep. Cincinnati native James Levine, one of the most prominent conductors in the world and former artistic director of the city's May Festival, is also among those who have been accused of sexual misconduct. He was recently suspended from The Metropolitan Opera.
Garner was banned from UC's campus during the investigation but remained on the faculty at Juilliard Pre-College in New York, a weekly program where he taught students under age 18, until June, according to a spokesman.
Garner, who owns a home in Newtown, Ohio, with his wife, is still teaching at Wildacres Flute Retreat, a summer program in North Carolina, and is an artist for Yamaha, both organizations confirmed. His attorney said Garner is still teaching master classes, or individual lessons in front of a group, for students around the world.
UC investigators found that Garner had a pattern of targeting Asian students and younger students – in at least a couple of cases, students younger than 18, the report says.
"He just was not afraid," a current CCM student told The Enquirer. "He was untouchable. He could say anything he wanted.”
Even students who witnessed incidents of harassment did not report them, the investigation found.
Everyone was afraid to speak up because of what Garner would do, the 2016 graduate said. "If you got on his bad side, he could trash your career." Even now, many of Garner's current and former students spoke to The Enquirer on the condition they not be named for fear of retaliation.
The Enquirer sought comment from UC President Neville Pinto; former CCM Dean Peter Landgren, who is now president of the UC Foundation; Interim CCM Dean Bruce McClung; and several other university and CCM administrators. All except UC spokesman Greg Vehr declined to comment or didn't respond.
"The faculty member in question was immediately barred from campus and from interactions with students and members of the campus community, pending the outcome of the investigation," Vehr said in a statement. "The University encourages all members of its campus community to continue to report concerns to the Title IX Office."
UC's report was the result of interviews with 21 prospective, current and former students, faculty and staff. Students' names were removed from the report UC provided The Enquirer in response to a public records request.
UC Title IX investigator Lauren Creditt Mai outlined multiple examples of what students called Garner's "systemic sexual harassment" in her report:
One student told investigators Garner said during a breathing demonstration, “I want you to breathe so low that the bottom of your pants pops open. I promise I won’t look … but maybe I will.”
Another student told investigators about Garner "smacking (her) on the butt" when she bent over to pick up her flute. Then he asked her to "bend over again."
Having sex with students. And filming it.
Garner set up a hidden camera and secretly filmed himself having sexual relations with students, former CCM adjunct professor Randy Bowman told investigators. Bowman said Garner showed him two of the videos.
Texting explicit messages to students.
Multiple students and a faculty member told investigators they heard about and saw sexually explicit texts Garner sent to students, including photos of his genitals.
According to the UC report, a student read investigators a sexually explicit text from Garner to her friend.
If the student had a negative reaction, students said in the report, Garner would say he sent the text by mistake and it was meant for his wife. One follow-up text read: “I am totally embarrassed and hope you won’t say anything about it, sweetheart.”
The messages “made your skin crawl,” one student told The Enquirer.
There are several statements, letters and a sworn affidavit from Garner in the investigative file in which he denies the accusations.
"The report shook me to my core," Garner wrote in his affidavit. "I have never struck any student on the buttocks. ... I never kissed (name redacted) inappropriately. ... I have never discussed my sexual life with (name redacted) nor have I made any sexual comments to her."
He also described his accusers as inferior students.
“Of the students I chose that year, she was among the weakest candidates," Garner wrote about one of the students who reported him. " ... She suffered from an acute lack of self-esteem.”
Despite Garner's rebuttal, McClung, the interim dean, found "the two student complainants' version of events to be credible and corroborated by twelve witnesses" and proposed to fire Garner in a Feb. 24, 2017, letter.
He brought international prominence to UC
Garner, who was already prominent in the music community as the first flutist to receive a doctoral degree from Juilliard, was hired in 1992 to build the CCM flute studio's reputation and attract top-quality students. And he did.
He traveled the world performing and teaching. He was on the faculty for Juilliard's prep program. He recorded and even helped design a flute line for Yamaha.
As his star rose, so did that of UC in the flute community. Talented young people came from all over the world to study with Garner in Cincinnati and then went on to prominent positions playing with major orchestras or teaching.
"Dr. Brad Garner is a vital force at CCM. His flute studio is arguably the best in the nation judging from his placements and the number of contest winners coming from there,” Ronald de Kant, the now-deceased former chair of CCM’s Department of Woodwinds and Brass, said in Garner’s review from 1999 to 2000.
Throughout his career, Garner performed as a soloist in Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He frequently played with the New York Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and elsewhere. He served on the board of directors of the National Flute Association.
His students were starstruck.
"You want to be a Bradley Garner student because that's going to mean that you're going to be successful and you're going to get a job," a 2017 CCM graduate told The Enquirer.
She said it'd be like a basketball player who's trying to get into the NBA having Steph Curry as a personal coach.
Numbers point to trouble in flute studio
In recent years, though, things started to sour.
Garner complained in his two most recent self-reviews that he was losing out on top recruits because he didn't have enough scholarship money from UC.
It was that drop in student enrollment that led to the investigation.
Michelle Conda, a new division head at CCM, was looking over enrollment data when she noticed the flute department was lower than it should have been.
One of Conda's graduate assistants – the boyfriend of a flute studio student – told her that decline could be because of Garner's behavior with female students. Conda offered to talk with the students who were experiencing harassment.
Then, Conda spoke up. She had taken UC's Title IX training just a week earlier, which said university employees must report even rumors of sexual misconduct, she told The Enquirer.
She and CCM Associate Dean Scott Lipscomb accompanied the two students to the Title IX office, where they shared detailed accounts of harassment in Garner's studio directed at them personally and at other students, the report said.
The day after the complaints were filed, UC suspended Garner with pay, barred him from all UC campuses and ordered him not to contact any UC students. Then, UC's Title IX Office started investigating.
In November 2016, Mai's report was completed. It collected allegations of Garner's behavior spanning nearly 20 years and extending off campus at retreats and festivals.
McClung, the interim dean, wrote in the letter to Garner a year ago that he found cause to fire Garner, a tenured professor, based on his conduct and also for disobeying the order not to contact UC students and faculty. The decision was subject to Garner's right to defend himself in a grievance panel hearing under the faculty’s union contract.
Ten months later, Garner announced his retirement from UC, before the disciplinary process was over. In a letter, he said the university refused to allow him to "fairly respond to false, scurrilous, and unproven allegations."
"With a heavy heart, and abject astonishment at the university's roughshod disregard of its faculty's due-process rights, I hereby retire."
Garner's lawyer, Subodh Chandra, told The Enquirer that Garner resigned because "university officials at every turn denied him due process: They denied him his right to be interviewed, his right to counsel and his right to a hearing with his counsel.”
Garner was making $142,677 a year at UC at the time. His personnel file says he retired "for personal reasons."
"While it’s tragic that students who came to the university to study with Dr. Garner have been deprived of that opportunity," Chandra said, "he will continue to teach master classes and perform throughout the world.”
Garner is still listed in the online faculty directories at New York University and Juilliard Pre-College, although a Juilliard representative said he's no longer on faculty.
UC spokesman Vehr said "appropriate notifications" were made during the investigation, but did not answer specific questions about whether UC notified police or Garner’s other employers of the Title IX and sexual harassment allegations.
"The university's processes worked as they should," Vehr said.
Allegations extend beyond CCM
The accusations of sexual harassment are centered in the CCM flute studio, but extend to national and international music festivals.
A professional flutist who lives in New York told The Enquirer she didn’t consider applying to CCM after she was “preyed upon” by Garner as a teenager. She was interviewed by UC investigators but spoke to The Enquirer in more detail about her experience on the condition of anonymity.
She said she met Garner at the 2007 Wildacres retreat when she was 16. After a few months of emailing, Garner performed at a flute convention near her home, she said. After his recital, she gave him a ride back to his hotel and he asked her to walk him up to his room, she said.
“I was thinking, 'This is weird, but I trust him. He’s a mentor. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s fine,'” she said.
Garner kissed her in the room, she said. He motioned for her to sit on the bed next to him, and when she did, he put his hand on her to lay her down, she said.
She remembers thinking, “I’m just a little girl. I don’t know how to defend myself. Is he going to be mad if I leave?”
Before he touched her any further, she ran out of the room and to her car, crying hysterically, she said.
“At the time, I thought that it was only me,” she said. “As I look back on it now … I wasn’t the first or the last.”
Another prospective student told investigators she met Garner while attending Vianden Music Festival in Luxemburg in 2012. She said he kissed her and when she pushed back, he said, “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.” He was the reason she didn’t apply to CCM.
It was there that allegations of sexual misbehavior persisted for close to two decades.
Keren Schweitzer, now a flute instructor at Cerritos College in California, told The Enquirer she was harassed by Garner while she was earning her master’s at CCM from 1995 to 1997. Schweitzer, who was not interviewed by UC, said she was alone with him in a room for hours during flute lessons and that's when the inappropriate behavior often occurred.
He would comment on her weight, Schweitzer said, and say things like, “What is it with you people? … Why are you Jews so good at music?"
“I would not have even thought to tell anybody because of his reputation,” Schweitzer said. “It would ruin my career. And who would believe me, anyway?”
Bowman, the former adjunct professor, told The Enquirer Garner's behavior was a "known secret" at CCM since the 1990s. He told investigators he specifically knew of at least six students Garner had sexual relationships with.
"It’s the abuse of power that goes along with a teaching position," said Bowman, who's also a principal flutist in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Bowman worked with Garner for years. He said he was troubled by Garner's behavior, but never reported it because he thought the affairs were consensual.
"I was in a quandary as to what I should do," Bowman said. "I’m relieved in a way that it’s all come out."
Bowman compared the situation to the investigation of rampant sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
He told investigators: “The only thing that is surprising is that this didn’t happen 20 years ago."