Horace Mann graduates, faculty members, current students and their parents gathered at the school’s Fisher Hall on May 1 for an emotional fundraising concert. Notably in attendance were several survivors of the school’s sexual abuse scandal.
The event was organized by Hilltop Cares, a non-profit dedicated to supporting victims of the sexual abuse that plagued the school from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Hilltop Cares’ chairwoman, Marjorie Kaufman, said the idea for the concert came from two graduates after the group’s first gathering in November 2014.
“They felt that after so much negativity stemming from the sexual abuse revelations, it was time to come back together as a community and reconnect through music,” she said in an e-mail.
Hosting the concert at Horace Mann was a big step.
Ms. Kaufman said she originally thought of the idea as a way to save money on overhead costs. She also said it’s the first step on the path toward healing for the whole community. Horace Mann has come under scathing criticism from advocates of justice over the sexual abuse, with many of them saying the administration covered up the incidents and inadequately apologized later on.
“It’s the first time for a lot of alumni coming back to campus. That in itself is powerful,” Ms. Kaufman said.
A night of music
All the acts in the concert featured Horace Mann graduates, who carefully chose their songs.
Claudia Knafo played a song whose title translates to “Despite It All,” about the composer’s friend losing his right arm but continuing to create sculptures. She played the entire piece with her left hand.
The last half of the concert mostly featured performers who were also abuse survivors. Stephen Fife, now a playwright based in Los Angeles, read a passage from his book “The 13th Boy: A Memoir of Education and Abuse.” Jon Seiger, who was abused by eight different teachers at Horace Mann, led both his own band and members of his alma mater’s original jazz band through several lively numbers.