A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward

I received a message last week from another survivor of abuse in UK musical education, which has since been posted on the blog of Norman Lebrecht here. With permission, I am also reproducing it here. The author has told me of his wish for others to come forward about this and other cases. Even where the perpetrator is now dead, it is still important for there to be acknowledgment of what really went on; I would add that there still needs to be much wider and difficult questions asked about the nature of institutions and the culture of musical education which appears to have facilitated widespread abuse (and not just in the UK). At a recent debate organised by the Institute of Ideas at the Barbican Centre, which I attended, the sociologist Frank Furedi (author of the much-criticised Moral Crusades in an Age of Mistrust: The Jimmy Savile Scandal) argued that recent talk of abuse in musical education stemmed from a fear of ‘intimacy’, and expressed his concern above all that musical teachers were able to ‘touch the soul’, whilst the educationalist Heather Piper made out that the issue was one of self-aggrandisement on the part of the NSPCC and other institutions on the basis of what was argued to be just a few isolated historic cases. I find these attitudes contemptuous, though in milder form they were echoed by all but one of the other panellists and quite a number of audience members. More and more information is emerging all the time, further arrests are being made (including recently of a former teacher in a London college on multiple charges – see here); certainly everyone so accused must be granted the presumption of innocence, but if even a fraction of the allegations were true, this would evidence of something epidemic. I echo my correspondent’s sentiments below, and once again would urge further all those who care about this issue to contact their MPs ( to ask them to give their support to a public inquiry (for details of how to do so, see my earlier blog posts here). There will be an important meeting of all sympathetic MPs in December; the more there are, the greater the pressure will be.

If you would like to contact the author of the below, please feel free to e-mail me (at ian@ianpace.com) with your details, and I will forward them to him.

The tragic story of Frances Andrade and the revelations over the past year of sexual abuse at some of our most prestigious schools of music have stirred up painful memories for me dating from forty years ago.

In the 1970s, I studied piano at the Watford School of Music and was sexually abused over a four-year period by one of the teachers there. The abuse ended when my parents received a letter in the middle of term, stating that the man was no longer able to teach at Watford School of Music and I was then taught by someone else.

However, my abuser continued to teach at the Royal College of Music until 1995 when, I have since learned, he was convicted of a sexual offence. He died in 2004 and his obituary appeared in several daily newspapers.

The experience affected me deeply and stunted my emotional and sexual development. I became withdrawn, anxious and angry. For many years I was unable to form healthy, intimate relationships and bouts of deep depression have been a regular feature of my life.

As a result of intensive psychotherapy, I have been able to appreciate for the first time the seriousness of the damage I suffered but also to realise that I was not, as I used to think, to blame for what happened to me all those years ago. I know I am not my abuser’s only victim and if one of you is reading this, or if any of what I have written resonates with your own experience or knowledge of sexual abuse at either the Watford School of Music or the Royal College of Music in the period before 1995 it would be good to hear from you.

I tell my story here so not merely as an attempt to reach some closure on this painful episode, but hopefully to encourage other victims to tell their stories too.

Addendum: Another victim has chosen to share their story of abuse at a music school, which can be read on Slipped Disc here.

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4 Comments on “A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward”

  1. […] It is nearly ten months since the conviction of Michael and Kay Brewer on charges of sexual assault whilst Michael Brewer was Director of Music at Chetham’s School of Music, during a tragic trial in the course of which the victim, Frances Andrade, took her own life. Since this conviction, there have been a flood of allegations relating to widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse at all of the five specialist music schools in the UK (as for example with the cases of Marcel Gazelle and Robert Waddington), and all the major music colleges as well, as well as further allegations pointing to a widespread culture of collusion, complicity and cover-up of these practices within these institutions. Police investigations have proceeded, and to date there have been a number of arrests of individuals connected to Chetham’s, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, some of which may result in criminal charges. However, police have made it clear that it is not possible for them to investigate cases where the perpetrator is now dead, where the victim was over 16 and the events in question took place before the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, or in other cases (especially concerning serious psychological and emotional abuse) where there is no direct criminality involved. Furthermore, it is beyond the scope of a police investigation to look deeper into questions of institutional responsibility for this phenomenon, or the wider culture and values of musical education which may have played a part in allowing these alleged events to happen. Beyond this, in the close-knit world of classical music, where it is practically impossible for victims to remain anonymous even if not named in the press, there has grown since February an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and ostracisation from some quarters (including other musicians and some alumni communities), by individuals disdaining anything which might blacken the names of various ‘great musicians’ or taint the name of institutions, such as can act as a deterrent towards those who might have thought of coming forward. Such a deterrent also has to be set alongside knowledge of the terrible plight of Andrade, which remains in many people’s minds. Some of the institutions are clearly treating this primarily as an issue of their own reputations, with Chetham’s having been revealed to be employing a crisis management firm; some correspondence from former pupils, parents or other interested parties has been brushed off in a breezy manner. Furthermore, resistance to genuinely addressing the problem is growing as part of a wider backlash, as can be found in some comments posted under the regular updates on the subject on the blog of Norman Lebrecht (Slipped Disc), and also in recent debates conducted in the Times Educational Supplement (see my separate post here and also some comments on the ensuing debate here) […]

  2. […] thought otherwise was the Institute of Ideas debate at the Barbican Centre in October 2013, about which I earlier blogged here. The full debate can now be viewed online here – I invite people to watch it and see the […]

  3. […] A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward (25/11/13) […]


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