Former Music Humanities professor Johannes Somary sexually abused high school students at the Horace Mann School, according to an article in the New York Times Magazine.
Somary, who died last year, taught at Horace Mann from 1959 through 2002, and then at Columbia in 2009 and 2010.
The article details the stories of several Horace Mann graduates who say they were sexually abused by faculty members there in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. Somary is one of three faculty members mentioned in the article as having abused his students.
There was no indication in the article that Somary abused students at Columbia. Somary was a respected composer and the founder of Amor Artis, a well-known chorus.
One Horace Mann graduate—identified in the article by his initials, E.B.—said that Somary assaulted him on at least two occasions, when he was 16. Another graduate—identified in the article as M.—said that Somary abused him for three years, starting one night when Somary took him for a drive and began kissing him.
"I didn’t know what to do. I was just a child. I didn’t have the ego strength to say no," M. said. "I was shocked, uncomfortable, but I let it persist. He unzipped my pants and started to masturbate me.”
A third Horace Mann graduate, Benjamin Balter, accused Somary of abusing him back in 1993, but the school’s administration was unresponsive. Balter tried unsuccessfully to kill himself at the time, before committing suicide in 2009.
Before the publication of the article on Wednesday, there had been few indications, at least publicly, that Somary abused his students. In an obituary published by Spectator last year, one of Somary’s Columbia students praised him for his enthusiasm and vivacity.
“He walked up to every Music Humanities class on the 7th floor of Hamilton. We [the students] would come in panting or would take the elevator, but he was always so composed,” Emily Steinberger, CC ’10, said. “He loved life and tried to transmit his joie de vivre to his students.”
Music professor Susan Boynton said at the time that many students described Somary as “the best professor they’d encountered at Columbia.”
“I’m the chair of Music Hum, so I read all the course evaluations, and the students just loved him, raved about him,” Boynton said.