Clarinetist awarded £214,000 in damages after girlfriend faked rejection letter from prestigious music academy

A Canadian clarinet player has been awarded $375,000 CA (£214,000) in damages after his former girlfriend used his email account to turn down a music scholarship in a bid to prevent him from moving away from Montreal.

Eric Abramovitz met Jennifer Jooyeon Lee when he began his studies at McGill’s Schulich School of Music in September 2013.

Mr Abramovitz, who started playing the clarinet at the age of seven, and Miss Lee, a flautist, had moved in together by October, and he let her use his laptop, and gave her his passwords.

That winter, Mr Abramovitz applied to finish his degree in Los Angeles, studying under Yehuda Gilad, a top professor of clarinet at Colburn School. 

The clarinet maestro only accepts two students a year, on all-expenses-paid scholarships worth $50,000 US (£38,000) a year, and so Mr Abramovitz practised relentlessly to prepare for his audition, in the spring of 2014.

He was confident it went well, and was indeed accepted.

But Miss Lee intercepted the email of acceptance before Mr Abramovitz could find out, and deleted it.

She then forged an email from an account she created, giladyehuda09@gmail, and wrote to Mr Abramovitz to say he had been rejected.

"I was numb when I read the email. I had to read it a few more times," said Mr Abramovitz, now 24.

"When I found out I didn’t get it, it was really hard to deal with. I went through some really dark, sad, angry days." 

The fake rejection email said he could study under Mr Gilad, but only with a limited scholarship – meaning he would have to pay $46,000 a year – a fee he could not afford. He replied to the fake email thanking Mr Gilad, but saying he could not afford it and would finish his studies in Montreal.

He was devastated, and Miss Lee consoled him, he said.

"We were living together at the time so she was the one to console me when I found out," he recalled. 

"It’s really sick now that I look back on it."

Six months after the incident, the couple broke up because, as he put it, "things were getting too intense and some things just weren’t working out."

Two years after his first application, Mr Abramovitz applied again to study under Mr Gilad, and at his second audition Mr Gilad asked: “Why did you reject me?”

"We went into a room to chat after I finished and he asked me what I was doing here," said Mr Abramovitz.

"He was like, ‘You rejected me. Why are you here?’

"I was like, ‘Uh, no, you rejected me,’ and he was like, ‘No, you did,’ and we had this awkward exchange where we kept going back and forth like that and I thought maybe he had confused me with someone else," he said.

Eventually, as the worries lingered, Mr Abramovitz forwarded the fake email to Mr Gilad, who replied: “I’ve never seen that in my life.”

“That’s when I knew that something underhanded was afoot,” said Mr Abramovitz. 

He said the discovery that he had actually been accepted was one of the most "shattering" moments of his life, but he still didn’t suspect that his ex would be the person behind it, and felt that it was another clarinetist "who wanted my demise."

In 2015, he and a friend set about trying to gain access to the fake email account, and because Mr Abramovitz and Miss Lee once shared a computer, he knew one of her passwords, which he tried.

“Miraculously, it logged right in,” he said.

Her email was listed as the recovery email, her phone was the recovery phone.

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“We felt like Sherlock Holmes.”

Mr Abramovitz also said she did a similar thing involving fake emails with his successful application to the Juilliard School in New York, causing him to decline it.

"At first she tried to deny it, but the evidence I had was overwhelming," said Mr Abramovitz.

"Then she blocked me on social media and we only spoke to each other through lawyers."

He said he is not certain he will be able to collect his damages, as he does not know where she is and she has blocked him on social media.

Miss Lee could not be reached. She did not appear at the proceeding that led to this default judgment against her. 

Mr Gilad testified on Mr Abramovitz’s behalf, saying Miss Lee’s actions had seriously delayed his musical career.

“I am certain that had Eric not been robbed of his opportunity to study with me two years earlier, he could already have won an audition and been commanding this respectable salary two years earlier,” he said in an affidavit. 

“I am very frustrated that a highly talented musician like Eric was the victim of such an unthinkable, immoral act that delayed his progress and advancement as an up-and-coming young musician and delayed his embarking on a most promising career.”

Judge David Corbett of Ontario Superior Court found that Miss Lee’s “despicable interference” in his musical career was a deep betrayal that robbed him of “a unique and prestigious educational opportunity, one that would have advanced his career as a professional clarinetist.”

He continued: “She apparently did these things so that Mr Abramovitz would not leave Montreal, and instead would stay in Montreal and remain in his relationship with her.” 

He said Mr Abramovitz was “completely taken in by this deception,” and eventually took a less prestigious graduate certificate in Los Angeles, in which he had some interaction with Mr Gilad, about an hour a week, but far less than he would have had under his original scholarship.

The damages she must pay him are for “loss of educational opportunity and loss of income caused by redirection of Mr Abramovitz’s career resulting from Ms Lee’s wrongful conduct,” the judge wrote. 

“Imagining how his life would have been different if he had studied for two years under Mr Gilad, and earned his teacher’s respect and support, requires more speculation than the law permits,” the judge concluded. 

“One hears, particularly in the arts, of the ‘big breaks’ that can launch a promising artist to a stratospheric career. 

“I cannot speculate as to how high and how quickly Mr Abramovitz’s career might have soared, but for the interference by Ms Lee.  

“But the law does recognize that the loss of a chance is a very real and compensable loss.”

Mr Abramovitz is currently playing with an orchestra in Nashville, but it moving to Toronto to join the city’s symphony orchestra.

He told BuzzFeed: "It’s very hard to know what my path would have been had this not happened.

"But I am happy and proud of myself because I landed on my feet. I have no regrets. I have always aspired to make a living doing what I love, and I have, so I am very fortunate."