Yesterday saw the horrendous news of the conviction of and 11-year jail sentence for Philip Pickett on charges of rape and sexual assault of students while he was teaching at the Guildhall School. Here is the original list of charges against Pickett from last year; I do not wish to say much more specific to this case, not least because of the possibility of further trials; suffice to say that I believe a good deal more will be made public about both actions and the complicity of others.
If anything good is to come from this case, I hope it may help to put pressure for a proper international debate about the nature of music education and the possibilities for abuse and exploitation therein. I blogged in some detail about this last December, in response to an excellent article by Damian Thompson in the Spectator. Yesterday I published an article on the film Whiplash in terms of its representation of bullying and abuse in teaching, on The Conversation , and a wider article in The Telegraph about abuse and elite music teaching, in particular raising the controversial question of whether self-regulation is ever likely, and whether that a system which places enormous powers of patronage in a few people’s hands needs a greater degree of external accountability (which would mean political/governmental intervention). Naturally, I would expect there to be and would welcome a range of different opinions on these subjects, but feel strongly that the debate needs to be had amongst music educators worldwide, and more widely in the profession.
With this in mind, I wanted to post here a set of draft guidelines for instrumental and vocal teachers and students at a tertiary level (generally 18 or over) in terms of their dealings with one another, as a starting point for discussion. I drafted these around 18 months ago (which included other guidelines on such things as when it is/is not appropriate to cancel a lesson, not so relevant here), and whilst they have not yet been taken up, I hope very much at some point they or something like them will be.
I would welcome all thoughts on the below, including new suggestions, disagreements, and so on. I accept some will disagree with my views on physical touching (I suggest this is OK so long as one asks permission) and whether student-teacher relationships or sexual encounters are ever permissible (I argue that where they happen, or one or other party demonstrates agency with the intention of inducing such a thing, then both parties should act like adults and report things, their formal teacher-student relationship brought to an end without other negative consequences, then they are free to continue like any other two adults). But I think we should be talking about these things, in order to arrive at a humane system which protects both students and teachers.
Guidelines for Teachers
• In general, it is of paramount importance always to treat your student with respect as a human being, independently of your reflections on the quality and extent of their achievements as a performer. This should be borne in mind at all times.
• Always remember that you are there to help the student, rather than their being there in order to enhance your own reputation.
• It is your choice how you wish your student to address you, whether by first name or title and surname. It is advised to clarify this to the student at the beginning of a lesson.
• Where there are serious problems concerning a student and their progress, you should try and discuss these with the student’s wider personal tutor/[other member of staff responsible] as soon as possible.
• It is accepted that teachers will naturally need to voice criticisms of a student’s playing or singing, sometimes severe criticisms. This should always be framed in such a way as to make clear that the criticisms relate solely to the student’s achievements (or lack of) specifically in terms of their work as a performer, not about their wider qualities as a person. Do try wherever possible to balance criticisms with acknowledgement of positive achievements or at least encouragement in terms of positive steps forward in order to improve.
• Use language which makes the above clear: for example, instead of saying ‘You are a very poor player’, say ‘You really do need to do considerable work in order to improve’, followed by suggestions of what form that work might take, or (if necessary) ‘It will be very difficult in the time available to you here to attain the level necessary in order to gain a high mark in your recital’. Similarly, avoid other generalities such as ‘You have no technique’ or ‘You are profoundly unmusical’, in favour of the likes of ‘I have to tell you that a good deal of work is necessary if you wish to achieve a higher technical level’, or in the second case, focusing on specific things the student needs to consider in order to be able to produce a more musically satisfying performance.
• You should always avoid any type of deliberately demeaning or belittling language of a personal nature towards a student, especially that designed to undermine their confidence. This can include undue and harsh sarcasm, deliberate aloofness and coldness, ignoring a student, negative comparisons with others, insensitive jokes, setting unrealistic demands, malicious rumour-mongering, threats, sexual or racial harassment, or anything which might be construed as ‘bitchy’. It is no justification for this to argue that such talk and attitudes are commonplace in the professional musical world.
• A student’s personal life is their own business, and discussions of this should generally only be undertaken when they directly impact upon their performing. If a singer or other musician’s lifestyle – in terms of problems to do with sleep, maintaining good health, and so on – is impinging upon their singing, then it is legitimate to raise this issue. If a student raises the issue of difficulties arising from family, health or relationship issues, and wishes to talk about it, this is fine, but you should not feel under any obligation in this respect. In general, such matters are better discussed with their personal tutor/[other appropriate member of staff], who has pastoral responsibility, and who can communicate directly with you about them.
• When teaching a student, avoid befriending them on social media. [Personally I believe this is a principle worth observing for undergraduates, but which can be more flexible with postgraduates.]
• If you wish to make physical contact with a student in order to demonstrate some matter relating to performing, you must first ask their permission to do so. This can be done at the beginning of a series of lessons in order to facilitate so doing in general (but this must then be made clear to the student), or separately on individual occasion. If the student is unhappy with such physical contact and declines, this must be respected, and physical contact must then be avoided.
• Under absolutely no circumstances should there be any touching which can be construed as being of a sexual or unduly intimate nature.
• However, it is accepted that much music – especially for singers – relates to matters of an intimate and sometimes sexual nature, and it is legitimate to discuss this in lessons. But please always respect boundaries here, and be clear that you are talking about the music or the role, not directly about the student.
• Whilst in general students are aged 18 or over and are technically adults, remember that they are still in a very early stage of adulthood, likely to be dealing with many pressures due to being away from home for the first time, having to negotiate possible loneliness, homesickness, coping with a degree of independence likely to be unprecedented for them, and of course a demanding course. It is best to work with the assumption that they are thus likely to be at a vulnerable stage in life, and should be treated with corresponding sensitivity.
Guidelines for Students
• You should always treat your teacher with respect and courtesy, be punctual for lessons, and acknowledge the help they are able to give you.
• Your teacher can choose how they wish you to address them, whether by first name, title and surname, or otherwise, and you should respect this. It is advised that this is clarified in the first lesson.
• Whilst you are certainly encouraged to solicit your teacher’s advice concerning the extent of your progress, or on future study, avoid asking such questions as ‘Do you think I can make it as a performer?’ or other such things which might put your teacher in a difficult position.
• If asking your teacher what they imagine would be your likely mark for a recital, on the basis of how you are performing at the time of asking the question, bear in mind that their answer will be an approximation, and is in no sense binding.
• Avoid flirtatious or overly ‘forward’ behaviour towards your teacher such as might place him or her in an awkward situation.
• Teachers may wish to make physical contact in order to demonstrate some matters relating to performance. They are required to ask your permission before so doing, either at the beginning of a series of lessons in order to establish that this is generally acceptable, or on individual occasions. If you do not wish this, you are entirely within your rights to refuse. Such physical contact should never be of a sexual or unduly intimate nature, nor should you respond to it in such a fashion.
• Never use any abusive or offensive language towards your teacher.
• When there are personal matters – for example relating to family, health or relationships – which might affect your performing, you are advised first to speak to your personal tutor, who can discuss these sensitively with your teacher.
• Your teacher often has a life and career outside of their work at your institution. Avoid gossiping about them, even amongst other students, including with respect to the nature of their other activities, as this can have the potential to be hurtful and demeaning. Any form of rumour-mongering, sexual or racial harassment, aggressive behaviour or threats towards your teacher will be treated with the utmost seriousness.
• Your teacher is not your friend on social media, and you should not request that they befriend you on there. [Personally I believe this is a principle worth observing for undergraduates, but which can be more flexible with postgraduates.]
• If you wish to record lessons for other reasons (so as to have a more permanent record for your own study purposes), you must ask your teacher first, and must also respect their wishes if they decline this request.
Guidelines for both Teachers and Students
• In the event of any serious worries about the nature of the relationship between teacher and student as made manifest verbally in lessons, either the teacher or student can request that the lessons be recorded. In this situation, [appropriate individual] should be informed of this.
• In the event of any type of romantic or sexual liaison between a tutor and student – which can include any form of agency on either part with the intention of inducing such a thing, whether or not this is fulfilled – it is an essential requirement that both teacher and student report this to [appropriate individual]. As a general rule it will be considered that in such a situation the relationship has assumed a degree of intimacy which is no longer compatible with a normal teaching relationship, and the student will be assigned to a different teacher, but without further consequences for either party.
The articles presented on this blog fall into four categories: those on music and musicology, politics, abuse-related material, and other articles. The articles on abuse are indexed separately here. Here I index the rest of my blog articles.
MUSIC AND MUSICOLOGY
Musicology is not Musical PR (25/8/13)
The fetish of the ‘contemporary’ (5/11/13)
Remembering Bob Gilmore (1961-2015) (3/1/15)
Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)
Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question)
My last-but-one conversation with the late musicologist Bob Gilmore, who took over the editorship of leading new music journak TEMPO from Malcolm McDonald for a short period until his death, took place on December 16th, 2014. This was a conversation on Facebook rather than in person (alas, the last time I saw Bob in person was at a Radulescu memorial concert in early 2013), but to do with the allegations made by composer Bunita Marcus about her former teacher Morton Feldman – specifically that he physically and sexually assaulted her at many lessons, and also passed off some of her music as his own (specifically, she has alleged that his Palais de Mari takes ideas from her Dispersions and Two Pianos and Violin; also his Piano and String Quartet uses various of her ideas).
I believe passionately in the presumption of innocence, and would not purport to act as judge and jury upon these allegations against a man who has been dead for 28 years; nonetheless, such extremely serious allegations should not be dismissed out of hand. Rather, my idea was to look at Feldman in a different way to many previous articles, considering the extent to which his reputation and the reception of his work were tied up with the ‘Morty’ cult of personality perpetuated by many of his acolytes. I intended to consider this alongside the concrete evidence of his published writings and interviews, which I would argue show an extremely arrogant and bullying character, never more happy than when piling mud on others’ work, casually indulging in xenophobic characterisations of whole countries, and acting in an especially foul manner to some female students. None of this should, in my opinion – and this is a point I realise to be contentious, but in which I believe passionately – lead one to dismiss his work. I certainly do not intend to stop playing it, nor to sell my Robert King CDs (nor Philip Pickett ones if I owned any – I haven’t checked for sure, but do not think so); nor abandon the music of Wagner, or Gesualdo, on account of their biographies. Some anti-abuse campaigners believe we should stop performing Feldman’s work now; whilst respecing their right to their view, I cannot agree.
But I do believe it would be disingenuous to think that the reception of a great many contemporary composers is purely based upon the nature of their musical work; on the contrary, the plethora of interviews, profile pieces and other forms of writing beloved of the PR industry strongly suggests otherwise. My planned argument from this was to maintain that we should resist easy forms of biographical reductionism when interpreting art, and be prepared to consider not only that individuals who otherwise act in despicable ways can produce wonderful art, but also (and perhaps more importantly) that those who live saintly existences are not necessarily any the better artists as a result. And with this in mind I would have argued that we need to separate Feldman as composer, advocate and ‘operator’, pedagogue, and private individual. Bob found this very interesting, and asked me to go ahead with this, with the next deadline being in mid-February.
Anyhow, following Bob’s death, the editorship was taken over temporarily by the former reviews editor (I will avoid names here), though it appears subject to checking with others at Cambridge University Press. I do not believe in publicly copying verbatim text from private correspondence, but will give the gist. When I contacted this individual to confirm deadlines for the next issue, I first had a response which showed clear trepidation, saying this article needed to be discussed further, then another reply a week later containing weasel words saying that because of the sensitivity of the subject concerned, TEMPO was unable to support the writer or the public debate which would ensue; furthermore, a copy editor expressed worry that a critical perspective on Feldman’s writings such as I proposed might alienate the estate and lead to a copyright minefield.
I find this response pathetic and evasive. There have been plenty of articles on contentious subjects previously printed in TEMPO (not least more than a few on musicians active in the Third Reich), and fair usage policies would not preclude citing some text where one may be critical. There was a period alas where TEMPO became in large measure a promotional journal for Boosey and Hawkes (who then published it); it had happily moved away from this in more recent years.
I am greatly dismayed that TEMPO would evade publishing an article relating to the delicate subject of allegations of abuse against composers, and at present have no intention of writing anything further for them until there is a clear shift in editorial policy. It has become clear to me that, ever since Bunita first started raising these issues on social media a few years ago, many in new music have not wanted to know, wishing to close their ears to anything which might tarnish the reputation of their idols. At present, I see no reason to believe TEMPO is any different, and would urge all decent musicians and musicologists also to refrain from writing for it. I believe a principled writer like Bob would have been appalled by this response.
I do hope at a later stage to write my Feldman article either for another publication or simply to post on this blog.
Below I reproduce some sections from the volume Painful Extractions: Looking back at a personal journey (Eye: Thornham Books, 2002) by John Henniker-Major, the 8th Baron Henniker. Henniker is of interest to those investigating organised child sexual abuse because of the fact that the notorious Peter Righton, former Executive Committee member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, author of various freely available writings advocating sex with children, and senior figure in the social work profession, took up residence on Henniker’s estate, Thornham Magna, following Righton’s conviction for importing and possessing pornographic material featuring children in 1992. Numerous groups of children were brought from Islington and elsewhere to Thornham Magna on day trips and it is feared that they were the victims of abuse at the hands of Righton; the Exaro website has cited one person alleging brutal sexual assault and violence from Righton, also involving the former PIE treasurer Charles Napier, recently jailed for 13 years for sexual offences against 23 boys, and now even a sadistic murder by Righton on the estate.
I hope to be able to post a more comprehensive guest blog post on Henniker and his relationship to disgraced former diplomat Peter Hayman soon.
When time permits, I intend to thoroughly update my blog post on Righton to take account of the amazing research collected on the blog of Charlotte Russell, drawing upon a wide range of previously unseen archival documents. I cannot recommend strongly enough that anyone interested in particular in the Paedophile Information Exchange, and its links to the National Council of Civil Liberties and to politicians therein, read the various meticulously researched posts on this blog.
More vital new information relating to Peter Righton
Originally posted on Bits of Books, Mostly Biographies:
Within 9 months of starting ACCESS Righton’s ‘enforced withdrawal’ from Chairmanship takes place due to potential adverse publicity – just after The Times announces him as Director-Designate heading up a two-man team at the National Children’s Bureau. [ https://spotlightonabuse.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/the-national-childrens-bureau-12-05-93/
On 8th December ACCESS met at the National Institute of Social Work with only 5 attendees: Peter Righton (Chair), Doreen Cordell (Secretary), Rev. Malcolm Johnson, David Allen (Honorary treasurer, formerly in same role for Albany Trust but left due to Michael De La Noy), and Dr Theo Schlict. Looking at the minutes, it may be that Righton had already wished to make the announcement that he had been forced to step down as Chairman at the 8th December meeting but due to the poor attendance held back his news on being…
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This is extremely interesting and worth reading.
Originally posted on Modern British Studies Birmingham:
Dr Chris Moores writes about the Peter Hayman, the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), the release of National Archives files PREM 19/588 and an alternative account of the prosecution of PIE members.
The discovery and subsequent release of Government papers detailing the investigation into the conduct of the diplomat Peter Hayman have generated substantial press coverage over the past week. The PREM 19/588 files released by the National Archives can be seen on the blog of Ian Pace and Spotlight on Abuse; both of which provide substantial resources on historical child-sex offence cases.
In many respects the official documents confirmed much of what we already knew about Hayman. A retired diplomat and former British High Commissioner in Canada, he was exposed in the pages of Private Eye in 1980, named by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickinson under Parliamentary privilege in 1981, and scrutinized in the press during the…
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With great thanks to Tom Symonds for forwarding these files to me.
The following is the complete file in the National Archives, PREM 19/588, ‘SECURITY. Sir Peter Hayman: allegations against former public official of unnatural sexual proclivities; security aspects’, which was made public today. Hayman was a senior diplomat and member of the Paedophile Information Exchange who is also believed to have been Deputy Director of MI6. For reports on this, see those from the BBC, Sky News, Guardian Independent, Telegraph, Mail and Mirror.
I will post further links relating to Hayman later; for now, I would recommend strongly people read this collection of articles at the Spotlight blog. Also of great importance are the most recent articles from Exaro here, here and here.
Also essential reading
Originally posted on Bits of Books, Mostly Biographies:
<please scroll down through large expanses of white space throughout this blog post until you’ve passed the book ‘Children Against Witches’ which means you’ve reached the end – currently experiencing unfathomable issues with formatting in a different browser – apologies>
Antony Grey’s 1992 ‘ Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation’ makes but one mention of Peter Righton by name (see below) but by 1971 Peter Righton was very involved with counselling work at the Albany Trust bringing him into contact with many important and influential people, as had his employment as lecturer for MA Social Work for the National Institute of Social Work (NISW – Room 11).
During 1971 there was a curious incident which looks a lot like…
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