A former conductor of the S.C. Philharmonic orchestra has been sent to prison in Great Britain in a sex assault case involving a teen-age musician.
Nicholas Smith was sent to prison for eight months earlier this fall, after admitting to one count of indecent assault in the 1970s, when he was 30 and she was 15, according to the London-based Daily Mail newspaper. At the time, Smith was a visiting conductor at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where she was a student.
The victim in the case, now in her 50s, came forward after Smith was investigated in connection with another sex crime against a young victim, the newspaper said. No details were available on the second case.
Judge Peter Lakin told Smith: “You breached the trust placed in you in a most serious way. She was highly vulnerable and you knew it.”
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Evidence presented in court showed that the assault stopped short of actual rape but it involved Smith pushing the young victim to the ground, partially disrobing her and forcing himself on her.
Smith, a native of Great Britain, served as S.C. Philharmonic conductor from 1993 to 2007, spending part of each year in Columbia with the orchestra and conducting and teaching elsewhere other parts of the year. A lover of the spirited Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, he was given a rousing send-off at his last Philharmonic concert in April 2007, when he led the orchestra in an all-English program, except for the last piece – “Nothing Could Be Finer Than to be in Carolina.”
Smith was chosen for the Columbia post as music director after a two-plus-year search involving more than 200 applicants.
Although the Daily Mail reported that Smith’s lawyer in Great Britain asserted that the indecent assault against the victim in the 1970s was an isolated incident, the paper also reported that Smith was being investigated in connection with another sexual assault in which the young female victim had committed suicide.
Philharmonic executive director Rhonda Hunsinger said Monday orchestra officials were sorry to hear of Smith’s prison sentence and knew of no similar incidents by Smith during his tenure in Columbia. “We never had any knowledge of circumstances like that here,” she said.
The Philharmonic is a full symphony orchestra made up of largely part-time professional musicians. Its nine major concerts at Koger Center and Harbison Theater feature from 45 to 80 musicians. The group also offers numerous educational concerts.