Supporters of Enrique Graf
John Zeigler, College of Charleston Alumni Award of Honor Recipient: “He's never given students any drugs or made any sexual advancements to any of them. I know all this for a fact,” Zeigler said. “Absolutely wonderful man. Wonderful pianist. Wonderful teacher.” Marco Sartor, a classical guitarist and former College of Charleston student:
“Since I've known Enrique for 13 years, I would like to see further investigation where both sides are fairly represented.”
Maria Antunez, opera singer in Miami. “(Enrique is) an admirable person and a generous person like no other. I do not have children but if I did, I'd have no doubts of leaving my children with him.”
Supporters of a former College of Charleston professor have called the university's investigation of allegations that he coerced students into sex untrue, illogical and a joke.
Widely recognized artists from around the country called The Post and Courier and voiced support for internationally acclaimed pianist Enrique Graf.
Graf resigned last month from the college where he taught piano as a tenured professor, citing an unfair process and investigation by the school's leaders. His resignation and the sexual misconduct allegations were not publicly revealed until Thursday after the newspaper obtained documents on the investigation from the university. That also included allegations Graf used drugs with students. After the newspaper story ran, friends, former colleagues and students of Graf expressed disbelief and anger toward the college that some contend just wanted to get rid of Graf. They also criticized the newspaper for reporting on the investigation.
Graf has denied the accusations of misconduct against him to the college and in an email to the newspaper.
“The allegations that unfortunately are being written about me are absurd, baseless and untrue,” he wrote. College documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, detail three cases alleging inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual harassment with his male students: A recent College of Charleston student who alleged drug use with Graf and sexual misconduct between 2008 and 2012; a former piano student in Maryland who accused Graf of sexually abusing him in the 1980s, beginning when he was 16; and a former College of Charleston freshman who alleged Graf sexually abused him while he was his student in 1994.
Graf is alleged to have used his authority to intimidate students and threaten their potential careers or scholarships if they didn't engage in sex.
Graf appealed the college's recommendation for dismissal but resigned before the hearing took place, according to the college's documents.
'Best teacher I ever had'
Several former College of Charleston students of Graf's also called the newspaper to vouch for him. Walter Morales, now music director for the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra in Pittsburgh, said, “Best teacher I ever had. There was never any impropriety of any kind. He was always a gentlemen.”
Cindy Johnson worked with Graf at the College of Charleston and has known him since 1996. She said she spent time with Graf and his students at concerts and parties.
“I have never, ever seen anything that remotely suggested drug and alcohol issues and I have never seen anything but care and concern,” Johnson said.
Martin Nusspaumer credited Graf for success in his career as an opera singer with the Florida Grand Opera.
“In no moment, I'm being sincere, in no instant with him was there any improper behavior,” Nusspaumer said in Spanish in a phone interview from Miami.
Nusspaumer contended that the only logical reason for the college's actions is that it must have wanted Graf gone.
The college's chief of staff, Brian McGee, said he's stunned by that allegation.
“I'm confused by such claims because I have no reason to believe that anyone was dissatisfied with his work as a faculty member until these allegations were brought to us,” he said. Ciro Fodere is a teacher at a Miami arts school and studied with Graf for 10 years. Fodere said he knew the student who alleged sexual misconduct in 1994 at the College of Charleston because he too was a student at the time.
Fodere said the student lied and named him as a witness. “My name was brought in there with absolute lie,” Fodere said in broken English. “He was trying to get me to say things about Mr. Graf that weren't true.”
That student, whose name is blacked out in the university's documents, alleged that Graf showed him pornographic videos, masturbated in front of him, and threatened his scholarship.
The student subsequently withdrew his complaint and the case was dropped.
In his email to The Post and Courier, Graf denied any misconduct. Graf and his attorney contend that the college's investigation was sloppy, incomplete and failed to evaluate credibility issues with the accusers.
“Rather than subject myself to such a clearly biased proceeding and considering the level of acrimony between the administration and me, it was impractical and unappealing to consider continuing my career at the College of Charleston. Therefore, I opted to resign,” Graf wrote.
The College of Charleston's Public Safety Department is conducting a criminal investigation with the assistance of the State Law Enforcement Division.
Graf has not been criminally charged and police provided no further details.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.