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campus academics & research

Demondrae Thurman no longer serving in Jacobs School of Music roles after sexual misconduct allegations

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Editor’s Note: This story mentions depictions of sexual misconduct. For anyone wishing to report a sexual assault or find help, a list of resources is provided at the end of the article. 

As of noon, April 29, Demondrae Thurman — IU professor of music in euphonium, chair of the brass department and executive associate dean of the Jacobs School of Music — has been removed from all roles in the Jacobs School of Music after a former music student at the University of British Columbia made allegations of sexual misconduct against Thurman in a Facebook post made April 28. It’s unclear if this removal is temporary, or if it was initiated by IU or Thurman himself. 

Claire Pollock was 18, still a high school senior in Alberta, Canada, when her brass band flew Thurman out to St. Albert, Alberta, in April 2018. At the time, Thurman had been teaching at multiple universities. His appointment to IU was announced in 2017, and he began his tenure in August 2018. 

Pollock played the euphonium, a brass instrument with a close resemblance to a tuba or baritone, but with a fuller, darker sound. Meeting Thurman, who has been called one of the most respected euphonium players in the world, was an exciting opportunity for Pollock. The attention he gave her during the weekend her band flew him out, including insisting he sit next to her when she and her bandmates went to the bar to celebrate on April 14, 2018, made her feel special. But as the night went on, he made inappropriate comments, put a hand on her thigh and promised to teach and guide her in music, she wrote in her Facebook post. 

According to her post, Thurman invited her to his hotel room that night, assuring her that she would “call the shots.” She wrote that she hoped it would be a conversation about music but quickly realized it wasn’t.  

He was in his early forties and married, and Pollock made it clear she was uncomfortable with a sexual relationship. He pressured her into stripping for him and performed oral sex on her before attempting to get her to do the same, according to the post. 

After that night, Thurman continued to message Pollock over Facebook, allegedly sending sexual photos and videos while simultaneously attempting to serve as an educational resource and mentor. Pollock described the behavior as “grooming,” which describes a person’s attempt to form a connection with people, usually minors, in order to manipulate them into an abusive, often sexual, relationship.  

Years later, as a student at UBC, she told her private instructor about her experience with Thurman. Pollock said in an interview with the IDS that it was then she realized the relationship was not normal and officially cut ties. In messages obtained by the IDS, Pollock confronted Thurman about the night in the hotel room in 2018.  

In response, Thurman apologized but rejected the notion his influence played a role in the encounter.  

“I felt it was equal footing that we ended up there,” he wrote. 

When Pollock tried to explain the power imbalance due to Thurman’s status as an acclaimed musician, Thurman texted that he understands the concept but that it didn’t apply to him.  

“I just don’t think that way,” he wrote. “I was attracted to you. It was that simple.” 

Thurman did not respond to a request for comment by publication. IU Executive Director of Media Relations Mark Bode directed the IDS toward a statement from Jacobs Dean Abra Bush and said he could not comment on personnel matters. 

The IU Euphonium Studio wrote in a statement on Facebook, published May 6, that they refuse to accept a potential future where Thurman returns to the school and have removed all photos of him from their page. The studio also expressed gratitude to those who brought their stories forward. 

“We admire your courage and bravery, and we believe you wholeheartedly. There is a long and pervasive culture in the brass world of silencing survivors and anyone experiencing harassment or discrimination,” the post read. “This culture is in need of major changes, and this studio is committed to being a part of the change.” 

Along with his former roles in Jacobs, Thurman plays in the internationally acclaimed Sotto Voce Tuba Quartet with Mike Forbes, a former Illinois State University professor who has faced allegations of sexual misconduct from several different individuals in the early 2000s, according to court records. ISU’s Office of Diversity and Affirmative Action found the allegations to be unsubstantiated, though ISU ultimately informed Forbes they were terminating him in 2006 for the number of the allegations made in a short period of time against him and his failure to follow directions from ISU staff for how he should behave at parties with students. Forbes is currently an instructor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. 

***

After Pollock’s post — where she includes a photo of Thurman and her at a bar — Jacobs Dean Abra Bush addressed the allegations in a statement and convened a meeting in the Musical Arts Center on April 29. There, she confirmed Thurman was no longer serving in his Jacobs positions and fielded concerns from students, who pointed to a persistent sexual misconduct problem in the music industry.  

In 2016, IU fired a senior lecturer at Jacobs following an investigation into a sexual assault report filed by a student. In 2023, Juilliard fired the head of its composition department after investigators found allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct to be credible. Countless other musicians have come forward about the harassment and assault they experienced while in lessons or at performances across the country.  

The town hall also comes just a few years after IU’s decision to not follow through with expulsion or criminal charges for a jazz studies student for violating the terms of his suspension after being found responsible in a sexual misconduct Title IX case. The decision drew protests and town halls in the spring of 2022, and speakers at April’s meeting echoed a feeling that their concerns had still gone unaddressed two years later.  

During the meeting, Bush emphasized her commitment to reducing sexual misconduct at IU but outlined the many constraints she and other Jacobs administrators faced. 

“I think sometimes we get screamed at because people assume that we've made these decisions,” Bush said. “They're not our decisions to make — they're made in central university offices.” 

During the meeting, leaders detailed improvements made in recent years, including a relatively new policy where tenured faculty hires are required to sign a release to allow IU to ask a previous institution if there have been findings about the faculty member. This policy also allows the university to solicit a letter from an individual of their choosing from the previous institution.  

“I will say, is it enough? Maybe not,” Bush said. “But we have to continue to work in that direction.” 

***

Pollock wrote in her post that she came forward with her story following Vulture’s article on Cara Kizer, who alleged two colleagues from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra had drugged and raped her. With no memory of what happened, Kizer’s case relied on DNA evidence which proved one of the men had sex with her and a positive hair strand test for GHB — a central nervous system depressant and common date-rape drug — that she believed had been slipped into her glass of wine. But the district attorney’s office would not accept the strand test and declined to prosecute. 

Though Kizer later discovered both men had faced past allegations of rape and sexual misconduct — and the orchestra later concluded the two men had “engaged in misconduct warranting their termination” in a 2018 investigation sparked by the “Me Too” movement — Kizer left the orchestra after signing a non-disclosure agreement and accepting a settlement. After being fired, the two men appealed and received independent arbitration that used a higher standard of evidence, resulting in their reinstatement to the orchestra. The article’s publication made waves in the music community, leading to a petition to release Kizer from her NDA. 

“Let's start putting women's lives above men's tenure,” the petition reads. 

***

Pollock grew up in a small town in Alberta, where she fell in love with music and joined a brass band at 14 years old. She said she played her instrument for hours a day beginning at 11 years old. That’s all stopped now, because whenever she picks up the euphonium, all she can see is Thurman’s face between her legs, she said.  

In music school at UBC, she could not escape him — several assigned pieces involved his music in some way. Now experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can manifest in those who have experienced traumatic events, she dropped out of school and abandoned her music career entirely. 

Before posting her story, Pollock knew of a few other women who had inappropriate encounters with Thurman. Just a day after making the post, at least another half dozen reached out to her about Thurman, she said.  

Pollock said Thurman took advantage of her age and his star status.  

“I think the idolatry and the celebrity status of being a man who could unlock so many doors for me made it so much easier for him to manipulate me,” she said in an interview with the IDS.

She struggled from self-harm and suicidal ideation because of the experience, she said. While she’s beginning to heal and has found another career she’s happy with, she doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to fill the hole left by no longer playing music. While many of her instruments still hang along the walls of her room, her euphonium remains in her basement gathering dust. 

She said she understands there’s only so much policy can do to change the culture of the music industry but that individuals must speak up when they see misconduct. She called the industry a “boys club” influenced by a strict hierarchy. Those who want to speak up, either about their own experiences or those they witnessed, often fear losing their positions.  

Pollock said she plans to pursue an investigation with IU and make her story known. 

“In my opinion, he has no place teaching in a school,” she said.  

Jonathan Frey contributed reporting to this story. 

CORRECTION: This story has been updated with the correct date Demondrae Thurman began teaching at IU.

Resources

Sexual assault on an IU campus can be reported through this online form. 

IU’s Confidential Victim Advocates are trained to work with students who have experienced sexual misconduct. They can be contacted by calling 812-856-2469 or emailing cva@indiana.edu. The Office for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy is on the third floor of the Student Health Center at 600 N. Eagleson Ave. 

The IU Sexual Assault Crisis Service operates 24/7 connecting students with counselors. They can be reached at 812-855-8900. Their office is on the fourth floor of the Student Health Center at 600 N. Eagleson Ave.  

IUPD’s non-emergency number: 812-855-4111 

BPD’s non-emergency number: 812-339-4477 

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800-799-7233 

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988 

The Middle Way House works to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. They have a help and crisis line at 812-336-0846. 

To obtain a protective order after experiencing domestic violence or sexual abuse, Monroe County has a Protective Order Assistance Partnership. 

The Monroe County Victims Assistance Program provides assistance for crime victims in understanding how their case progresses through the justice system. 

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