Chetham’s: alumni memories and reflections following the IICSA hearings

It has been clear through many private forums and discussions that the hearings at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on 1-2 October 2019 into Chetham’s School of Music (see this page for links to the videos and transcripts) have generated many powerful reactions and also wider thoughts on reflections on the school and individuals’ time there. I feel it is important that these be preserved, and so am posting here a series of sections of text sent to me, all presented anonymously (unless people request otherwise), to which I will keep adding more as I receive them. The only editing done will be for legal reasons or to preserve anonymity. I am not personally going to express a view publicly until after the end of the hearings, other than to point out that while John Vallins claimed in the hearings that I was at Chetham’s for 4 years, I was actually there for 8, from 1978 (in Junior A) to 1986 (upper sixth), and also a story related to me by my mother, which I am sharing with her permission.

There had been a time when one of the PE teachers (I think) had been taunting some boys including me by bending their fingers back (for obvious reasons, definitely not something you should do to instrumentalists, though I think this teacher disliked musicians, thinking all the boys to be gay and not ‘hard’ enough). I told my parents about this, and they mentioned it when they came to meet John Vallins next, who was very down on me at the time. He said in response ‘Mrs Pace, I didn’t hear you say that’ [Corrected from earlier wording], and suddenly his behaviour towards them and me changed quite considerably, much more positive (I went on to get the best A-Levels anyone had yet got at the school, with 6 Grade As, and a place at Oxford, also later studying at the Juilliard School as a Fulbright Scholar). Make of that story what you will.

I am numbering the testimonies AL1 (Alumnus 1), etc, and will continue to add to them. Anyone who has any thoughts they would like to be posted (which can be as short as a sentence, or much more extended) should e-mail them to me at ian AT ianpace DOT com. I can attest that I know who every individual is who has supplied testimony, and when they attended the school, but would not disclose any of this information without their express permission.

WARNING: some may find some of the material below distressing or triggering.

 

AL1

I found the collective amnesia and abdication of responsibility displayed by Vallins, Hullah and Moreland at the inquiry as utterly repulsive and cowardly as I found the testimonies of those who spoke of abuse to be both horrific and awe-inspiringly courageous. Vallins in particular made my blood boil as I was able, by dint of having been there at the time (1975 to 1981) although a child, to contrast his account with the reality of life as a boarder. It is a matter of deep regret that the history books cannot be rewritten to show that he and others never existed. May the Chet’s of today flourish and prosper under sound governance whilst at the same time being aware not only of its proud past, but also of its obligations to those who saw its darker side. May those who suffered find peace, and may those who wish to do so but have hitherto remained silent find the courage to speak out and expose these animals for what they were and possibly still are. May Vallins, Hullah, Moreland and any staff whose voices have not yet been heard devoid themselves of whatever misplaced sense of loyalty or plain arrogance has thus far held them back and – dare one say it? – tell the truth.

 

AL2

The lady who interjected 5 hours 47 minutes into the Inquiry, and who was asked to leave the room, said it all. Whilst giving evidence at the Inquiry, John Vallins displayed an arrogance that was deeply shocking. He showed scant remorse for failing to protect vulnerable children in his care. It was disingenuous of him to suggest that the music and academic departments were separate entities and that he had no knowledge of, or control over, what was happening in certain parts of the school. He was Headteacher, with responsibility for the whole school. If he did not know about the abuse, he was incompetent. If he did, then he turned a blind eye to it. Although there were humble, kind and compassionate members of staff, I hold John Vallins responsible for an abject failure to provide a safe and happy place in which to learn.

 

AL3

My dear friend A1 [anonymised name as used in the IICSA hearings] was giving live evidence , who I’ve been in contact with for a few years now and have had the pleasure of a few visits to my house… the subject of Chets was always at the forefront of our conversations – which after 30 years is alarming at how fast time has passed , along with regret that during these years, the torment of the school still lives with us. 

[After a phone call from Operation Kiso] I froze – I remember it clearly, I burnt my wrist taking the croissant out the oven – I was alarmed to think that the past wasn’t in the past … and I refused to comment…. It’s disturbing to think that the Chetham’s mess has been carried with us for so long.

I was terribly disappointed to find that my friend A1 had several minutes missing , that were removed to protect her anonymity , which is of course understandable , but at the same time distressing to know that these comments were all about [houseparent]’s appalling behaviour.

When A1 returned from America , we were all called into the ‘common room’, as it was known then, by [houseparent], to be told that A1 is returning and no one must ask her any questions or ask her why, and that we had to pretend everything was normal. Everyone knew anyway ! We all knew they had to get naked … so I’ll never understand why Vallins said he had no idea at the time. .   In my knowledge, we all know rumours spread fast in any industry … so to hear him admit this , was rather alarming. The head after him – what a disaster. Terribly dismissive on all matters regarding Brewer. I could have hit him. Retirement a typo for Resigning ???  – none of my iMacs could have done that ! !

The main thing at the time for me , is the tremendous strain [houseparent] and Vallins put my parents through – the impact of their behaviour leaves deep scars. I went to [houseparent], and asked her if she was aware that [redacted] was shagging most of his students. She accused me of being a Liar, and explained that this is Libel and I should be worried and will suffer for the consequence of my actions.

My parents were called up the school immediately, which was a 6 hour round trip for them, where they met with Vallins, [redacted] and [redacted].  The torment this caused my family is unforgiving. They were told that this could be a Libel case, and therefore my parents were worried sick – they could lose everything, including the house , if this were to be a sue-able case which [houseparent] threatened it would be.

How can you do that to someone?

I cannot tell you how much impact this has had on our lives. Nor can I understand why [houseparent] can’t be called into this investigation. I feel so terribly angry at her and ended up subsequently with major depression, a lot of medication, and an alcohol dependency.

They were only ever concerned about the school’s status – and never once considered the vulnerability of, and long term damage to the child.

In Loco Parentis ? ? ? LIARS.

 

AL4

Overall, I thought the questioning at the inquiry was well done, though I would have liked it to have been made clearer that the abuse referred to by different perpetrators was only a fraction of the abuse experienced by students at Chetham’s. Vallins came across initially as a genteel old man, who was shocked at findings. This impression quickly departed. The head of a school is ultimately the one responsible for the safety and welfare of all within the school. It is their duty to be aware of what is going on throughout their school. What became evident is that there was simply little, if any, main staff responsibility for what went on in Palatine House. Children and teachers alike were completely unsupervised, creating an easy environment for perpetrators to commit their crimes. Even in the Junior School (7-11) there was little if any supervision at break times, leaving young vulnerable children free to roam the corridors and rooms of Palatine House unchecked. No child, of any age, should walk in fear as to when the next assault might take place.

That there was little if any formal training in safeguarding available at that time is totally irrelevant. This is about common sense caring. Making sure children and young people are safe.

Chetham’s was anything but safe in the 1970s (and beyond) and far too many of us carry scars from our time there.

Jenny Terras.

 

AL5

School for me when I entered in 1981 for my sixth form appeared a wonderfully free arena. I enjoyed my music making tremendously and the freedom I had to meet boyfriends, go to pubs, get drunk and sneak out for whole nights at times whilst at school. Luckily I was a very sensible person who didn’t get into any trouble but looking back as an adult, I am horrified that I had these chances. The pastoral care was lax – I survived.I heard all about Fran Shorney and Brewer even though I arrived in the September of the July she left. I learnt all about Malcolm Layfield and his behaviour with girls in my year and above. It was so open I cannot believe that teachers and Vallins did not know. I went on the Venezuelan Chamber Choir Trip In 1983 where alcohol was available on several occasions – to excess. Mrs Brewer engaged in kissing one of the sixth formers in front of many of us and a party was held in the Hilton Hotel where a sixth form boy was pulled up from hanging over the 17th floor balcony under the influence of booze by other boys while Brewer and other staff were inside and unaware. Pastoral care???

I also have close knowledge of abuse (which started in school) on a summer tour where [name redacted] was in cahoots with Brewer on a Chet’s Summer tour to take a girl away from the rest of the group. This tour was organised by Chet’s and not on a Free Weekend when Vallins could wash his hands of responsibility. ‘Not knowing’ about this is not an excuse. Those involved have been affected for the rest of their lives.

 

AL6

I think the very least the new regime can do is write a full letter of apology on behalf of the school and the way it’s predecessors acted. It should for the current pupils outline any proposals and why they are so important, much in the same way Germany and Japan did with its youth following the war. They should all be aware. A guidance counsellor should also be set up should the same problems ever occur again. The pupils must know there is someone they can go to almost independent from the school, who will take any accusation seriously. A final one may be for the school to have a former pupil to go and speak to the pupils once a year about what went on and what they should and shouldn’t do. Also pointing out how easy it is to be groomed or worse. The overall message to all at the school is even if you just hear about something which is not right, regardless who you think is right or wrong, report it. I just think that a lot of those things would have helped those who needed it and also been of use to people like me. Had the attitude at school that it was girls trying to further their careers by sleeping their way to the top. Only on leaving did I realise how wrong I had it. This was further reinforced at [music college] where I met others messed up by the same things at different institutions. There were also those from Chet’s who quit music after finding out the same teacher from Chet’s would be teaching them at [music college] too.

 

AL7

With Chethams in the news again I thought again about my conflicting feelings about the place. It has taken 2 decades to build up self esteem after being there for ten years, and I know that if I had not gone there I would have had no career in music and I would not have met all the wonderful friends, who are still supportive and lovely after many years, friends for life.

I was one of the lucky ones, though, I was not exposed to the worst crimes there.

I have always remembered this though..

‘there are kids out on the streets of Manchester who have more talent in their little finger than you have in the whole of your body’

Did I make this up? Was it said? It is of course true.

 

AL8

I entered Chet’s at 11 as a happy child who was considered to be bright at primary school. By the time I was 12, I was so depressed that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I felt like a complete failure, especially academically. This has stayed with me my whole life.

I came out of my 2nd study piano lessons crying every week for 4 years. The teacher used words that I did not understand and then used to yell and call me hopeless and useless.

In my end of year assessment when I was 14, the assessor told me I had no musicality. I’ve found it very difficult to perform to anybody since.

I feel like Chet’s failed to prepare me for an ordinary life outside music. It took me a long time to adjust after leaving music college.

 

AL9

I started at Chets around 1960 as a six or seven year old. I left in 1969 at the end of the first year of the school becoming a music school and becoming co-ed. I had recently been orphaned but prior to that had lived in a very loving environment. The shock of being at Chets and my abject unhappiness there affects me to this day. I know that the hard environment there added hugely to my state of mind and deep unhappiness.

When I arrived and for all but the final year, corporal punishment was meted out not by the staff, but by prefects. Effectively by seventeen year olds.

Many of these prefects were inarguably sadists ( I could name them even now ) who prided themselves on how much pain they could inflict on young children. Those children could be guilty of nothing more than wanting to go to the toilet after lights out in the dormitory. This would involve knowing that you were going to be ‘slippered’ in the morning and having to therefore spend the night in fear and dread, followed by attending the study block for punishment in the morning.

The ‘slippering’ involved not a slipper but a size twelve plimsoll. The child being assaulted would then have to bend down with an audience of a number of six form sadists whilst the hero administering the ‘ slippering’ would often take a run up in order to inflict as much pain as possible three or six times. The pain was dreadful, causing you to even feel sick.

The audience of sadists thought that this was hilarious.

I often wonder how they, as adults, would react to their own children being assaulted in this way

This punishment was carried out on a trial without jury basis. In other words, sixth formers could decide who would be slippered without any redress or need of explanation or real justification.

Some kids even wore their ability to take slipperings with some sort of warped pride. That in itself paints a picture of a very strange place indeed.

All the staff, and the governor (Harry Vickers ) knew all about this brutality. Some, I know were sickened by it, but I only ever remember a decent PE teacher named Eric Stevens ever trying to do anything about it but being ignored. He was prompted by seeing horrific bruising on young children during swimming lessons.

To me, it is little wonder that an environment where physical assault was actually encouraged, would lead to a culture where sexual assault would also be tolerated by those in positions of trust and authority.

Many of the staff who were in charge during the era that I describe above were still at the school when the sexual assault began to take place. I actually know that they swept it under the carpet for the sake of the school and there own private world.

Also, on reflection, the lack of pastoral or emotional care during my time there now looks astounding. To run a school on a military basis plus condoned violence reflects on the type of people ( or person ) whose influence was overpowering in the extreme.

Is it really any wonder that the previous regime morphed into the disgusting and damaging one that followed?

Finally, I should say that during all my years at the school, I saw no evidence or heard anything about any sexual assault taking place. Of course, this does not mean that it was not happening.

One male teacher did take an unhealthy interest in me and orchestrated an uncomfortable extra- curricular outing with me which to my alarm was allowed by my family ( innocent souls ). But, although I knew his likely motivation, nothing actually happened despite his offer of cider. Back then, I would have been quite capable of flattening him anyway !

I met privately over coffee a few years ago with a retired formerly very senior member of Chets staff. That person had been in post throughout what seems to have been the worst of the abuse issues.

Whilst I cannot remember the precise wording of our conversation, I do remember gaining the strong impression that he and those others at the very top were aware of what was happening and had brushed the issue under the carpet.

There seemed to be an environment where the managers of the school had put the reputation of the school and their positions within the school ahead of justice and the well-being of its pupils.

Perhaps an environment of collective self-importance ?

 

AL10

The scale of the abuse has been way beyond anything I realised. What I HAVE realised is that so many of us little people were at the mercy of big egos whose main agenda was the glorification of themselves with no real awareness of the consequences… I teach in SUCH a different way to how I was “drilled” – hopefully in a climate of care and positivity as opposed to fear and negativity… But I consider myself as a survivor!! I’m well, happy and have an extraordinarily rich musical life…

 

AL11

My male personal tutor told me when I was 15 and feeling upset about a disagreement with my dad. ‘you don’t need your family now, you have us… When you go home you don’t need to talk to them, don’t you have a pet you can hang out with? just stay in your room.’

I know these were the words, I can’t forget them… So horribly controlling and potentially worse. Luckily I realised this was not normal behaviour. But I remember years later doing compulsory child protection training and being in tears after reading the grooming section…. I still wish, in some ways, I could approach him and challenge him about it.

 

AL12

I’ve suffered from asthma since I was two. I can remember [gym teacher] scaring the life out of me when she would tell us nearly every lesson how we were all suffering from sheer ignorance and would end up in wheelchairs by the time we are 30 because we were so all unfit. I remember [another gym teacher] as well yelling at me to carry on running in the PE hall even when I begged to stop. That resulted in me having an asthma attack and staying in hospital. Sooo many teachers back then were cruel. House staff telling us we’re not academics, even though we did well in academic exams. I remember being told by a member of the boarding staff at the sixth form leavers party I probably won’t have passed my German A level as I’m not academic. I got a grade A in that subject for the A level exam. I remember house staff telling other students they weren’t academics yet they went to Oxford and Cambridge. What was it at that place with all the confidence bashing?! There are so many horror stories, way worse than I’ve mentioned just now that happened in the 8 years I was there. I was very glad to leave that school and I’ve not wanted to ever consider sending my child to a boarding school because of it. That and the fact there has never been any need for my children to be boarders anyway.

I still remember the science teachers making kids stand on desks in lessons as punishment. Then wiping the chalk board markers over kids faces and telling them if they see them walking around school without the chalk they will be in trouble. These kids would then walk into lunch with it on their faces; nothing was said! Totally illegal to do that as teachers were not allowed to physically abuse kids at that time. I was hit over the head countless times by [teacher] in Junior A for things like forgetting my glasses. Again, she wasn’t allowed to do that but she got away with it plus her abuse of other kids in her class; emptying boys bags in front of the whole class and mocking them. [Instrumental teacher] (I think [another instrumental teacher] before that) who would tell me I was a useless bassoonist. Then when I won the BBC TV Young musician of the year woodwind section, she came up to me in the bathroom and said ‘Well I’m shocked! You must have improved!’ I remember amazing teachers like Mr and Mrs Hatfield, Mrs Peak, Mr Little and some others. But there were far too many bullies. I too was taught violin by Mr Ling. He scared the crap out of me so I gave up the violin because of him. Just as well. Maybe I would have ended up one of his victims. [House parent] who made little juniors hold pillows at arms length for ages as punishment for talking after lights out. Often we were talking as we were just little kids or felt homesick. Yes we had great opportunities there, but they came at a huge emotional cost to many of us. I gave up the bassoon and never played it again the day I left the RAM. I felt burnt out and didn’t want a life that Chet’s had made me feel I would lead. A life of constant pressure. I have good and bad memories of Chet’s. But it is true. What happens when you’re a kid has a big impact as to the person you become as an adult.

 

AL13

As a day student, much of this passed me by, but as a young 14 year old I knew my good friend was emotionally destroyed by a ‘relationship’ with Layfield. If you weren’t there, I imagine its hard to believe that, to many of us, this behaviour was ‘normal’. At least it was all normalized. I remember envying those girls in the ‘in’ groups, wishing I could be as good as them. I do also have another memory which never really made sense, or at least I used to find rather funny, until the Brewer trial. My teacher was away for a week and during that time, Brewer had me in his office, asking me to try a viola on for size. Weird experience, he was too close, etc. etc.. (every woman reading this knows what I mean). It was too big for me and I was a violin snob so I just didn’t want to continue and left his office. I told my teacher when he got back. My lesson was at the foot of the stairs. He stormed out (this was not a guy who stormed. Instead he was exceedingly zen and calm at all times), went through two fire doors and into Brewers office and I heard him yell ‘Keep your hands off my student’. At the time, I thought it was about the viola. They all knew.

 

AL14

I was at Chet’s 1987-91. Looking back, I feel sad for the vulnerable girl I was, that loved ( and still do) music. I held my teacher in such high esteem..if he said jump, I jumped. At 15 I was given an opportunity to study piano with Bakst and I remember feeling so excited. That was soon to change. A naive, country girl – I couldn’t understand why I felt so uncomfortable during my lessons. Surely, he couldn’t be touching my private parts whilst I was trying to play..it must be my imagination I thought. However, I soon stopped the lessons through feeling scared. My house parent questioned me why I stopped lessons with Bakst and after he asked the question, ‘has he done something’ I reluctantly told him about the way he touched me. I remember my house parent shaking his head and saying, ‘not again’. I was told by a member of staff that it would ruin the career of the very talented male students who were taught by Bakst if it was reported. Naturally, I could not have lived with myself if I was deemed responsible for this. I wondered why Bakst didn’t have any female students back then except one Chinese girl I think. Some piano teachers at Chets were old pupils of Bakst and they referred their talented students to Bakst. If my house parent knew what was going on, surely the other staff knew?! This ‘blind eye’ was endemic in the piano department. We were children and no one cared enough.. shame on all of them. By 17, I had been groomed by my first piano teacher, prior to Bakst, and had regular trips to his house where intimacy occurred. Still 17, I had a nervous breakdown..2 suicide attempts and was unable to complete my last yr at school. I taught myself my A levels and locked myself away in my tiny bedroom for months. I loathed myself. I couldn’t be the ultra slim student that my teacher wanted me to be ..he continuously made remarks about my weight. I developed a serious eating disorder and this subsequently destroyed years of my life and any career prospects. BUT, I survived! Whenever I think back to those darkest days, I break down. I was a kind, loving, trusting girl. It broke me.

Although my experience is one of deep sadness, I feel it is now time for Chetham’s to grow into the best school it can be. I have witnessed changes and I have seen how happy the children are. With the right, strong leadership, Chetham’s can be an amazing experience for so many children. Friends who have recently worked at Chets and current pupils I know there, feel it is now a happy and safe environment and this is all I could wish for the future. Knowing this, has helped me deal with my past.

 

AL15

I was 14 when I was groomed and sexually abused by Ling during my time studying at at Chethams. Ling gave us letters to take home about the courses at his house, they were like the typical school trip letter with a slip to fill in at the bottom and information on how much the course cost and date. They were printed out. There were often other letters from school about tours and trips. This was just like one of those.

From my parents point of view, this was a letter from Chethams because it came from the school and from one of the teachers who worked there.

Chetham’s responded to my civil case by disputing whether I’d even attended the school during that year and asking me to provide proof. This is the only communication I’ve had from them, no apologies or letters or emails or in fact ANY acknowledgement of what happened.

Since op Kiso started seven years ago I’ve been looking towards being able to formally address the abuses of trust that I suffered whilst a student at Chethams in a legal manner.

This still hasn’t hasn’t been possible and I couldn’t be more disappointed that victims voices have been silenced and that there has been no apology or acknowledgement from the school.

I hope that the inquiry has taken into account the devastating and destabilising effect childhood sexual abuse has at such a critical point in life. I’d also point out that a boarding school setting makes it even more isolating when all the power resides with the teachers who were also the abusers and family support is a very long way away

 

AL16

Unfortunately I have few positive feelings about my time there. I, also was not exposed to the worst crimes but the emotional abuse that was inflicted on us has left us with demons and scars that last a lifetime. We were commoditised as children and love and praise was determined/ conditional on our a ability to perform on cue. I did not take up a career in music but that toxic environment shaped the early years of my adult life.

 

AL17

I have made it public that I was abused from 1971-1977. I was shocked to the core, when I turned on the News last Tuesday teatime and heard the names Brewer and Ling being mentioned. I knew nothing about this inquiry and would very much have liked to have been present. Why were we not informed?

I was the first girl to report sexual abuse in 1971 and would have appreciated that being recognised. I felt that my existence hadn’t mattered and this has really affected me very badly this last week.

It was only after my mother telling me the day after my father died, that I had been the biggest disappointment in their lives, was I then able to tell her about the abuse and the reason for me returning to [place of abode]. My father died, never knowing.

If only Chet’s had thrown Professor Bakst out of the school in 1971 and not 1991/2, how many other poor girls could have been saved.

The RNCM also knew that Bakst was abusing. Clifton Helliwell (Head of Keyboard) invited Bakst’s students to his office and offered us a different teacher, if we so wished.

My life path changed for good, thanks to Professor Bakst… why isn’t he getting the same mentioning as Brewer and Ling? I am seething about this.

Bakst abused not only sexually and mentally (when I tried to stop him, he would sulk and sit and read his Polish newspaper during my ‘lesson’) but also physically. On one occasion he insisted I repeat a certain part of Rachmaninoff’s G minor Prelude over and over and over. I told him several times that my right hand was paining… he wouldn’t allow me to stop. It resulted in me seeing 2 specialists and not being able to use my right hand for a year! I still have problems with it, to this day.

 

AL18

Reading this has made me realise FOR THE FIRST TIME that many of the repeating anxieties in my life (no talent, wrong appearance, not thin enough, etc.) stem from the way that various staff members at Chet’s got into my head and have never left. [String teacher] told me I wasn’t pretty enough to be a cellist. [Houseparent] often criticised my weight. I was told by Mike Brewer that I would have to requisition to keep my place had I not been in Fast Set Music…. Somehow all these years I have believed all these things, and believed that they only applied to me and that everyone else was entitled to be at Chet’s, just not me. To read of such wonderful musicians that I look up to and respect receiving similar comments has surprised me to my core and made be reassess just how much insidious damage was done to me and to many other pupils. And that is before you even come to the sexual abuse and the generally toxic culture that made us believe that this was the reality of life in the music business.

 

AL19

I was at Chets from 1986-1991.  I was one of the “lucky” ones; I was a woodwind first study and the wind tutors seemed to have mainly been able to behave appropriately and professionally.

However, I wanted to write and say how let down and angry I feel towards all the staff at the school at the time, but especially the houseparents and headteacher.   We all knew that something wrong was going on – most of us didn’t know the whole story, but rumours abounded about playing naked and “dares” (or punishments) at the house gatherings at Ling’s house.   Yet in our young impressionable minds, somehow, despite the fact that we were aware our friends and peers were being abused, the reactions around us and the fact that the people who were in loco parentis – who we also knew were aware and did NOTHING to stop it or to prevent it happening again, meant that we accepted it as normal, and worse, something to be envied.   Ling’s Strings, were – in our minds – a group of special chosen ones.  They had the cool teacher that drove around in the sports car and leather trousers, they got to go offsite to gatherings that were secret and grown up.  We envied them.   How utterly messed up and wrong is that?

I feel a massive sense of guilt towards my friends.   That we didn’t speak up on their behalf more, that we left them feeling isolated and vulnerable to more abuse because there was no guidance from the adults looking after us that these vile men were doing anything wrong.

I am aware of at least one close friend approaching [houseparent] detailing an unthinkable situation of abuse and her response was to minimise and dismiss.   That left this vulnerable teenager in unbelievable turmoil.

There was no morality amongst the staff – the reputation of the school was the only thing that mattered.   Threats about libel, threats about ruining people’s careers, dismissals of horrendous situations with phrases like “silly girls, making everything so dramatic” abounded.   There was no-one to go to for advice and guidance.

So I want to say to all the staff there in that very long period where Brewer, Ling, Bakst, Layfield et al abused at will and without remorse, if you were there and you knew and you didn’t speak up, SHAME ON YOU.   SHAME ON YOU ALL. You all knew, we know you knew.   How do you live with yourselves?

My mum was very concerned about one of my incredibly vulnerable friends, and tried to intercede with Vallins on her behalf.   She was dismissed and her offers of help were rejected – she was made to feel like an interfering busybody.   She, along with another parent, petitioned the school to try and set up some kind of parent consultation group to enable the parents to have more input to what was going on in the school – this was not allowed.

She was told by a wind tutor that there were bad things going on and that they would never send their own kids there.   My parents agonised over whether to withdraw, but as none of us were encouraged to talk to our parents, they presumed that if something was wrong we would tell them.   Yet we perpetrated the veil of secrecy and silence, because we knew that’s what we had to do to protect the school.

My own story is minimal compared to most – I was lucky.  [Houseparent] was a monster behind her smiley exterior.   She encouraged so many of us to be worried about our weight and appearance – often telling me I was too chubby and needed to lose weight.  She made many hurtful comments in public and private about it.  At the time I weighed 9.5 stone and was 5ft 4.  She wasn’t approachable, everything was dismissed as we were being silly and needed to get over it.   She once told me I was a monster and would never amount to anything in “decent society” because I borrowed an unsuitable video off one of the boys and showed it in the common room. Yet, we were left unsupervised long enough to show a whole film.   We were rarely checked on until it was time for lights out.  The assistant houseparent was having a relationship with the head of strings, and so wasn’t approachable either, although she was kinder.

My experience of Brewer was twisted.   He didn’t like me and used to play mind games with me.  He withheld coveted positions in the orchestra deliberately and taunted me about it.   My very worst time was when I was in Upper Sixth and he summoned me for a private chat in his office at night.   When I went in he was wearing those tiny shorts he often wore that left nothing to the imagination.   He sat behind his desk and regarded me with amusement; I was clearly nervous as I didn’t know what he wanted.   He wrote something on a piece of paper and then put it in the top drawer of his desk, locked it and laid the key on the desk.   Then he stood up, put one foot on a chair, so his genitals were exposed, and said to me “I know what you’re going to be”.   I had no idea what was going on or what he meant.   He gestured to the drawer “that piece of paper says what will happen after you leave school.  Do you want to know what it says?”  I didn’t know what to do, and stood there frozen.   He regarded me with contempt, put his leg down, and shooed me away, saying “you can go”.   I escaped.   I didn’t tell anyone; what was the point and who should I tell?

When I left I went to one of the most prestigious universities in the UK to read music.  Despite this, I was seen as a failure by the music department and the fact I’d rejected a place at the RAM to go down a more academic route was seen as a disappointment.

I want the staff of the time, those that are alive, to know about our stories, and for them to acknowledge how wrong their decisions were and to apologise without reservation.  [Comments about veracity of testimony of former head teachers in the inquiry]  Claire Moreland claimed that a letter was sent to the alumni informing them of the police investigation – but nearly 200 people have responded to say that they’ve never received any such letter.

If the present head is serious about helping the alumni affected, he should be seeking out those members of staff and asking them to write public letters of acknowledgement and apology.   I think it’s outrageous that none of them have been called to account for themselves during these proceedings, especially the [houseparents mentioned in evidence to inquiry].   It’s even more appalling that members of their family have held prominent positions of authority at Chets until very recently.

 

AL20

After two years at Chetham’s my parents had seen enough and took me out.This was in ’76. My dad (a teacher himself) told me later that he had been to see Vallins and told him-based solely on their experience of my treatment there- that in his opinion there were serious problems with how the school was being run, both in the music AND in boarding and academic. He said that he may as well have been talking to himself. Not interested.

 

AL21

I attended Chet’s as a boarder `70-`73.

I remember the physical abuse meted out to younger boys by the 6th form boys.

There was `slipper` treatment, where the 6th form boys stood in rows down either side of their narrow corridor of the 6th form rooms and the child had to run down the corridor between them as they hit the child with slippers. This wasn’t too bad. The worst was the `pillow` treatment. The child was held by arms and feet and dropped on their back onto a pillow on the floor.

Generally, they were not supposed to punish girls, but my friend and I were once locked in a cupboard in the 6th form block and incense sticks were lit through the key-hole until we were coughing so much, and screaming, that the head boy at the time [name redacted] let us out. I have always been a severe asthmatic but they thought it hilarious. [Head boy] refused to take part in any abuse.

I also remember being so hungry that one night, myself and 2 other girls crept into the kitchens and stole all the stale bread. (Naughty but desperate!) We developed quite a taste for it!

My personal sadness was that I had a boyfriend in the school. There was no sex education so we were both very naive. I fell pregnant at 15 yrs old, had a termination and we were both promptly expelled. I suppose back in those days they didn’t know how to handle the situation. At the time, Mrs Littler (house mother) supported me in every way she possibly could. My hopes of becoming a concert pianist died. My teachers, Anthony Goldstone, Pat Shackleton and Fanny Waterman all encouraged me not to give up, but my heart and soul died too. I became a nurse and taught in my spare time.

I hold no animosity whatsoever towards Chet’s. In fact, I have a pupil there now, and another on the way next year.

I only learned of other horrors at an alumni meet a few years ago. [X] told me her story and scorned the hypocrisy relating to my being expelled. [Y] was a few years younger than me. I used to put her to bed and read bedtime stories. She told me that my departure led her to depression, and another friend told me she subsequently developed an eating disorder as she couldn’t believe how badly my predicament was handled. [Y] had other awful tales to tell but it is not my place to relate them.

 

AL22

I was not sexually abused at Chet’s. However, my 1st instrumental teacher told me I was ‘rubbish’ and would not allow me to play in the senior orchestra. After hearing me play about a year later, Brewer told me I was ‘nowhere near as bad as my teacher had told him’. He allowed me in the orch. After that I played in everything (not a common instrument). I had a very difficult time in the 6th form and left with an eating disorder and a habit of self harm. I did not go on to music college, due to my illness, but always felt a total failure.

Addendum: Reading the other testimonies I just recollected an occasion where we were all dressed up in the summer. It was some kind of open day I think. I was wearing a ‘gypsy’ style dress, tight around the bust and lacy. I can vividly remember Brewer leering at my chest and saying what a lovely dress it was. The other member of staff did likewise and said ‘ it’s what’s underneath that counts’ I was 14 at most. Bastards!!! After I left Chets (ill with an eating disorder), I was groomed and raped. No connection I know but just one more fucked up ex Chets pupil…

 

AL23

It has been difficult to watch Mr Vallins, Mr Hullah and Mrs Moreland all apparently not knowing anything about anything. No authentic compassion was visible from any of them either.

Memories of Chetham’s:

String section rehearsals on a Saturday: being asked to play passages by myself because the conductor thought I couldn’t play it. He was right. Incredible shame in front of peers.

Science classes: I was so frightened of one teacher’s sarcastic cruelty. He could tell when you didn’t know something, and would choose you on purpose to explain it, so that you were shamed in front of the whole class. Because I was so nervous I couldn’t concentrate, and had to rely on copying another student’s answers whenever I could.

In another science class, the teacher became angry because people kept saying “What? when we were learning about watts. He called a boy up to the front of the class and punched him in the face.

Maths: a teacher saw me writing in my text book in pencil, he crept up behind my desk and put his arm across my shoulders and pushed me down onto the desk until I was crushed. My chest was very painful and had bruising afterwards.

Another teacher threw a very fat text book at me because I was talking in class. It missed.

Boarding house life: Being patted on the bottom by the housemaster as I was speaking on the public phone in our girls house.

Being put off alcohol forever when I was 13 and new at the school, when I went into the communal toilets and several drunk students were throwing up in there!!

Nurses: only advice available: take 2 paracetamols.

Mr Brewer: he stared at my breasts whenever he spoke to me, and licked his lips. His lips were always cracked and dry, with horrible white deposits at each side.

 

Good things:

The friends I made.

Being in the orchestra when Christopher Adey came to be a guest conductor.

 

AL24

During my School years at Chets I felt abandoned to a place where the staff took very little notice of me. The House Parents barely seemed to register who I was, and I felt uninspired by my violin teacher, so I coasted, doing the minimum I could get away with academically and musically. Having started the school lauded by Brewer as a ‘star talent’, my violin playing was falling behind and so consequently I was called into his office. He proceeded to belittle and humiliate me instead of offering solutions.

After several meetings he concluded I should either leave the school in perceived disgrace, or be transferred to a new teacher who would turn me around. So without any choice I started lessons with Ling.

This was, of course, a disaster.

In my final year I tried to fight back and I threatened to report him. (It had suddenly become clear it wasn’t just me he was ‘picking on’). In response he vowed he would make sure I never played the violin professionally, would ruin my reputation, and would absolutely bar me from getting a place at any music college. We came to a hideous truce where he agreed he would leave me alone if I stayed silent, and I was to pretend to still be continuing my weekly lessons.

I spent that last year facing my music college auditions with no violin teacher (they couldn’t understand why I hadn’t prepared the set scales etc having come from Chets), whilst he still got paid, and continuously bullied and undermined me, in order to keep me toeing his line.

I was by this time withdrawn, painfully thin, often tearful and deeply stressed. My friends tried their hardest to shield me but none of the staff seemed to even notice. In fact my house parent described me to my room-mate as a misery who needed to pull herself together. I wondered why she never once thought to ask me what was wrong, but on reflection I suspect she either knew outright or had, at the very least, heard the rumours, that were rife, of what was going on on the string corridor.

After leaving Chets I buried everything that had happened.

I had barely heard of child abuse and certainly didn’t realise the term might apply in my case. To be clear, Ling manipulated, threatened and isolated me. It was never once consenting – he made my skin crawl. But the atmosphere that pervaded the string department; cello teachers ‘dating’ pupils, violin pupils being ‘girlfriends’, teachers generally sleazing over us girls, making crude comments and unwanted advances, had normalised what I had suffered. Horrifyingly I thought I had just been more unlucky than most, and that it was our lot to be treated as sexual game.

In light of reading the reports from the inquiry, and especially Vallins’ testimony I would like to add some final thoughts.

It was absolutely common knowledge at Chets during my time there, and subsequently, that there were ‘relationships’ happening between staff members and the children. This included the Head of Music  and many of the string staff. Ling was known for being the most blatant; taking girls out for drinks, keeping them late in practice rooms, taking them off site in his car etc.

If we all knew, and Vallins had his ‘ear to the ground’ as he claimed, and yes he lived on site, how, at the very least,  did he not suspect there was inappropriate behaviour going on? Why did he not question and investigate the rumours, as ultimately it was his job to know the goings-on of the school?

The answer is – because he absolutely did know. A close friend reported the abuse to him shortly after I left. She was squashed by him and [houseparent], and a cover-up ensued.

Appallingly it was during these miserable years that Vallins received his OBE.

 

AL25

I was at Chets from 1973 to ‘81. I entered as a fat 10 year old in Junior A and I well remember the bullying and fear liberally meted out by Boss. He even removed the bedroom doors in Palatine as a punishment for some girls talking after lights out- completely unacceptable on every level!  I also remember being called fat in front of the class by Brian Gee and the humiliation of being put on a diet and having to eat crispbread and tinned tomatoes whist everyone else around me ate the normal food. I remember being horribly homesick and having no pastoral care from any member of staff to help me to deal with that.

Academic teaching varied hugely in standard and whilst there were some really inspirational teachers there, having a board duster chucked at one’s head in maths or being called an imbecile was seen as a joke, which it clearly was not. I even set fire to the sleeve of my blouse in chemistry once but there was very little reaction from the teacher and I believe that the Geography teacher either left or  was sacked weeks before our Geography O level, meaning that the majority of my class failed the exam.

As I got older, my status as a fat, average pianist protected me from some of the worst abuses from the teaching staff, as I was largely just ignored, although I do remember feeling very hurt that I was deemed almost irrelevant in terms of the hierarchy so prevalent in Chets society. The sexual liberties allowed during weekend tv times in the 6th form centre were legendary and yet I look back now in horror as to how little parental supervision and care we received then. I was in Millgate House looking after the juniors and one of my room mates frequently had sex in our room during the day with her boyfriend with no awareness from the house staff. As I entered the 6th form, I lost a lot of weight and eventually ended up becoming anorexic, which no one on the staff could cope with. I had my first sexual relationship with another 6th form boy and we had a key to an abandoned classroom which we used for sex, which had been given to us by a leaver and which we subsequently passed to another 6th former when we left. I was put on the Pill by the school doc, with no questions about my medical history, despite the fact that my mother had died young of a heart attack due to being on the Pill. My dramatic weight loss was questioned by him, but it was easy to lie my way out of it and I had no follow up or any ongoing care or monitoring of my weight. My piano teacher changed too during this time  and my new one was emotionally abusive and demanding and acted inappropriately in her lessons. I’m pretty sure that she was an ex pupil of Bakst. I was terrified of her and although I became a much better pianist, it came at a huge price. Around this time, I also found out from a 6th form friend about the sexual relationship she was in with a member of staff, which, as far as I know, she still hasn’t disclosed publicly and may never do so. By this time, it was public knowledge that there were a group of girls, mainly string players, who were involved in sexual relationships with Brewer et al. This was almost seen as a joke and the girls perceived as flaky slappers, which is more a comment on how groomed we all were in accepting such behaviour than the girls themselves. Alcohol featured regularly and the 6th form boys brewed their own beer and cider. It was commonplace to leave school to drink illicitly at several city centre pubs, the Mitre being the most popular one. I can remember drinking there before I reached the age of 18, with staff members present and ignoring us. I also remember the pop up brothels on Long Millgate, the prostitutes’ clients fighting in the street and the Yorkshire Ripper… all of which made leaving school in the evenings a profoundly unsafe experience. Competition amongst pupils in terms of lunchtime concert appearances and orchestral seating was seen as ordinary and yet now, can be viewed as being undermining  and abusive. When I was awarded a place at all of the four music colleges I applied to, I can’t remember a single Well Done coming from anyone! As an adult, I married another ex-Chets pupil who eventually became emotionally very unwell and my marriage to him broke down. This was partly a result of him having had a short lived affair on tour with another ex-Chets pupil who was herself a victim of Layfield and who had, in my belief, grown up with the consequential emotional vulnerabilities which allowed her to engage in such a way towards a married man. So her experience affected my husband and myself so many years later.

I left my dad on his own to go to Chets for 8 years and although it undoubtedly gave me social and musical opportunities I would not have had otherwise, it was not a good place to be. After the RCM, I got a post grad place at the RAM but I never went. I was seriously ill with an eating disorder at College and despite being a prize winner there , I could never slough off the legacy of Chets and the way it made me feel like a complete and utter failure. Instead, I gave up playing for almost a decade and only really returned to it by training to be a music therapist. I’m now a piano teacher but as a single mother, have never been able to have the time to give to a performing career; lack of confidence and the shadows of the reasons my marriage broke down in terms of my ex-husband’s mental health issues have prevented it. I have had a string of failed relationships, all fuelled by the profound lack of parental guidance I received at Chets where none of us were raised with an adequate sense of Self. Egos were either inflated or decimated and most of us were emotionally chaotic and unsafe and have grown up to carry unhappy legacies of our time there.

 

AL26

Chet’s alumnus 1982-1990.

Chet’s was a fiercely competitive environment where prizes defined you: being chosen to play in a masterclass, winning the concerto competition, where you sat in orchestra, scholarships to music colleges etc. Ling’s pupils were outstanding, winning internal and external competitions, leading the school orchestras etc. What we now realise is that they were coerced into accepting their abuse by him because they believed that that is what it took to promote their status.

It makes me feel sick that my friends suffered this abuse behind closed doors; my closest friend never spoke to me about what she endured, it was a secret. This secrecy has wrecked lives and it is now time for a redressing.

I also suffered abuse from Bakst. Most lessons he would put his hand at the top of my thigh when I played. At the time I didn’t consider this abuse, although I knew that it shouldn’t be happening.

When the Head of Keyboard asked me about Bakst’s behaviour during my lessons, I denied that anything untoward had ever happened as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

This is the first time that I’m talking about this incident. I suspect that I’m not the only one with untold Chet’s memories.

#metoo

From the school: I would like counselling available for all Chet’s alumni from that period – no questions asked, just foot the bill. Also, Vallins to be stripped of his OBE and the Vallins building renamed.

 

AL27

In one of the boy’s dormitories, there was a cupboard/wardrobe, on which was written ‘X’s house’ (‘X’ was the name, extremely demeaning, give to one boy by many bullies and many others). What some of the bullies would do was force him into this, so he would be forced into a half-bent-over position, the width practically no greater than his one, so he wouldn’t be able to move, and leave him there for hours, calling and crying. They took great pleasure from this, and other boys found it terribly amusing. Other boys (this boy was a target for many) used to literally ride this boy like a horse around the pool table area in the Millgate building, laughing and cheering while he was crying.

There was the boy who wanted to prove his status over another (both would have been about 16-17 at the time) by delivering him the most pathologically awful hit in the face, so that he lost several teeth, swallowing one of them. Talk of this spread through the house, and the appropriate status was gained.

There was the group of older boys who set on one younger boy who was placed in boy’s house. Amongst the things they did was put sellotape over his mouth and hold his nose so he thought he was going to asphyxiate, or fill his mouth with washing-up liquid, and make him near-choke on it so it come up out of his nose. This as well as kicking him and punching him all over – a whole group of older boys setting on one defenceless boy like this. It was seen as a type of rite of passage, and the test was that he wouldn’t tell the housemaster. There’s more – it is only through talking through these sorts of events in therapy that I have been able to understand that this was not normal behaviour in a school.

And then there was the fact that every single boy in Boy’s House called the house master ‘Prole’. An alternative name was ‘Harry’, also seen as a name which would mock his working-class origins.

All sorts can happen in a brutalised environment. I’m not blaming the boys (they were children) so much as the environment which made this all possible.

I will tell just one story of my own. This concerns the teacher in junior school who made a point of singling out everyone else in the class for praise for what they had done, then holding me up alone in front of them all with that poisonous hatred behind her eyes just to ridicule me in comparison with everyone else. Now I also know that this same teacher, at school camp, actually slept with a sixth-form boy.

This school was a cesspit. It is a disgrace that John Vallins was ever let anywhere near a school, and he should feel nothing but shame and guilt for the rest of his days.

 

AL28

I was one of the lucky ones. I always felt that Chet’s was my home and the staff and pupils my family. I had never had a close relationship with my family and Chet’s became a sort of foster family for me. I was never aware of the terrible things that were going on but there were a lot of rumours about Brewer and Ling. I am devastated by everything that has come to light and my heart goes out to every child who was affected and those adults who continue to be. For anyone who was in a similar position to me, we are feeling a huge sense of loss at the moment. All those happy memories, what was lying beneath? What was true? Who was genuine? All those close relationships we developed with the teachers ([list of some names]), were they a lie? It is so terribly sad and I am absolutely devastated. To all those children who I grew up with – you were the most special, wonderful family to grow up with and none of you are to blame.

Just to add: I would like the school to find all past teachers and find out what they knew. They owe it to us.

 

AL29

It’s only after reading some of the impact statements from my fellow Chetham’s students in and around the 1980’s that the rather dysfunctional pattern of my life has become clearer.

I went to Chetham’s excited about the opportunities to be in a musical environment and develop my full potential. I left with shattered self-confidence and disillusioned not just with music, but with life.

In a nutshell,, I was taught by Bakst. Although I didn’t suffer sexual abuse as badly as some of the girls I knew who were taught by him, he bullied and intimidated me. This culminated in me walking out of a lesson – from which there was no way back as ‘nobody walked out of Bakst’s lessons’. I then took a step back and was taught by my first teacher at Chetham’s, losing all sense of direction.

In the sixth form after this had happened, I was close to leaving Chethams for the local grammar school back home. But I stayed. I seem to remember my parents talking to John Vallins, who encouraged me to stay

I’d never really understood why I dropped out of my first year of university straight after leaving Chets – and I tried to run away to France (but didn’t quite succeed due to a ferry strike at the time!!). I was desperately unhappy but thought it was just ‘me’.

I then went on to another university to do a languages degree and became obsessed with sport because the particular sport I pursued made me feel ‘strong’ and ‘respected’ for what I could do and achieve. I barely studied as I was constantly training, but somehow managed to get a decent degree despite failing a year and having to repeat it.

I couldn’t face the university careers service when I graduated – the sheer thought of any ‘structure’ being imposed on me in the form of a proper job and authority from above scared me rigid. Hence, I ended up working for 6 years in a cycle shop. A waste of my various talents, in my opinion.

I haven’t really played the piano since leaving Chetham’s. In fact, the piano my parents bought me when I started Chetham’s is in my garage.

Fast-forward to 2010 and I finally found the opportunity to become self-employed thanks to the rise of the Internet and entrepreneurial activities.
.
I am starting to look at my past, especially my teens, twenties and thirties, in a totally different light….

 

AL30

I remember also being bullied by the female junior school teacher with hatred in her eyes. At least I can’t imagine it being anyone else. Is there any reason we shouldn’t name her? She was called [X]. Perhaps her name can be redacted if needed. She is long dead I believe. She was in my experience a very opinionated, forceful, bitter person, very wrapped up in herself and without the maturity required of a teacher. She openly declared frequently that she hated girls and wished they had never been allowed in to the school. Her tenure dated back to before they were.

As with other teachers, ex pupils had mixed experience of her and some thought and still think she was marvellous. It is important to realise that abusers don’t abuse everyone and can present as quite charming to others. Nor do bullies bully everyone. They pick on people who seem vulnerable or who annoy or discomfort them for whatever reason. Teachers ought to be able and willing to rise above these feelings, be the adult and treat their pupils reasonably equally and decently, even in the face of provocation. She didn’t and in an environment where bullying was quite normal, she was a law unto herself. Perhaps, being conditioned into this environment, those who weren’t the targets also overlooked that others were. We all accepted our lot and that of others as normal. Playing favourites and targets is also of course a great way to gain the collusion of the class and make the bullying more painful for the target.

She had those she hated and those who were her favourites. She also had her figure of fun boy in my time who she liked to ridicule and dismiss in a seemingly affectionate but demeaning way. She made him the class joke. I believe, having heard since, that he was also badly bullied by other boys. No doubt her behaviour towards him fed into this if not causing it. She took a dislike to me, and I think a couple of my friends. She launched an ongoing bullying campaign against me that lasted the entirety of my time within her reach, which I think was two years due to lack of teachers. It was usually verbal although she hit me across the head once. She would ridicule my appearance daily as a matter of course in front of the class and would take any other opportunity going to try to undermine or humiliate me. I tried to ignore, resist or fight back in minor ways, but at age nine and ten being subject to a concerted daily hate campaign by an adult in front of my peers was hard to deal with. It made my life at school a misery and profoundly affected my self-esteem. I know I wasn’t the only one.

I didn’t know about her allegedly sleeping with a sixth former at camp, though I do remember her openly singing the praises of and fawning over a man who used to go to camp. He was no longer involved with the school. He might have been an ex pupil or ex teacher I’m not sure. She would often talk about herself and her opinions at length in class, so telling us how marvellous this man was and how much she was looking forward to seeing him at camp was par for the course. As I attended camp, I saw her flirting with him and we all assumed there was an affair or would be if it was up to her.

One disgusting practice that hasn’t yet been discussed was the ‘staking out’ ritual at school camp, where a group of adults or older large pupils would grab someone, overpower them and tie them spread-eagled to the ground with tent pegs. People would then gather around them to taunt them, laugh at them, poke them, throw things over them (I remember cold water and pig-swill being favourites). This was all treated as a marvellous joke and was expected to be laughed off by the victim. This was pretty much the approach to all public assaults and bullying, like the beatings with a huge plimsoll meted out by a games teacher ([Y], still alive) amongst others and perhaps his ‘red hand gang’, which boys from the late seventies/early eighties might throw more light on. I also know of at least one occasion when several junior school girls were assaulted by a female games teacher with a plimsoll. Like with corporal punishment it was usually the boys who were victims of staking out but not always.

One day at school camp a group of men, including the one that [X] had a thing for, grabbed me, dragged me somewhere and started trying to tie me down. I was told this was under instruction from [X]. They actually looked a bit sheepish like they knew they were doing something wrong and that even in a world where ‘staking pupils out’ for japes was normalised, they realised that this was crossing a line (big adult men, small girl, obvious, open animosity from the person instructing them to do it, obviously not a joke on either side). [X] came to survey what was happening and to openly gloat. I fought the men and didn’t give up until I managed to get away. I ran away and was gone for the rest of the day. I don’t remember any search parties being sent for me. I remember sitting on top of a hill with another friend who had run away to the same place, looking down at a view of several people being staked out. It looked like a crucifixion scene. We didn’t want to go back. I also remember a very large boy/man being staked out and quietly going along with it saying that he had health problems (asthma being one) and had to be careful. He was clearly struggling physically and afraid while they carried on regardless.

Another junior school teacher in the late seventies was Brian Gee, again remembered fondly by many, but not all. He once made a lengthy public speech to the whole junior school about what a despicable person the child was who had been stealing money from coat pickets in the cloakroom. He finished off by revealing the identity of the child. She was there. Was this an appropriate way to deal with the situation?

Funnily enough, in informal chat amongst alumni, the person who most viciously defended these teachers and attacked anyone who said anything against them, is someone who I remember as the chief bully in the junior school. He was the biggest boy and used to beat up the others at break times. He is now apparently in a senior position in education. I am not blaming him, certainly not the child that he was. It was the culture of the place from the teachers down. There was a lot of ‘fighting’ amongst the boys, certainly at junior school. That seemed to be what boys did at the time, and maybe it is, but from what ex pupils have said subsequently I think many boys were being physically bullied and assaulted and it wasn’t all in good fun. It wasn’t stopped by the teachers and in some cases it was modelled.

Some of us knew or subsequently worked out that the violence, bullying and abuse was wrong and some didn’t and haven’t. Some don’t want to think about it at all. Whilst there was a lot of useful discussion and support in alumni discussions and chat after Fran’s death there were also those who were very protective of the school and hostile to critics or abuse victims. Discussion could degenerate to a very low and abusive level as if we were going back in time and some shocking defence of predators and undermining of victims took place. Some of the defenders of the schools and abusers were still involved with the school as parents or teachers or were still friends and colleagues of sexual abuse perpetrators. So the toxic legacy and pain for unacknowledged victims goes on.

From the music side, some of my school friends were routinely bullied by instrumental teachers. Some of these people were seemingly quite disturbed and volatile, if not out and out sadistic or physically and sexually abusive, and were not suited to teaching. I didn’t know about the sexual abuse until recent years, but there was much undermining, criticism and whittling away at the children’s self esteem. I had plenty of this from my first piano teacher, [Z], who may have been mentioned earlier and was a pupil of Bakst. She would shout and verbally abuse and write heavy scrawled notes in my practice book with underlined capitals and lots of exclamation marks. The general drift was that I was not good enough and must try harder. She might storm out. She also advised her pupils to skip meals so they could practice more. She entered me into a competition once, which I hated and which terrified me. The result of going through it all was to be in the doghouse because I had played a wrong note. Apparently, according to [X], it was a matter of common courtesy to manage not to do that. So I was the lowest of the low. I was an eight-year-old child.

Another piano teacher of a friend ripped up her music threw it on the floor and jumped up and down on it when she was unhappy with her progress. In each case our parents eventually got our teachers changed, but there was no question of the teachers being challenged on their behaviour or stopped from doing it to the next poor kid.

I wasn’t the most conscientious, endlessly practising pupil, mainly because I was really unwillingly conscripted into this rarefied environment and this classical music ‘career’. I know some did have a real vocation and others probably bought wholesale into the ambitions of those around them. Even then, I’m not sure that a school like that is the appropriate vehicle for such an interest. It certainly seems inappropriate for children of such a tender age, even if all the abuse could be eradicated, which I doubt. Many who did have passion and dedication had it sucked out of them by their experience there, or had so many negative issues tacked on to it.

Whatever interest I had in music was certainly eclipsed by the verbal abuse, pressure, oppressive atmosphere, unwanted responsibilities and stress. I was told I had a gift that I had a duty to serve, and in a very specific, prescribed way. I didn’t want to dedicate my young life from age eight to a classical music ‘career’. I wanted to lead the normal life of a kid. I didn’t want to spend my free time sitting in a room on my own in front of a piano practising pieces I didn’t like for hours. I wanted to be out playing with my friends.

If I hadn’t practised as much as my first teacher wanted I would sometimes stand outside the door of the room where my lesson was to take place. Although I knew it would only incur her wrath further, I could stand there for ten minutes or more getting later and later for my lesson feeling unable to face going in.

Even when I got nicer teachers, the fact remained that I was being forced, as a child, to devote my whole life and being to something I didn’t want to do. All the pressure to unwillingly practice, perform, take exams, enter competitions, etc, just made me into a very stressed kid. Nobody ever seemed to pick this up, though it must have been clear to anyone with any emotional intelligence, something that was and I believe still is, sadly lacking in these places.

A subsequent relatively nicer piano teacher I had turned out to marry a choir master and music teacher who could be entertaining and was liked by some, but could also be quite a bully. That was [AA]. He once found himself accidentally giving me a compliment by bemoaning my recent absence and saying I was useful in the choir. Realising what he had done he quickly qualified this by insisting ‘not good, but useful’. This was a shame because the choir, and even performing with the choir in public, was the one musical thing I enjoyed there, and I might even have pursued and enjoyed singing as a second instrument if I had not been convinced of my inadequacy. Singing is something that I did do many years later and I know now that I do have a good voice. Of course [AA] delivered this put down in front of the rest of the choir and, whether he really thought it or not, it is hard to know what positive outcome he could have wanted to achieve by saying it and doing it in that way.

Once [AA] had married my teacher he took to telling me off, again in front of the rest of the class, if I was deemed not to have been practising enough. This destroyed any feeling of trust and safety I had with her. For reasons I can’t remember I changed to a third and final teacher who was nice, and even tried to find music I liked, but I think the damage had been done by then and there were so many other reasons to be stressed and unhappy at the school, so this didn’t salvage things for me there and I continued to lobby to leave.

It never seemed to be an issue what the kids did or didn’t want to do or what our interests in music were. We were there to get with the programme and be sacrificed at the alter of the almighty music, as selected by those in charge, the plaudits and reputation of the teachers and school and presumably keeping the revenue coming in the gravy train running.

I remember finding Michael Brewer creepy and immediately guessing his name when my husband told me a Chet’s teacher had been convicted of child abuse. I had some contact with him and he led my audition, but I didn’t have a lot of contact with him. I managed to leave in the early stages of puberty so I was probably not on his radar. I don’t remember Fran but she was there when I was, a couple of years above me. What happened to her was so tragic and now that Brewer and his wife are long out of prison, her husband and kids still live with her loss and it’s legacy. One thing is for sure, her death brought hundreds of ex pupils together, largely online, to share and better understand experiences and in some cases prosecute those who abused them. The chain reaction has been immense and affected far more people than those who have publicly testified.

I’m so glad I managed to persuade my parents to let me leave, a process that took 5 years, with every summer holiday an oasis that may or may not end with me having to go back there again. Come that day, like many others, I turned my back on the piano and any involvement in music for ten years. Later I did manage to enjoy getting involved in music I liked for fun, but the instruments I had played at Chet’s always had negative connotations, as did classical music which I was turned off for life. I also had to overcome as best I could a lot of associated insecurity and anxiety, including severe and crippling self-criticism, all of which dated back to Chet’s.

I thought I was the only one who carried the burden of not feeling good enough and feeling I was letting the side down, which was regularly reinforced by the adults around me at Chet’s. Little did I know that this was almost a standard part of the conditioning of pupils at Chet’s. I think the pupil who was confident in their abilities, felt nurtured and supported and enjoyed their music must have been rare. It is only by sharing stories that many of us have probably realised this.

Whilst my time at the school was unhappy, I fully realise that my stories pale in comparison to the horrendous accounts of abuse we now know. My heart goes out to all those who were sexually abused. It also goes out to those who were physically assaulted, bullied and otherwise abused and who were negatively affected by the toxic atmosphere and regime of Chet’s, as you would be. That would include me I suppose and I realise now would bring it to a very large number, perhaps even the majority of ex pupils. What is worse there seems to have been a similar culture in many other schools and colleges.

Although my memories are quite trivial in comparison to the worst excesses, I think they all form part of the context and culture within which the worst things happened. Even the things I remember and went through there were unacceptable and not something a child should have to deal with. I would certainly never send any child of mine to a place like that or accept them being treated in any of those ways.

I think that the accounts and memories from the past are still very relevant today, because there is no real evidence to show that all the welfare concerns are behind us and that the culture of Chet’s and elsewhere carries none of these negative issues. Even the concept of these schools and sending kids there has to be in question. Is it healthy to convince children they should embark upon a ‘career’ and adult responsibilities to which they should devote most of their time? Even if it is, is it actually being done in a healthy way?

Whilst it is a positive step that the latest head has apologised for past abuses and will communicate with ex pupils, this does not allay all concerns. The apology was after all given under extreme duress and this head has still stuck to the mantra that all these bad things were bad but are firmly in the past and everything is different now. There still isn’t enough humility or self-reflection. I also doubt that all the old guard and old attitudes have been completely shed.

Addendum: I forgot to mention that one music theory teacher, [AB], used to call kids up to the front who had displeased him and hit them over the head with an enormous book. Again, laughed off by him and most of the kids (usually boys), but a really silly, dangerous and violent thing to do in retrospect, not to mention the bullying aspect.

It should also be noted that for the boarders, the bullying and assaults from adults in charge continued into the evening and night by a fair few accounts, including more corporal punishment. I remember visiting a dorm with my boarding friend when we were eight and her telling me about being given ‘apple pie beds’ and how she hated boarding and really missed home. That sounded miserable enough, but I realise it wasn’t the half of it. Needless to say, led by the example of the adults or left unchecked, fellow pupils could also be brutal to boarders within their accommodation.

That has to be another scenario of dubious benefit in addition to the whole music hothouse / sweatshop idea: sending kids as young as seven away from their homes and families to live full time in an institution, for no good reason other than to apparently further their education and their musical ‘careers’ with little thought of their physical and emotional development and wellbeing. In this case this was frequently with bullying and uncaring ‘house parents’. How much more vulnerable those boarders were to sexual abuse as well, far away from their parents, under almost complete control of the school and unable to escape. It was the boarders who had it the worst. They were the most seriously let down.

Even the kind house parents wouldn’t love and care for the kids like their own parents would. How does this set kids up for happy, healthy young lives or indeed adult ones? A really silly, misguided practice in my view. I refuse to accept that this is a healthy way to bring up kids at the best of times, and the best of times it surely wasn’t for Chet’s boarders in the past. Research has been done on the emotional damage done to displaced kids in boarding schools, so I’m not the only one with misgivings and accounts from Chet’s ex-boarders are not the only evidence available on the folly of this.

 

AL31

I started Chet’s in lower sixth and having come from a normal comprehensive school in Greater London I felt very privileged to be a student there. Around the time of my audition I attended one of Chris Ling’s pupils concerts in London. I can remember being blown away by the standard of playing. Chris Ling was sitting in the front row being very flamboyant. In my final violin lesson before I left to go onto Chet’s my violin teacher had a long chat with me. She explained that Chet’s would be a fantastic place for me to blossom, but that I should be wary of some of the male members of staff. No plunging necklines or short skirts she said. Of course being 16 I didn’t pay much attention!

Within a few weeks of starting it became apparent that there had been many inappropriate things going on. Chris Ling had just left, everyone was talking about him and there were many rumours of relationships between pupils and teachers particularly in the string department.

During my first year I got taken out for drinks with another student by one of the violin teachers on many occasion. To be honest I’m not really sure why I went, maybe it was the free booze! He wasn’t even my violin teacher. I guess I felt lucky to be asked in some weird way. I can also remember returning from a night out very scantily dressed with another girl. It must have been late maybe 10.30pm. I walked through the string corridor to fetch my violin to take it up to my dorm and I saw Mike Brewer. I panicked, he looked really sweaty and had this big grin on his face and was looking up and down at us. We started to run off, we were giggling but feeling a bit freaked out to see Brewer at that time of night. He started chasing after us, he was laughing. We ran up the stairs and managed to get back into Palatine through the main door. We had a laugh about it afterwards, Mike Brewer being a pervert as usual! Looking back it seems so wrong!

But I was truly one of the lucky ones and remained unharmed at Chet’s. My playing did blossom, I made some lovely friends, some of which I am still in touch with. I went on to music college and now enjoy a successful career in music. My heart goes out to those who have been so badly affected and had a truly dreadful time at Chet’s.

 

AL32

I’m so sickened reading and hearing all of these reports. I was there from 1990-1996 (from memory).

I don’t remember much of my time there, just snippets? Not sure why this is.

However, I know what I’ve not heard anything about is the other house parents & other staff.. particularly [houseparent] from the [one of the houses in the school] who was in relationships with students. He wasn’t the only one, this was common knowledge across school that relationships between staff and students were happening! Brewer was one of them too in my time. He was in a relationship with the head girl who was in sixth form! I was 2 years below at the time!

Now that I’ve listened and read all of these reports I can remember some awful experiences of staff, for example, throwing a heavy text book at me Cos I had hiccups [name redacted] English teacher telling me I’ll never pass my gcse because I’m too stupid then accusing me of slamming a door in face (I hadn’t seen her behind me?!) – I got an A btw, the same comment from the science teacher – I got a B!

I went on chamber choir tours with Brewer! Did the staff know about the allegations of abuse against him before we went? Therefore putting us at risk! I’d really like to know? All of the staff there should be held accountable not just the few we are hearing about! All the house parents! All teachers…. everyone.

I’m actually a senior safeguarding officer with Manchester City council based in a large primary now!

 

AL33

I was not sexually abused while at Chet’s in the 1970s but my story is just another example of the neglect which was prevalent at the time.

From 1973/4 I had several symptoms, all relating to primary hypothyroidism, which were never picked up on. I had bald patches in my hair, I became increasingly tired (some of my reports said that I was lethargic), I became very depressed and just shut myself off from things so that I have very patchy memories of that time. I suffered such severe constipation that my bowel closed up. This involved me having to go to hospital and have really horrible procedures (completely on my own). My broken hip (a slipped epiphysis which was also related to an undiagnosed underactive thyroid) was not picked up on for 2-3 years; I was treated for a pulled muscle and given some cream to rub on until eventually I was sent for an x-ray. While in hospital I had various other symptoms which indicated that I had had an underactive thyroid for several years. Over this time I had become convinced that I was probably a bit of a hypochondriac and not so good at coping with aches and pains: the opposite turned out to be the case.

There was an utter lack of any pastoral care or creation of a safe and secure environment at Chet’s in the 70s. I could not share with my family how miserable I felt at school as they had enough problems of their own.

When I returned to the sixth form I was inexplicably boarded out to live with the PE teacher and his wife, an experience which further isolated me and for which I have been unable to get any explanation.

After all that has happened, and especially as I am now a mother, I feel so sorry for the girl I was back then. Totally alone and thinking that there was no place for her in the world because she was simply not good enough to exist.

 

AL34

I was at Chets 1970-72 then again 75-77 – I have very fond memories of a lot of that time and some of the freedom we were afforded as teenagers growing up together as a family. I still maintain some of those friendships now.

I just want to share an incident that happened at the end of the Easter term 1976 which took on greater significance when the trial of Michael Brewer became public.

It was the end of the Easter term and for some reason a few girls stayed behind an extra night before going home – there was a party in Miss Woodruff’s flat (Housemistress) which we went to – teachers were also there. A group went off to get pizza and I went to bed. Later that night I woke up to see a figure standing in the doorway of my room – and with dread realised I was the only girl on the corridor. We were in the centre of Manchester and I was the most terrified I’d ever been in my life up to that point – I pretended to be asleep and out of the corner of my eye I recognised it was one of the teachers, not music staff but an academic teacher who was in boys boarding at that time. He stood there for a long time and then came to sit on my bed – I don’t know if he knew I was awake and I can remember very confused feelings, mainly wondering why on earth he was there.. I could smell alcohol on his breath – as long as I feigned sleep we could maintain the status quo. As far as I remember he sat there for a long time – eventually I did pretend to wake up and at that point he got up and left. I can remember the courage it took for me to get out of bed, run down the corridor, through the glass doors, up the stairs to my friends’ room on the top floor. In the morning we went to see Miss Woodruff – all she said was, oh yes- he was a bit drunk last night… Instead of getting the train home I went to tell my then boyfriend – as I was leaving school she came up to me and said, ‘are you absolutely sure it happened?…’

The next term the teacher had left boarding but continued to teach at the school for many years. Nothing was ever said to me about it, although I remember JV coming to talk to me at supper in the Baronial Hall, which was unusual.

I’ve managed to piece all this together with the aid of my teenage diary – we’re talking 40 years ago! Gary Glitter, Jimmy Savile were up there as role models..

Around 2011 the teacher in question sent me a message on Facebook which must have been when Brewers trial started – it was quite breezy and I just thought it was a Facebook weirdo! Of course, later I realised he was watching his own back – I didn’t reply. He seems to have removed his profile now.

It has a significance as this was prior to some of the dreadful abuse that took place in subsequent years and surely JV must have known there was a culture at the school.. Bakst was reported as far back as 1971.

I listened to the live streaming of the Inquiry and cried at the evidence of women in their 40s describing their ordeals –

I actually hated the salacious way the trial and Fran’s suicide were reported and the sensationalism surrounding the ‘story’. However, it had a profound effect on me personally – not only did it make me question the situation I was in at the time relationship-wise, (probably a good thing), it certainly impacted on my teaching job at a private school – somehow, I felt I was tainted by being associated with Chets even though I had been a pupil there, not a member of staff.

 

AL35

Chet’s student 1989-1998.

On watching the inquiry and reading it. I am appalled at Vallins, Hullah and Moreland. Still using cloak and dagger methods (relaying blame elsewhere) to sweep things under the carpet and cover things up. I do not understand why Mrs Rhind or people from the board of governors at the time have also not been called up and made to answer questions. It is quite plain to see they all failed in their duty and the rest of staff there that knew or heard rumours (they were probably scared not to speak up as would lose their own reputation in the music world or job if academic staff).

It is the truth that there was another cover up around the time Brewer left and that was of another housemaster/[academic subject] teacher who had relationships with students.

The school failed massively in its pastoral care and welfare of its students. The whole culture was a toxic environment to grow up in. I myself suffered greatly with anorexia and in adult life have depression/anxiety with the root cause of life at Chet’s that my psychologist/psychiatrist can confirm.

The friends I made and the few staff who really did care about our welfare are the positives and I received an education and piano teaching and musicianship I wouldn’t have received back home. That is no compensation for the awful culture the school thrived on.

I want to see Vallins stripped of his OBE and the Vallins building renamed.

 

AL36

As a wind player, I feel that I was lucky during my time at Chet’s. However, even writing that feels so wrong. Why should there have been pupils who were ‘lucky’ enough to avoid the direct and immediate effects of the culture of abuse that existed there? As with many of my mid-80s contemporaries, there was always gossip about who in the Sixth Form Mike Brewer was involved with, Ling’s Strings and Bakst (to mention just a few) but this was normalised amongst pupils – and in some ways was seen as something to be emulated. From the distance we are now, and as a teacher myself in a boarding school, I’m staggered to consider that this could in any way have seemed to be acceptable.

Pastoral care was essentially lacking – why was it possible for us to spend nights in the boys’ boarding house, spend evenings at the pubs (often with member of staff turning a blind eye) and even be able to spend whole nights out in Manchester? We were essentially left to our own devices in the boarding house with little care or consideration being shown to us.

The testimony of John Vallins in which he simply abdicated all knowledge and responsibility sickened me. I fail to believe that there was no way he knew of this – and if that holds even a grain of truth, then at the very least, he proves himself to have been incompetent as a Headmaster. The complete lack of compassion from him even now is something that I just can’t forgive. I have questions also about how many other members of staff knew what was happening and chose to ignore it – I fail to believe that other senior members of staff were unaware, yet did nothing to address the many concerns.

As with many other ex-pupils, I feel an enormous sense of guilt that I didn’t act upon any of this at the time when friends spoke about such things, but the normalisation of the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse allied with the poor pastoral care meant that there was little understanding and the reputation of the school mattered above all else. That strikes me as such a poor excuse now and I wish I’d been braver at the time – but then, reading others’ comments, would anyone have taken any notice even then?

 

AL37

I arrived at Chetham’s when I was 14, in time to study for my GCSEs and A-levels. I spent my last 4 years of school there, from 1988-92. For my first two years I shared a dormitory first with 4, then with 3 other Chris Ling pupils. I could tell I was different but I didn’t know why. I had arrived at the same time as one of the girls and was really good friends to start with but then she drifted and got closer to the others. As time progressed, I noticed they were much more ‘advanced’ than me (this is what my 14 year old mind called it). They were experimenting with make-up, really extravagant sexy underwear. I always felt a bit of a frump but of course, that’s because I didn’t know what was happening to them. Once the news came out a few years ago, everything immediately made sense to me. I re-connected and found they had been affected, personally and directly, by this horrendous man. Suddenly their premature sexualisation made complete sense. As an adult I was horrified to look back and realise that was why they were so attractive, making such an effort, wearing these underwear garments. It was utterly devastating to learn what happened to them. And to learn that many pupils tried to tell staff and they were ignored or told to be quiet. I am shocked to learn that the very people who were meant to protect us were aiding and abetting abuse on a very large scale. I am fortunate to not have got caught up in anything directly but the school was known to be a chronically unhappy place. For years people teased me, saying everyone who came out of Chet’s was messed up. I thought it was because they practised too much. The other point to make here is I know the boys were very violent towards each other. I can’t help wondering if it was all part of the same terrible dereliction of duty. My friend said the others regularly beat him up. No staff stood in. I would like finally to underline that we were NEVER written to, invited to make statements, offered counselling or any other support. The school has NEVER contacted me about this matter. I am shocked that the school has behaved as it has and then claimed to have involved us. I am lucky to have a great career as a musician but many of my friends have been destroyed by the school. When will it face up to the lives lost to mental and physical ill-health (very serious in the 3 cases I know of)? When will it offer proper compensation to these people?

 

AL38

I was at Chet’s at the time of the Michael Brewer trial and through the subsequent press revelations about the school. Possibly the biggest issue is that my memory is still accompanied by the feelings of a 16-18 year old… a young person in a potentially vulnerable position. It is only when I look back that I realise that I was still very vulnerable at that age and that my understanding of the world was still generally very naive. Naturally the main concern for students at the time was protecting the reputation of the school. This was seen in the online conflicts on Slipped Disc every time a new article was published about Chet’s.

After many years those feelings still exist (though diluted), and I now realise that Chet’s didn’t do anything to support students who were at the school when all this was happening. There was no guidance on how to tackle news reports; no formal discussion about who had been affected or when; no acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the students, or reassurance that we were all safe. The only pieces of guidance we ever received were in the form of Ms Moreland standing up in assembly to tell us the school was being investigated but not to worry and carry on as normal. Ms Moreland was largely out of the picture the rest of the time.

 

AL39

JUNIOR SCHOOL

Good:

Small class sizes, rigorous curriculum and homework from age seven.

Daily spelling tests, punctuation lessons. We were always encouraged to take books from the extensive library, take care of small rodents. Science with Mr Gee, art with [X], charity awareness from Mrs. Mainprize.

Someone who really stands out from this time was the exceptional music teacher Cecilia Vadja, a Hungarian émigré and pupil of Zoltan Kodaly. She hated and struggled with the ethos of the school which is saying something, coming as she did from behind the iron curtain. I learned so much from her.

 

Bad:

There were only six girls in juniors in 1969. Until age eleven I was called only by my surname by my classmates. I developed an aggressive, tomboyish personality as a defence mechanism.

In the early days the only option was to play football in PE. The PE teacher Mr Pessel (before [Y] joined) solved this by allowing myself and two other girls to go to the swimming pool totally unsupervised during double games. Usually a boy would appear to tell us it was time for us to change and return to lessons after morning break. On one occasion this did not happen and we appeared with wet hair much later. For this we were severely punished and made an example of in assembly when it was simply not our fault.

Mr Gee was prone to episodes of mania. I remember the whole Junior A class being forced to write lines for a whole day for some minor misdemeanour by a few pupils.

Mr Vickers acted likewise. You could be bawled at crossing the yard and summoned to his office for a uniform inspection. Offences included not having all your cardigan buttons done up or unpolished shoes.

The Matron (Mrs. Vickers) had designed the girls’ uniform. Picture ‘Call the Midwife’ circa 1955. Originally only available from Henry Barrie, it was all wool and very expensive. You could easily spot a boarding girl because this uniform was ruined, washed out in the school laundry. There was also a school cape which made it impossible to carry anything while wearing it. Imagine on public transport hauling a satchel, violin case and duffel bag with hands protruding through the two small holes in front. All topped off by a blue beret. Losing or not wearing the beret had consequences.

From the time I started in Junior B, every breaktime we played cards in the class room. The game was Beggar my Neighbour. The loser of each round had to remove an item of clothing or show their genitals for an increasing amount of time. A ‘sentry’ on the door alerted us when the teachers were returning from the staff room.

Around age ten, swimming lessons consisted of us playing underwater kiss chase in full view of the staff supervisor.

 

 

School Camp – Around 1972

Good:

The school bus driven by Mr Tyler!

Cocoa in the marquee.

Complete freedom of movement.

It was run on strict military lines by Brian Raby, with accommodation which consisted of canvas army tents.

Communal cricket and rounders.

One night I organised a group of girls to sing in a seaside talent competition in Llandudno. What the trippers made of four part Kodaly folk songs is anybody’s guess!

 

Bad:

A bizarre holiday that quickly progressed from ‘St. Trinian’s’ to ‘Lord of the Flies’.

All previous testimony about camp is true. ‘Staking Out’ could be done in the field or worse case, ‘suspended over the bog pit’. The game ‘Split the Kipper’ was played where your legs were progressively extended to the splits position. It was played with penknives or even larger lethal knives. There was no supervision.

There were a couple of boys, who had probably just left Upper Sixth, with whom [X] spent a lot of time. Every day one of them would rub suntan cream all over her on Deganwy beach. There was a lot of tinkering with her sports car as well. In retrospect I think there was a lot more to it than this…

At night the tents became orgies as the sexes mingled. I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time as I was very young. My father paid a visit and interrupted a daytime tryst on arrival. That was the last time I was allowed to attend.

In the day we fished for crabs. At night we walked them over the top of the nearby quarry and cheered.

I wore the same clothes including underwear for ten days. Nobody noticed or cared.

 

SENIOR SCHOOL

Good:

I encountered some exceptional and inspiring teachers, including Mr Richie, Mr McFarlane (a true eccentric), Mr Leach (15th century polyphony anyone? & Peter Sellers comedy records), Penry Williams and Mrs James, both of whom taught history.

 

Misguided:

I would put many of the staff in this category, including my first teacher who sent me for a trial lesson with Bakst when I was thirteen. I commented ‘He looks frigid’ and she said ‘Don’t you believe it’.

 

Bad:

[Z]. A horrible bully (and I think a former policeman) who called me arrogant and always addressed me as Mozzzzzzzart after a mispronunciation with my Lancashire accent. There was a kind of show and tell in his lesson, every week we were encouraged to bring in our favourite recordings. My Brandenburg Concerto was abruptly turned off with the comment ‘terrible recording’. This was the sort of thing that destroyed confidence in a moment. I was terribly humiliated.

[AA].  A PE teacher and Housemistress. Straight from the cast of Prisoner Cell Block H. She would drag us into the showers by our bra straps, insist we undress and watch. I remember her forcing anti-smoking medication down a girl I knew. She was a sadist.

Nobody took much notice of me musically until I was about 13. I hated practising and gradually my inbuilt talent was eroded by the daily grind. All that changed when I became a Bakst pupil. Once on this fast track my playing improved. At the same time the sex abuse started. The worst of it was lessons at his house in Prestwich, ostensibly extra work before a concert. He would put on a record, sit close on the chaise longue, grasp my hand and place it on his lap. He had a peculiar odour, a sweet sickly mixture of cologne and sweat. All the while with his (much younger, stunning) Polish wife and infant child downstairs.

At school, he did the same sort of thing but would leave the room and return ten minutes later! I won’t elaborate further, as you already know about this from other testimonies.

The point about it is that by the age of sixteen I was being encouraged by Bakst to devote myself completely to the piano. So I went to Vallins and asked if I could give up all academic work and concentrate only on performing. Amazingly he and other members of staff agreed to this despite me having done well at ‘O’ level. So for the whole of the sixth form that’s what I did, only walking into the ‘A’ level music exam on the day. What I didn’t realise was that without two ‘A’ levels I couldn’t get a grant to continue at music college. Finally my local authority relented on condition that I did another A’ level which I did at night school. This is an example of the lack of knowledge and care that occurred on Vallins’ watch.

 

LATER YEARS – OUT OF HOURS

Here is a description of boarding life at the time. We all smoked, every lunch and breaktime in the toilets in Girls’ Boarding House.

Sometimes there were Saturday night parties at day pupil’s houses. The school presumably imagined birthday cakes and candles but they always degenerated into a drunken sexual free for all. Liberal seventies parents often disappeared for the duration.

Some sixth form boy boarders slept in a block of classrooms with the traditional storeroom at the back of each room. This is where the home brew was made. By this time we had keys to every door in the school and at night (after a swim) we would raid the kitchen for coffee, butter, bread and many more things that would also be kept in suitcases in the storeroom. At night I often used to sleep with my boyfriend at the top of Millgate House under the eaves. Several years later Vallins found our sleeping bags up there and there was a big investigation – too late. We also used my BF’s tuba case to transport bedding and booze if we wanted to meet up in Palatine in the evening. Sometmes we would be disturbed by David Usher, Brewer’s deputy. He would rattle the door handle in frustration but could do nothing.  But he was one of the good guys….

As were [House parents AA and AB], Junior House. They made a real effort to understand and help me in the sixth form but I was off the rails by then. When the school doctor put me on the pill [AB] commented “how convenient”.

At weekends I used to tell school I was visiting my father. In fact I was attending parties all over the country with my boyfriend.

 

Malcolm Layfield

He knew the date of the sixteenth birthdays of all his female students. They were always invited to celebrate outside school on that day!  He struck me as a weak and repulsive individual but there was no interaction with him as I was not a string player.

 

Michael Brewer

His camper van was always conveniently parked outside Palatine House. I was not in his ‘clique’ so never got to know anything of his crimes.

 

SUMMARY

I agree with previous comments made about the ethos of music education. I could have been good at many things given the ten thousand hours theory. Instead I was narrowcast in a musical educational experiment. I believe music is an adult emotion and that the process of cauterisation, instilling Western sonata form in young brains is a destructive act. It is the opposite of creativity. The very best can survive and flourish as musicians. The rest are gradually deprived of the thing that originally gave them joy.

I have not played the piano since 1984.

 

AL40

As a former Chetham’s pupil (border for six years) in the era of both H. Vickers and the then moderniser JV , I feel in a position to say how I saw the writing on the wall for the situation that is now so evident. In my early days bullying was endemic at Chetham’s, in the way it probably was in the armed forces and any other closed institution.

The school had limited resources for control of children unseen, and it was left to a hierarchical system of older boys and the staff to be the ones in charge of the micromanagement on a day to day basis.

Examples:

I was slippered in the sixth form study block surrounded by onlooking prefects. The flashman of the day was warming the sole on the side of a door to make it malleable and  more effective, while the prefects ate sandwiches and laughed. They even threw one at me as I waited for my punishment.

A boy sitting in an armchair on the school yard outside in winter at very low temperatures with a dressing gown only. He had been talking after lights out and this was his punishment. I sent him back to bed and an argument ensued with the staff member because I  had undermined his authority!

I was threatened with a knife by a member of staff who, incorrectly,  said I had been spreading rumours about him having an affair with one of the sixth form. There was absolutely no possibility to share this threat because I knew, as we all did, that stories like that would undermine the schools public image. It would be denied !! I had to live with that threat  24/7.

I could write a complete book but you get the idea…….

As JV went about his business as a moderniser he took his eye off the ball. His suggestions that the music department had autonomy is consistent with his denial of the issues for which he is responsible.

As a prefect there myself I had many occasions on which to question the suitability of the house staff.

John Vallins walked up to me as we waited on the yard one day before I left and said out of earshot of anyone else “I told you to get your bloody haircut and if you weren’t leaving in three days I would throw you out”. The venom took me aback . I had put more of my life into that place than he could imagine and it almost destroyed my feelings for the the school. His only objective was to be totally in charge. I represented the old Chethams and he wanted to expunge that establishment and for it to become a new order under his stewardship.

To conclude! If Chethams had spent more of its energy looking after its children and less after its oh so inflated status in the world of music education people like Brewer and Ling would never had been allowed to flourish. It was a breeding ground for the swamp life below the surface. The school were so busy producing brochures and fundraising new buildings to they had lost their sense of priority!

I feel ashamed to be associated with the place now. When I was there I don’t believe the grooming had started . Brewer was there in my last year but had not achieved a position of power at that time. His presence seemed minimal it seemed.

My sincere sympathies to all those young people who were affected by what became an evil regime. There were some good people working there, and this diminishes their efforts and their memories.

 

AL41

I was at Chet’s in the early-mid 90s. I flourished musically and academically, and was given many performance opportunities, so I was one of the lucky ones.

However, I have memories of the overly sexualised environment, and also of the prevalence of eating disorders, self-harm and even suicide attempts, particularly amongst the girls.

I was a member of Chamber Choir, and also had aural classes with Brewer, so I spent quite a lot of time with him, and remember his pervy ways. He liked the chamber choir kids, we were his pet students i think. Lots of people thought he was having a relationship with a girl in the Chamber Choir, then when she left, he moved onto RS187, which led to his dismissal in 1994.

He used to get me to sort out piles of choir music in his office in the evening after dinner, and he used to come up behind me and massage my shoulders. He was usually in school until late, probably 10 pm.

He had a copy of Madonna’s book “Sex”, which was a sort of coffee table book of soft porn photos. He seemed to be delighted to have acquired this book, and invited me to have a look at it with him. I was really embarrassed. I think he also used to go on about what a good book it was in chamber choir rehearsals, or perhaps in our aural class.

He used to sprawl on a deckchair near the entrance to Palatine House, bare-chested with these green shorts, and leer at the girls as we walked into Palatine.

In choir, he took every opportunity to be smutty and crude, and used to make innuendos all the time. We used to sing a madrigal called “Hard by a crystal fountain” and he would make a big innuendo out of this. He was really excessive about it.

We were working on Kodaly Psalmus Hungaricus, and he wanted us to be expressive on the words “este könyörgök” so he said “Have you achieved “nyörgök” today?” Nearly everything he did was framed in terms of sex.

We were well aware that he was perverted, and we used to call him Screwer Brewer. I remember being in Palatine near the string corridor, telling a friend “Oh my God, Brewer was so perverted today” then he suddenly appeared from round the corner. He had heard me, and made a big deal of me having hurt his feelings. I don’t think he was really hurt though, he was smiling at me. I just felt really awkward.

There was also amazing music-making and some wonderful academic teaching. Mr. Little was a superb, inspiring English teacher. Academic music with John Leach, Robert MacFarlane, Stuart Beer and Sam King was excellent. Brewer, although deeply flawed and predatory, was an inspiring and charismatic choir conductor, and his aural classes were fun and challenging. I think that was partly why he got away with it all for so long, and why some girls fell for his advances.

 

AL42

I was the first and only junior boarding girl for some time in 1969. I was 8. I arrived a couple of weeks later than the other girls and was put in a room with 3 other girls older than me. I was violently sick the first day there and totally confused by everything. I wet my bed in the first few weeks and my mattress was paraded by the housemistress Mrs Stevens, in front of the other girls.

My first memory of complete isolation when I first went there, was standing in the middle of the yard and there seemed to be no one there in the whole school. I stood there crying not knowing what to do. Eventually a woman came up and asked me what was wrong. Apparently everyone was doing prep somewhere. She sent me to the refectory and there was all the bigger children there. I sat and did some work and only days later found that I was supposed to go to the junior school for it. I’ve never forgotten that feeling of being completely abandoned.

My Mother sent me some money at one stage, there wasn’t ever a lot in our family but the same person told my Mother not to send any more as I spent it in sweets. The two day girls in the two younger junior years had been going up to ‘Matron’ for tea and biscuits when I came along. They took me with them. After I had been there twice, Matron announced that I shouldn’t come anymore as I only came for the biscuits. ( Did I mention I was starving?) I’ve never forgotten the solidarity from the other two girls, they decided to stop going too.

My Mother told me that after my first half term, I came home with a suitcase full of diarrhoea covered clothes and everything fastened with safety pins. I fainted in church one Sunday morning because I was starving, I used to go to the 9 o’clock service as well as the other one we had to go to. I would go because we got tea and toast with butter afterwards. I had dry bread at school for 5 years as the ‘axle grease’ made me violently sick.  Nobody looked after me at all that first year until Mrs. Littler came. She was strict but kind and tried to be a bit of a mother to me, when my beloved Grandfather died, she took me up to her flat and also another time when I had a suspected appendix, she let me sleep in her flat to keep an eye on me.

There was also an incident with the swimming pool that was mentioned in an earlier post. We were left down in the pool 7 and 8 year olds unsupervised, whilst the boys played football , a boy would come and get us and the end of games. One time we were left down there and admonished in front of the whole school, not the master who always left us there.

There was a doctor who came to inspect the girls, only the younger ones as I remember. We would be told to strip to our pants only and lined up waiting to go into the staff common room. Matron would be standing behind the doctor and we would file forward for our “ check up” and he would look down our pants and send us on our way.

Harry Vickers and Matron were vile to me the whole time and Boss would put me down constantly and ask me why I couldn’t hold up my viola like everyone else and other comments whenever he saw me. She was almost worse, so bitchy and uncaring.   Musically it was great the first year, my violin teacher was Colin Callow and he treated me really well and used to make me play little things to some of the older pupils. He left after a year( I was very sad) and I went to David Usher and I told him I wanted to swap to Viola. He was a nice man but he sacked me after 3 years as I didn’t practice enough. He couldn’t even remember teaching me in later years and remembered me as a horn player in his wind ensembles. My horn teacher was wonderful, Andrew Jones, sadly no longer with us.

Later on there was an occasion when an older girl returned to say hello and came down our corridor to see us. Mrs Orchard came up and said “ Who are you” and it was said back to her by the girl. She was told to leave and I and two others saw her out.

Later that week we were called to the common room where Mrs Orchard and Harry Vickers were. They told us off for talking behind Mrs Orchard’s back. We hadn’t.

Boss pulled down my pants, over his knee and smacked me. After that incident Boss ordered all the doors to be taken of our dorms. He would come down our corridor unannounced quite often.

I also ran away with another girl , very unsuccessfully, we laugh about it now but I was told by boss if I did it again I’d be expelled. I was deeply depressed for the rest of my time there.  My form teacher in my first year in the senior school , William Clarke, otherwise known as WC or bog face, gave a report that said ‘[Redacted]’s attitude to school and life is deplorable’. I have had a complete block to do with maths and French since then because of him.

There are more stories but too many to put here. The other children were pretty great and I have really close friends from there still. One older girl was lovely to me in my first couple of terms and tried to look after me though she was young herself. She knows who she is and I am forever grateful. There was one boy I won’t forgive for bullying me, he knows who he is.

Chetham’s made me fiercely independent to start with and gave me a huge contempt for authority. It also made me hate any sort of injustice.

I gave up playing finally a few years ago after a pretty successful orchestral career but complete burn out in the end.  I had been playing professionally since the age of 15. When I gave up I heaved a huge sigh of relief, I realised that I’d always done it for someone else. I still teach amongst other things. I’ve found my voice since freeing myself. I left in 74.

 

AL43

In my first piano lesson as a homesick twelve-year-old the teacher asked me to play a piece. When I had finished he leaned his head back in a supercilious fashion and said ‘Oh dear, what a poor admission’. He then paced around the room repeating it several times. I’m not sure that my self-esteem/confidence as a musician ever completely recovered from that moment and occasionally, I still dream about it 45 years later. It was not, however, the only instance when I was made to feel like a second rate musician who really shouldn’t have been at Chet’s. It took some time after I left to realise that my worth as a person was not inextricably linked to my merit as a musician.

 

AL44

I was a boarder at the school between 1982-1987. I’ll cover three areas – how much I knew in the 80’s about the abuse and the culture in general, Mr. Vallins, and [houseparent from group A].

In my first term, I was warned by older girls never to accept a ‘babysitting’ invitation from Michael Brewer for extra pocket money. When students went to his house, ostensibly to watch his kids, he didn’t go out, instead made sexual advances once the children were asleep with promises of helping their careers.

He had a camper van permanently parked on the middle of the playground and no-one on the staff questioned it. It was an open secret that he had affairs with female students.

[Cello teacher X] repeatedly asked my room-mate (aged 13) to practice naked and masturbate and to tell him how she felt. She never did and as a result he lost interest in her as a student, she begged to be a first study singer. She reported him, Brewer did nothing. [X] was an alcoholic who drank vodka in lessons then sipped men’s cologne to hide it – you could smell where [X] had been, the Palatine corridors reeked of alcohol and cheap cologne.

Two of my other life-long friends were molested by Bakst from the age of 11. One unnecessary hand under an arm to ‘assist’ fingering so he could rub a breast, on the floor to ‘help’ pedalling, hand up skirt – shall I go on? Not isolated events, but continuous. They spoke openly of it at the time. They felt they couldn’t ask for another teacher – in a culture where ‘best’ was all, he was at the top of the pedagogic tree in the piano department and Brewer couldn’t care less about harm.

Even a relatively green teenager from [redacted] who didn’t study the violin realised Chris Ling was ‘wrong’, so the claim by Vallins that academic and music staff were separate, therefore didn’t know anything about him, is ridiculous. Ling announced his arrival at school with an almighty horn tune emanating from his naff white Mazda as he passed under the Gatehouse, in front of the staff room (door always open, staff watching). His chest hair and medallions were never out of view. If that spelled wrong to a teenager, how come it didn’t to adults who were supposed to be protecting minors?

Pip Clarke, his widow, was in my class. She was showing off her engagement ring (to Ling) when she was 16. She wasn’t exactly a retiring violet, very garrulous. No teacher spotted that, heard anything?

My piano teachers were [Y] (for 2 years) and [Z] (for 3 years). [Z] was immaculate in every respect as a teacher. [Y] – in thrall to Bakst – was a horror. I learned my place at Chethams from Brewer. [Y]’s tantrums were simply proof of her exceptional ability as a teacher, she was emotional and would bring out the emotion in me.

Having bruises on an arm where you’ve been hit repeatedly with a volume of Bach’s 48, screamed at for one wrong note, my music case (bought by my father, he didn’t have much money) thrown around the room, Beethoven sonatas thrown at you, then ‘I didn’t mean it, lets go to Chloe and you can help me choose my dress for my concert comeback’ was standard fare with [Y].

John Vallins tutored me on a one-to-one basis before my Oxford Entrance exams and was my teacher for A level English. He was a misogynist of the first order and never missed an opportunity to belittle women with a plethora of Shakespearean quotes to back his argument during lessons. A girl wearing eyeshadow was a ‘concubine’, and once our texts were Anthony and Cleopatra and Lear, he was in vituperative heaven – the women were to blame for everything, the men led astray. He would examine our fingernails for signs of paint/degeneracy as he wafted through the room with halitosis, then unleash his skewed interpretations, never at fault, never to be questioned.

Aged 17, I knew him to be morally stupid, but very aware. So fixated by sex would have made him doubly aware of anyone else enjoying it on his territory. By the Upper Sixth Form, [houseparents B] requested I be Head of House and Head Girl. When [houseparents A] arrived they behaved as if royalty from the first day, [redacted information]. They took one look at me, it was a case of mutual detestation. I think they knew I saw through them instantly.

Within a week, my having a period so bad I was bent double, according to them meant I was unfit to lead. I was stripped of head girl, prefect and head of house titles.  My parents phoned – Vallins ‘it’s not up to me.’ The [houseparents A] never accepted phone calls from my parents and never responded. I had never broken a school rule.

Twice weekly, [houseparent A] would find me to humiliate me, always when no-one else was present, sitting on the end of my bed. That it was such a pity I had no class, that my clothes were so poor, and that was why I’d never understand that Oxford was beyond me.

When it came to my Oxford entrance exam, on a Monday, given permission by Vallins to go home early the previous Friday, I found my suitcase had disappeared from my room when I was about to go home. There was no note. I thought it had been stolen, all my notes in it, I ran up to the [houseparents A]’ flat to report it. I was asked to step inside with a smile.

The [houseparents A] had removed it. Because I’d been given permission to go home early by Vallins, they didn’t approve of. it They kept me there for two hours, instructed me in humility, Mr [houseparent A]’s low-brow effort was:

‘Do you know what an anarchist is?’

‘Yes – ‘

‘You’re a failed one as long as we are here.’

In the interim, my father, 66, waiting for 4 hours at the unmanned [redacted] Station, which not seeing me arrive from a train, began to panic. No mobile phones. Mother beginning to panic. My father had had two cardiac arrests. I arrived home, having left Manchester at 7pm instead of 3pm, around midnight. For no reason other than cruelty and schadenfreude.

Why didn’t my parents complain? For the same reason no-one else did – Vallins could be threatening by doing nothing.

[Houseparent A] continued to bully me on my academic achievement, music, my appearance, my parents’ class throughout my final year. Mainly by using her daughter as a comparison.

‘You know why [daughter] will always be a success?’

‘No. I’m not sure.’

‘[Daughter] is special. You have to be special to go to Oxford. You are not – the sooner you accept this, the sooner you will be happy. [Daughter] has a something you’ll never understand.’

This happened every week during my last year. On the edge of my bed with an insincere smile wishing me ill.

How I dealt with that was to leave Chethams every weekend. The [houseparents A] were thick, they refused to accept that the people they bullied were far brighter than they were.I spent every Saturday in London – an early train, The Tate, The British Museum, a Simon Gray matinee – or Yorkshire, in Top Withens, that walk from Emily Bronte’s Parsonnage. Anyone notice I was gone? No. So how did the [houseparents A] notice who was harmed?

My mother is a retired secondary school literature teacher, now 83, who had a mini stroke a few weeks ago and is still far from well. She sacrificed much to make up the difference in the fees not covered by my government grant. Listening to the evidence given about [houseparent A] made her BP shoot through the roof (I have to check it several times a day). She felt it was necessary to listen to it as she had entrusted me to her care and knew how cruelly I’d been treated by her.

Thirty-two years on, [houseparent A]’s odious neglect of student welfare is still causing harm and distress. She and her husband were utterly unfit to be house parents. I understand [daughter of houseparent A] is no longer Deputy Head. That is a source of some comfort; I cannot believe the apple fell so far from its poisoned branch given the culture of entitlement that existed in that family while at the school.

I am only one of hundreds of students seriously hurt by staff at Chethams.

 

AL45

I was in year 5 at Chetham’s in 1962, which is the year the bullying and abuse became unbearable, and I walked out. The bullying began on my first day, before registration, when I was singled out by Arthur George for negative comments, including being called Phyllis. The bullying became worse, escalating to sexual abuse, and Operation Kiso, (to whom many thanks) recorded two crimes as having been committed against me, by Arthur George and Donald Clarke. No further action could be taken, as both are deceased. One of my peers in year 5 has remained in continuous contact with the school, until recently being involved with the governance of the school. For the school to deny that abuse has happened, continuously, since the 1950’s is deceitful and hugely personally distressing.

 

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The IICSA Hearings into Specialist Music Schools: Videos, Transcripts, Documents

TRIGGER WARNING: This blog contains links to disturbing material relating to the sexual abuse of children.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) held their hearings into specialist music schools this past week (30 November – 4 October 2019). As one who gave evidence to this inquiry (on 1 October) I do not wish to post any comments on this until after the reports have been produced (which will not be until 2020). However, I would like to post links to all the appropriate videos, transcripts and other documents which are now public.

The first day saw, amongst other things, important opening statements from Counsel to the Inquiry Fiona Scolding QC, and lawyer Richard Scorer, representing various former students at Chetham’s and myself. The following is the video (with this as with all videos, one may need to scroll forward through some blank screen).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The transcript of Day One can be read and downloaded in two parts, here and here.

Day Two saw the testimonies of A1 and A2, former students of Chris Ling at Chetham’s, then that of former Head Teacher (1974-1992) John Vallins, then my own testimony (at around 4h in), then more from Vallins, and that from his successor (1992-99), Peter Hullah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The transcript from Day Two can be read here.

Day Three saw evidence from another Chetham’s head (1999-2016), Clare Moreland, then from Independent Educational Consultant Elizabeth Coley and Chief Inspector of ISI, Kate Richards, followed by Specialist advisor for residential care, OFSTED, Helen Humphreys. The afternoon saw Helen Bennett, former DSL (Designated Safeguarding Lead) at Wells Cathedral School, and Alastair Tighe, Head Teacher at the school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The transcript from Day Three is here.

Day Four saw evidence from Richard Hillier, former Head Teacher at the Yehudi Menuhin School, and Joanne Field, the current DSL at the school. In the afternoon, there was evidence from Peter Crook, former Principal of the Purcell School, and Graham Smallbone, former Chair of Governors for the school.

 

 

 

 

The transcript from Day Four is here.

Day Five saw evidence from former Purcell School teacher and whistleblower Margaret Moore, and current principal Paul Bambrough. The afternoon saw evidence from Yasemin Wigglesworth, Executive Officer of AEGIS, and Dale Wilkins, Head of Safeguarding for the Boarding Schools Association.

 

 

 

 

The transcript from Day Five is here.

Day Nine also saw mention of Chetham’s in the context of questions about DBS checks claimed not have been undertaken upon one teacher in 2008 until three months after she began teaching. Here is the video of this day.

 

 

 

The transcript from Day Nine is here.

And the afternoon session of Day Ten saw the closing statement by Kim Harrison of Slater and Gordon, relating to Chetham’s, and also a statement from Chetham’s lawyer. This begins at around 4h 32m 50′ here:

 

 

The transcript from Day Ten is here. More on this day’s statements can be foud in the Guardian article by Nazia Parveen linked to below.

 

The inquiry has also published some sections from the numerous written statements and documents submitted to the inquiry. These can be accessed here . I am hoping that a full set of complete documents will be published on the website in due course.

This series of hearings, and those for next week (7-11 October 2019, looking at different schools, though with concluding statements on Friday 11 October which will refer back to this week’s hearings), constitute Phase One of the Investigation into Residential Schools. Phase Two will take place during 11-22 May 2020. The inquiry is urging all survivors and victims of child sexual abuse to share their experiences, and a link is given on this page.

Presently I will also add links to the bottom of this page of media and online reports of the hearings.

Chetham’s issued the following statement just preceding (27 September 2019) the week of the hearings:

Statement regarding the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)
27 September 2019

Chetham’s School of Music is giving its full co-operation into the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

It is a matter of deep and profound regret to Chetham’s that former teachers at our School betrayed and manipulated the trust that had been placed in them in order to harm children for which we are truly sorry.

Chetham’s Principal Alun Jones ensured Chetham’s applied for Core Participant status so it could participate as fully as possible in the Inquiry. He has made it clear that the School will help the Inquiry as much as it possibly can.

Chetham’s will be one of four residential music schools providing evidence to the Inquiry due to the police investigations and convictions of child sexual abuse relating to the School. These include the conviction of its former Director of Music in 2013 and the high profile police investigation into child sexual abuse by a former violin teacher.

The School overhauled its building and safeguarding practices and procedures. Chetham’s is sorry it did not do more to provide emotional support to the victims and survivors of abuse and their families.

Mr Jones said: “I inherited a school with a troubled past, but which thankfully was in exceptional health when I arrived. In terms of the School building and safeguarding procedures we’ve made huge improvements and continue to keep them under review.

“I welcome this Inquiry. Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse need to know that they are being listened to and that changes happen as a result of what they say. As Principal of Chetham’s I have a duty of care to our current and future students to make sure we also do everything possible to learn from victims and survivors’ experiences.”

Further enquiries: Alun Jones, Principal
Via Lesley Haslam, PA: lesleyhaslam@chethams.com, 0161 838 7214

 

Following the hearings on 1 October, the Principal, Alun Jones then issued the following:

Comment from Chetham’s Principal Alun Jones after attending Day Two of the Residential Schools Hearing of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA)
01 October 2019

“What I have heard today has been shocking and distressing and it is clear that serious errors of judgement were made at our School.

“My task as the current Principal of Chetham’s is to make sure we learn all possible lessons from what we heard today.

“I am deeply and truly sorry that teachers at our School abused their position of trust to hurt young people. Current parents and students would not recognise what was said at the Inquiry today as the School they know – but this is of no consolation to victims and survivors.

“As the head of a school you have responsibility for what happens under your leadership. No amount of musical ability comes before the wellbeing of my students. I regularly speak to students about the importance of speaking up and out if they believe something is wrong. Parents, staff and students know Chetham’s is a telling school where everyone looks out for each other. This was clearly not the case at the School in the past – as we heard today. Students should have been supported and listened to and their concerns acted upon.

“I am deeply sorry the School did not do more to provide emotional support to the victims and survivors of abuse and their families. I would welcome any victims and survivors of abuse at Chetham’s getting in touch with me if they feel it can help to rectify some of the appalling mistakes of the past.”

Please follow this link for the preceding IICSA statement, published by Chetham’s on 27.09.19

Further enquiries: Alun Jones, Principal
Via Lesley Haslam, PA: lesleyhaslam@chethams.com, 0161 838 7214

 

I have assembled a range of testimonies from former Chetham’s students who have watched and read about the hearings, often with incredulity. I will continue to add to this as others send their own reflections.

 

The following articles relating to the hearings have been published during the course of this week:

Helen Pidd, ‘CPS could and should have extradited paedophile music teacher’, The Guardian, 30 September 2019.

‘Inquiry into child sex abuse at local schools has first day – as it happened’, Somerset Live, 30 September 2019.

Elise Britten, ‘Wells Cathedral School offers “full apology” to sex abuse victims’, Somerset Live, 30 September 2019.

Judith Burns, ‘Music school pupil abused by violin teacher at 15’, BBC News, 1 October 2019.

Nigel Barlow, ‘Witnesses tell of sexual abuse by Chetham’s Violin teacher’, About Manchester, 2 October 2019.

‘Chetham’s principal apologises for historic sexual abuse’, BBC News, 2 October 2019.

Damon Wilkinson and Pat Hurst, ‘Chetham’s principal apologises for “appalling mistakes of the past” after inquiry hears details of teachers’ sexual abuse of pupils’, Manchester Evening News, 2 October 2019.

Hattie Williams, ‘Hallmarks of grooming “overlooked” by staff at Wells Cathedral School’, Church Times, 3 October 2019 (this article also includes significant material relating to Chetham’s).

‘Inquiry hears Wells paedophile teacher had ‘duped staff’, BBC News, 3 October 2019.

Nazia Parveen, ‘Former Chetham’s headteachers accused of ignoring abuse’, The Guardian, 11 October 2019.

 

There have also been several short pieces by Norman Lebrecht for the Slipped Disc blog:

‘Distressing Evidence at Sex-Abuse Inquiry into English Music Schools’, 2 October 2019.

‘Chetham’s regrets past abuse, Wells says ‘We couldn’t see’, 3 October 2019.

‘Menuhin and Purcell Schools under scrutiny in child sex inquiry’, 4 October 2019.

‘A guide to the child abuse inquiry at English music schools’, 6 October 2019.

‘Chetham students add horror to sex abuse hearings’, 10 October 2019.

‘More testimonies of hell at English music school’, 11 October 2019.

At some point in the future, I will try and collate all links to articles about Chetham’s since the Michael Brewer trial in 2013 in one blog post. In the meantime, many links can be found in the following earlier articles:

Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30 December 2013) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question).

New stories and convictions of abuse in musical education, and the film of the Institute of Ideas debate (11 January 2014) (also in need of updating)

The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013 (12 August 2014)

Petition for an inquiry into sexual and psychological abuse at Chetham’s School of Music and other specialist institutions (original version – each version has a different long list of comments) (16 February 2013).

Petition for an Inquiry into Sexual and other Abuse at Specialist Music Schools – The List of Signatories (19 February 2013).

Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education (9 May 2013) (the final version).

A further call to write to MPs to support an inquiry into abuse in musical education (26 November 2013).

In the Aftermath of the Brewer Sentencing – A Few Short Thoughts and Pieces of Information (27 March 2013).

Michael Brewer – a powerful Director of Music, not just a provincial choirmaster or music teacher (28 March 2013).

Reports from the Malcolm Layfield Trial (2 June 2015).

Chris Ling’s Views on Sexing Up Classical Music (11 February 2013).

Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music (12 May 2013).

The 1980 Department of Education and Science Report into Chetham’s School of Music, National Archives ED 172/598/2 (20 September 2015).

Publication of Reports into Chetham’s by ISI and MCC – Senior Management and Governors should consider their position (3 April 2013).

New Surrey Safeguarding Report on suicide of Frances Andrade draws attention to dangers of music education (10 April 2014).

Alun Jones to be new Head of Chetham’s – and a list of SMS Heads and Music Directors (13 December 2015).

Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School (7 May 2013).

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8 April 2014).

Philip Pickett arrested on 15 charges, and interview with Clare Moreland in The Times (14 February 2014).

Abuse minimisation as an example of the writing of history as kitsch (14 July 2013).

New article in Times Educational Supplement on abuse in musical education – and public debate on October 19th, Barbican Centre (3 October 2013).

A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward (25 November 2013)

 

 

Some other earlier articles I published may also be of interest:

‘The culture of music education lends itself to abuse’, Times Educational Supplement, 8 May 2013.

‘Does elite music teaching leave pupils open to abuse?’, The Telegraph, 20 February 2015.

‘Music teacher sentenced to 11 years in prison as abuse film Whiplash prepares for Oscars’, The Conversation, 20 February 2015.

‘Safeguarding’, Music Teacher, April 2015.

 

 


Rethinking Contemporary Musicology: Panel at the Royal Musical Association 2019 – Part 1. Papers of Larson Powell and Eva Moreda Rodriguez

At this year’s Royal Musical Association annual conference, at the University of Manchester/Royal Northern College of Music, I was very pleased to convene a panel on ‘Rethinking Contemporary Musicologies: Disciplinary Shifts and the Risks of Deskilling’ (12 September 2019). These featured the following speakers and papers:

Larson Powell (University of Missouri, Kansas City, USA): ‘Film-Music Studies between Disciplines’.

Eva Moreda Rodriguez (University of Glasgow): ‘Are We all Transnational Now? Global Approaches and Insularity in Music History’.

Darla M. Crispin (Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, Norway): ‘Artistic Research in Music: Brave New World – or Harbinger of Decline?’

Peter Tregear (University of Melbourne, Australia): ‘Telling Tales in (and out of) Music Schools’.

Below, I reproduce my Introduction to the panel in full, then give a detailed account of the first two papers (as some of these are drafts for chapters in the book, I prefer not to reproduce them verbatim). In the second part of this, I will do the same with the other two papers and also give some wider reflections of my own on the very well-attended and constructive event.

 

Ian Pace, Introduction

Twenty years ago, in 1999, Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist published the co-edited volume Rethinking Music. This followed in the wake of a series of publications now associated with the ‘New Musicology’ from the early 1990s, but the scale of this publication and its appearance from such a major publisher as Oxford University Press indicated how various tendencies had entered the musicological mainstream. Twenty years later, Peter Tregear and I are in the process of co-editing a new volume, Rethinking Contemporary Musicology: Perspectives on Interdisciplinary, Skills and Deskilling, which will appear from Routledge in 2020. This brings together a range of leading scholars who all offer critical perspectives on both developments in English-speaking academia which were relatively new when Cook/Everist was published and the state of play in more long-established realms of research and teaching. Four of the contributors are here and will be giving papers, most of which relate to their chapters in the book.

I would emphasise that this book deals specifically with English-speaking academia. This is not because of any type of provinciality, let alone any assertion of centrality of Anglophone contributions to the disciplines. Rather, the editors simply feel that the issues at stake in the Anglosphere, while far from homogeneous, are somewhat distinct from those elsewhere, and as such warrant separate consideration.

Amongst the other chapters in the book – this is not an exhaustive list – are Paul Harper-Scott on musicology, the middlebrow and questions of demographics amongst academics, Christopher Wiley on popular music education and the question of specifically musical engagement, Mu-Xuan Lin on body politics and gendered orthodoxies relating to contemporary composition and the ‘New Discipline’, myself on the application of ethnomusicological approaches to the study of Western art music, then Michael Spitzer on the state of musical analysis, Alan Davison on that for music history, Nicole Grimes on neo-liberalism and the study of Western art music, and case studies relating to issues provoked by the work of Richard Taruskin, Nicholas Cook and Georgina Born, written by Frank Cox, me and Joan Arnau Pamiès respectively.

In general, the contributors can be said to share varying degrees of scepticism towards some aspects of such Anglophone musicology which can be said either to have become orthodoxies, or are sufficiently widespread as to be worthy of critical interrogation. In short, it is time to cast a critical eye on what the discipline has become. Key questions which recur in many essays have to do with the demands of interdisciplinarity, especially whether some allegedly interdisciplinary work entails more than a superficial injection of a handful of concepts or buzzwords from other disciplines (as has been argued by Giles Hooper, another contributor to the book) rather than more rigorous engagement, and the complementary issue of ‘deskilling’ of musicology.

The term ‘deskilling’ was coined by Marxist theorist Harry Braverman in his Labor and Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review, 1974) to characterise the lowering of skill levels as part of a process of progressive estrangement and alienation of workers, relating to the division of labour, in the process increasing their dispensability. As musicology has supposedly become more diverse, many of us argue that various core skills and knowledge, not least relating to basic musicianship, notation, familiarity with history and repertoire, and especially theory and analysis, can no longer be assumed on the part of students, graduates, and indeed many academics themselves. This reduces the possibility of broader interactions between those working in different sub-disciplinary areas, and limits the ability of many to contribute to certain types of core curriculum.

What remains, at worst, is an atomised profession permeated by disputes and struggles for territory and power, in place of genuine quests for knowledge, however utopian such ideals might be. Such a situation is exacerbated and in some ways fuelled by neo-liberal reforms to higher education, pitting students as ‘consumers’, creating increased precarity for academics, and importing aspects of market culture as well as ever-growing strata of top-down management. Whilst many of the new musicological tendencies are advocated by those laying claim to ‘progressive’ political causes, at the same time they have often proved most amenable to the strictures of the commercialised university, not least through the post-modernist eschewal of conceptions of truth and knowledge with a degree of autonomy from their social function, in a capitalist society.*

Contributors to the book consider how his situation has come about, what are some of the ideological assumptions which underlie such a predicament, how this has been manifested in certain types of work, and what might be positive alternatives.

*This point may deserve more explanation than I gave in the introduction. My argument here is essentially that concepts of truth and scholarly autonomy and integrity serve as a brake on attempts to enlist academia in the service of the production of good capitalist functionaries. As such, post-modernists who jettison such things, or the likes of William Cheng and his acolytes (see the arguments of Peter Tregear below), facilitate such a process. It is no coincidence that many of these are strong advocates for heavily commercialised forms of music-making.

 

Larson Powell, ‘Film-Music Studies between Disciplines’.

Professor Powell began by identifying a growth in the field of film music studies in English since the publication of Claudia Gorbman’s Unheard Melodies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), but noted the difficulty in defining the field. He cited David Neumeyer, in the introduction to The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies, edited Neumeyer (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), on how film music studies are ‘a node between disciplines’ and how scholars ‘have begun to bypass the modes requiring highly specialized musical knowledge and jargon by moving toward sound studies’. Whilst accepting the need for broadening of established musicological methodologies in light of this specific technological context, Powell argued that when links to musicology are loosened, the result is often ‘imprecision and methodological inconsistency’. He cited James Buhler’s discernment (in ‘Ontological, Formal, and Critical Theories of Music and Sound’, in the Oxford Handbook) of three phases in film music theory: (i) the ontological, prior to World War Two; (ii) the methodological, linked to institutionalisation of the discipline, and incorporating structuralism, semiotics and psychoanalysis; and (iii) the ‘field theory’, a looser conglomerate of approaches. Buhler notes that when the term ‘critical theory’ is employed in film music studies, it no longer refers to the hybrid of Marxism and psychoanalysis which characterised the work of the Frankfurt School, but also areas such as poststructuralism, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonialism and race studies, narrative and cultural studies, and so on, without recognising the incompatibility of some of these. Furthermore, the forms of interpretation employed are usually limited to ‘semantic content or associations’, which are notoriously ambiguous.

Powell gave quite a severe critique of Anahid Kassabian’s book Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2000) (for another critique of a different piece of writing by Kassabian, see my contribution here), not least on account of her (mis-)characterisations of the work of Adorno, which he called ‘schoolbook examples of cultural studies misconceptions’. Kassabian claims that Adorno, Stravinsky and Irwin Bazelon ‘all seem to suggest that music is outside of social relations, pure in some fundamental, ontological way’, which Powell found absurd in light of Adorno’s work such as his Introduction to the Sociology of Music (New York: Seabury Press, 1976; translated by E.B. Ashton from Einleitung in der Musiksoziologie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1962)). Furthermore, he noted that Kassabian’s ideas of ‘meaning’ were unconstrained by any technical musical engagement, nor by any sociological theory, and amounted to little more than speculation, held up in opposition to a straw-man notion of ‘absolute music’.

Kassabian claims that the relationship between musics and social orders is something that Western society has attempted to repress since the Enlightenment, and in a similar manner, ‘film music constitutes society while being constituted by it’. Powell characterised this as typical of ‘the amateur sociology of cultural studies’ which ‘sees society as an undifferentiated totality’, and uses the simple concept of ‘repression’ to encompass all of the various ‘subsystems of art, economics, morality, politics and law, a central component of theories of modernity’ (I would add that in Marxist terms these constitute key elements of the superstructure). She assumes that her readers share her own prejudices and assumptions, such as that high culture is repressive by its nature, while popular music is an emancipatory force; Powell then demonstrated how some of her claims of ‘our’ identifications with certain music amount to little more than brand recognition, and so ‘scholarship’ becomes little more than registering one’s favourite top 40 tune.

Powell then looked at Emilio Audissino’s Film/Music Analysis: A Film Studies Approach (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), which he finds considerably more edifying than the work of Kassabian, but not without methodological problems. Audissino takes more of a neo-formalist approach (this is a school of film studies heavily indebted to the work of Noël Burch, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson from the early 1980s onwards), and is sceptical towards ‘culturalist analysis’ without ‘some basic grasp and knowledge of the musical art’, though is vague on what the latter might amount to. Audissino rejects a ‘separatist’ view of the visual and aural aspects of a film, presenting as an alternative a view of a film as ‘as an integrated system of elements (say, a soup)’, whereby an analysis should ‘break down the single substance to its single ingredients (tomatoes, salt, oil, etc.)’ Powell was quite amazed by the idea that an integrated system of music and image (like a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk) might be seen as a ‘soup’, and in contrast presented the view from Ludwig von Bertalanaffy’s General System Theory (New York: Braziller, 1968):

A system can be defined as a set of elements standing in interrelations.  Interrelation means that elements, p, stand in relations, R, so that the behavior of an element p in R is different from its behavior in another relation, R’.

In a film, a piece of music ‘behaves’ differently to how it would in another film, or a concert hall, argued Powell, but the concept of the system means that its identity is not wholly dissolved in the process, as the metaphor of the soup might imply.

Audissino cites an analysis by Frank Lehman of John Williams’ score to Raiders of the Lost Ark in which a cadence is coordinated with the discovery of the Ark, and is ‘exactly in synch with the sun rays’. But Powell subtly probed the use of the concept of ‘function’ for music in such a context, whereby it implies a teleological view by which a coupling of music and image is required to be ‘effective’ or ‘work’. In contrast to this, Powell suggested that function ought to be a comparison rather than a teleology, and pertinently observed that ‘If one only grasps film music in relation to the image, one cannot imagine what other kinds of music could have been used’. Williams’ music is able to be visually functional by ‘straining the boundaries of tonal functionality’, which Powell compared to the Rückung or harmonic shift identified by Adorno in Schubert or late Beethoven (as discussed in Michael Spitzer, Music as Philosophy: Beethoven’s Late Style (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006)).

To Powell, Audissino employs a concept of ‘effectiveness’ which is wholly in the ear of the listener, and as such renders a particular acculturated response as something absolute, as does Kassabian when talking about responses to pop music heard on a car radio (which she thinks more ‘natural’ than those experienced in a concert hall). But Powell alluded to a standard practice in film studies of listening to a sequence with the sound turned off and then on, which demonstrates its distinctive role and codes. He maintained that perceived effect (or German Wirkung), while certainly an important consideration, should not be the only one, and called for greater understanding of the craft of writing film scores.

For an alternative approach to the audio-visual relation, Powell looked to semiotics, claiming that this had had relatively little impact upon cultural studies, and differentiating the ‘encoding/decoding’ model bequeathed by Stuart Hall, which Powell felt had more to do with communications theory (I am personally a little unsure about this claim about cultural studies and semiotics in light of the influence of Roland Barthes’ Mythologies (Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1957; translated Annette Lavers as Mythologies (London, Paladin, 1972)) on the former field, though this could be considered some of Barthes’ loosest and most journalistic work, in comparison to his almost exaggeratedly analytical approach to semiotics elsewhere). Drawing upon Christian Metz’s observation (in The Imaginary Signifier, trans. Celia Britton et al. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982)) that film language ‘possesses a grammar, up to a point, but no vocabulary’, Powell noted how neither Kassabian nor Audissino ‘clearly define the relation of sound to image‘, instead simply ‘leaping straight from music to larger narrative or cultural signification’. He related this problem back to Gorbman and her argument that ‘musical codes’ are always overridden by ‘cultural’ or ‘cinematic’ codes.

Musical semiotics, however, is a rich and pluralist tradition, often at best combined with rhetoric, hermeneutics or pragmatics, as detailed in Michael Spitzer’s Metaphor and Musical Thought (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2004) and Nicholas Cook’s A Guide to Musical Analysis (London: Dent, 1987). Powell drew various theses from this:

(i) it is very hard to pin down a ‘natural’ or unitary correlation between musical signifier and signified, as ‘Music does not simply ‘transmit’ a signal from sender to receiver’. To assume otherwise reflects the biases of communications studies, in departments of which film scholars are often employed.
(ii) this situation comes about because musical signification cannot exist without associated competencies, as argued by music semiotician Eero Tarasti in Signs of Music (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2002), and also by Kofi Agawu in the related field of topic theory (Playing with Signs: A Semiotic Interpretation of Classical Music (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1991).
(iii) musical signs cannot be analysed in isolation, as the minimal units of meanings are not simply sounds heard in isolation, but utterances. Scott Murphy (in ‘Transformational Theory and the Analysis of Film Music’, in the Oxford Handbook) has shown this for popular film music scores, using neo-Riemannian theory.
(iv) access to what Jean-Jacques Nattiez (in Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music, translated Carolyn Abbate (Princeton, NJ and London: Princeton University Press, 1990)) calls the ‘musical object’ is not provided by a naïve approach to listening, where the listener hears only what they want to hear. Kassabian and Audissino, in a similar fashion, hear only their own cultural and academic conventions.

Powell advocated recent dissertations by Juan Chattah (‘Semiotics, Pragmatics, and Metaphor in Film Music Analysis’ (Florida State University, 2006)) and Alex Newton (‘Semiotic of Music, Semiotics of Sound, and Film: Toward a Theory of Acousticons’ (University of Texas, 2015)). Newton’s ‘acousticon’ is a new semiotic audiovisual unit, investigated through a combination of musical and visual analysis, while he makes a link to the topic theories of Leonard Ratner, Agawu, and especially Robert Hatten and suggests that film music theory could learn from art-historical iconography and iconology. Powell argued that one might also draw further on Spitzer’s work on musical metaphor and associated scepticism about certain uses of semiotics (when they become ‘a kind of glorified motive-spotting’, like a similar criticism from Nicholas Cook), so as ‘not merely to produce another castle-in-the-sky of system-building that could risk its own problems’.

 

Eva Moreda Rodriguez, ‘Are We all Transnational Now? Global Approaches and Insularity in Music History’

Dr Moreda Rodriguez began by noting how for over 200 years many have been fascinated by the idea of a global history of music, and how in contemporary times this coincided with moves towards internationalisation in many Anglo-Saxon universities who wish to recruit more international students and also, ‘more recently, to develop broader, more diverse, “decolonized” curriculums’. In this context, she proceeded with a critical examination of three attempts at writing such a history: Mark Hijleh, Towards a Global Music History: Intercultural Convergence, Fusion, and Transformation in the Human Musical History (New York: Routledge, 2019); Philip V. Bohlman (ed.), The Cambridge History of World Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); and the project ‘Towards a Global Music History’ led by Reinhard Strohm (Oxford University) under the auspices of the Balzan Prize for Musicology.

Moreda Rodriguez also alluded to her own experiences as an ‘international’ academic working at a British university, whose work focuses on her own country of origin, Spain, which is considered somewhat marginal within Western art music. This, she said, had shaped her perceptions of the ‘global’, not least when having to put together grant applications justifying the relevance of her research beyond the community of musicologists working on music in the same time and place. As such, she felt it necessary at least implicitly to engage with the questions underlying these ‘global music history’ projects. Moreda Rodriguez’s principal projects to date have related to music under the Franco regime, which led her towards history and political science, and the national and international nature of fascism; and on the early history of recording technologies, about which she noted that there are many localised non-Anglophone studies, but the more ‘global’ narrative is dominated by US or other English-language sources and issues without acknowledging this.

Hijleh’s book justifies the sole-author narrative by framing itself as a textbook as would be used in a US context, where students take a greater range of foundational, comprehensive courses than in British universities. He also claims that it should be viewed as a gateway for the development of musicianship, in light of which Moreda Rodriguez argued that it should be viewed as a companion to Hijleh’s earlier Towards a Global Music Theory: Practical Concepts and Methods for the Analysis of Music across Human Cultures (London: Routledge, 2016). She also noted the extent of Hijelh’s interest in music theory, manifested in investigations of the relative role of melody and harmony in different times and places, or issues of tuning and temperament, as well as the development of ‘global regions’ of influence and prominence at various periods in history. While these two axes suggested very promising results, Moreda Rodriguez felt the book to be let down by omissions and overgeneralizations. For example, he treats the Americas as a whole in the period from 1500 to 1920, but after then ‘the Americas’ becomes exclusively the United States. Also, he neglects the crucial years in the formation of a European canon (also the period which saw increased colonisation) with no mention of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Schumann or Schubert, while Hijleh does bring up Jordi Savall and a range of Spanish Renaissance composers, on the grounds of the musical exchanges between Spain and its American colonies in the early modern era. Moreda Rodriguez argued that an equally plausible case could be made for the global reach of Bach, Mozart or Italian opera.

She also hesitantly evoked the concept of ‘music history minus Beethoven’ as recently imagined by Leah Broad, in order to argue for the difficult place where this book is situated, neither wholly a textbook nor a research monograph. It would be unlikely to be of service to first year undergraduates who have only a partial knowledge of some of the musical traditions (though it was not entirely clear why Moreda Rodriguez thought so, though she acknowledge a sensitive tutor could use it productively). Instead, she thought it might have a more polemical aim: specifically to test, in front of other academics, ‘the viability of a single-authored, predominantly narrative music history’. In this, she thought he succeeded to a significant degree.

In contrast with Hijleh, who acknowledges that power in music and power in the real world do not simply mirror one another, Moreda Rodriguez noted how ‘power dynamics and otherness’ are central to the essays in Bohlman’s edited volume, many of which studiously disregard aesthetic and qualitative matters and avoid any engagement with musical detail. As such, the whole history of Western opera (itself undoubtedly something which has had global ramifications, as Moreda Rodriguez pointed out) is simply reduced to a perfunctory mention of its colonial aspects. While the introduction disavows narrative, the chronological ordering of the book – from non-European music during the Antiquity and Medieval Times, through ‘The Enlightenment and world music’s historical turn’, to ‘Music histories of the folk and nation’ – does imply something of the type. Despite various attempts to define ‘world music’, few try to ascertain how this might differ from a global history of music; any such venture is viewed as an academic exercise rather than something which could impact upon the regular work of musicologists. Chapters written from a position of great expertise, such as those of Peter Manuel (‘Musical cultures of mechanical reproduction’) or Bonnie C. Wade (‘Indian music history in the context of global encounters’) are nonetheless both rushed and founded upon too many assumptions to work as introductory texts, but contain too little critical or innovative detail to qualify as research chapters.

Strohm’s project has so far resulted in one edited volume (Strohm (ed.), Studies on a Global History of Music: A Balzan Musicology Project (London: Routledge, 2018)), while two more are in preparation. In his acceptance speech, Strohm expressed his motivation to ‘learn new things on the musical relations between geographical regions and chronological eras’, focusing less on narrative than attempts to ‘explore, through assembled case studies, parameters and terminologies that are suitable to describe a history of many different voices’. As Moreda Rodriguez, noted, at that stage such parameters and terminologies were not yet defined, but the publication and workshops suggest overlaps with the approaches of both Hijleh and Bohlman. She urged, as further outputs are published, investigation of whether these ends have been achieved more efficiently than in existing collections which relate single issues or questions to diverse cultures and contexts, but do not necessarily explore global or transnational issues.

In conclusion, Moreda Rodriguez anticipated the appearance of further such attempts at writing global music history, but also that the search for some ultimate such history will prove elusive. Many of them might reveal less about music history than about ‘the shared assumptions, values and trends embedded in the musicological community at particular moments in time’ as with the contributors to Bohlman’s volume in their ‘attempt to understand world music history under the now-fashionable lens of power dynamics’. As such, such works may be ‘less interesting as product than they are as process’.

 

[To be continued in Part 2]

 


Musicological Observations 9: Scholars as Custodians of Tradition

In a recent social media post, cellist, composer and musicologist Franklin Cox wrote something I found inspiring and rather beautiful, and wanted to make public (with permission). The idea of musicians and scholars as ‘custodians’ of a tradition is deeply unfashionable, especially in academia, as historical or other study not concerned with maximum commercial utility are increasingly marginalised. There is plenty of work for those dealing with commercial pop music or ludomusicology (the study of music for video games) but dwindling numbers of positions for historical or analytical musicologists other than in the most elite institutions. The ‘contemporary’ is viewed as synonymous with ‘relevance’, and the mindset of former Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast Patrick Johnston, who told the Belfast Telegraph that ‘Society doesn’t need a 21-year-old that’s a sixth century historian’, appears to be relatively commonplace amongst many educators, educationalists, and politicians dealing with education.

But I do believe very strongly in the responsibility of scholars for maintaining, extending and supplementing knowledge of thousands of years of music, culture, language. To be such custodians need not preclude a rigorous and critical attitude towards such a tradition, or critical engagement with its more questionable associated or embedded ideologies or practices. On the contrary, such approaches, when undertaken constructively and intelligently rather than simply in a spirit of off-hand dismissal, are essential in order to keep such a tradition a living concern. But to stand by and do nothing as study of this tradition (or of languages, or any art form) is allowed to wither is an act of profound irresponsibility on the part of any musician or scholar. When one has a situation as related to me recently in one leading music department, when not one third year undergraduate was able to hum the opening theme of the Eroica (though plenty of those will have heard about how canonical works such as this represent hegemony, white supremacy, and so on), there is something very seriously wrong.

The depth and potential of any given present is dependent on its knowledge of the past. By default, the animal needs will define any present–food, reproduction, entertainment, war, and so forth.

It is only owing to the depth of the historical heritage of English literature that Joyce’s work reached the level it did. He was acutely conscious of the high standards of the literary tradition he was working in. There was great literature in this tradition ages ago, and the tradition has been nourished continuously. If you are immersed in this heritage, you have some notion of what is required to contribute to it; second-rate work is bound to appear shoddy. But if people surrender the effort of learning this heritage, it’s probable that second-rate work will become the norm. Unfortunately, this process is sweeping through the American educational system.

There’s a similar heritage in art music. You have access to all of the historical music you were referring to owing to the immense efforts of earlier musicians. I feel a duty to learn about, cherish, and pass this tradition on to the next generation. It’s increasingly difficult to do this as higher education is converted into a fast food education industry.

These traditions won’t be passed on automatically; by default, the cheapest and easiest solution will be found. Each generation will have to find a new way to defend these traditions.


Nick Gibb is right about many things to do with music education, but good intentions need to be paid for

The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, published an article on Friday, in the Times (‘Forget Spotify: I want every child to leave primary school able to read music’, The Times, 11 January 2019). This is behind a paywall, but Gibb has also posted the article on his blog so all can read it.

He describes being introduced to classical music at primary school, through various pieces designed in part for children by Britten, Saint-Saëns and Prokofiev, then singing works of Handel, Parry and Allegri in choir, but realises rightly that fewer children are benefiting from similar experiences, and with that in mind worked with various institutions to devise a recommended playlist. Gibb also absolutely notes that classical music is certainly not the only tradition or the only one to teach, also drawing attention to jazz and folk, music from Senegalian and Indian traditions, and the power of mass choral singing. He goes on to say:

I want every child to leave primary school able to read music, understanding sharps and flats, to have an understanding of the history of music, as well as having had the opportunity to sing and to play a musical instrument.

Noting that little was affected in terms of music education by 2012 reforms to the national curriculum, he expresses the following worry:

I am concerned that too few pupils are benefiting from a sufficiently rigorous approach to it. Like so many things, music requires, patience, dedication and application. No one ever woke up one morning playing the guitar like Eric Clapton.

I could not agree more with all the above sentiments, and deplore the fact that focused and rigorous musical education, or exposure to music over and above what might be encountered on an everyday basis (which Gibb frames in terms of ‘Spotify playlists’), are increasingly unavailable to all except a few, mostly those who are privately educated. And of course, as those who followed the 2017 public debates on musical notation, absolutely agree with him that every child should be able to leave primary school being able to read music (except of course those who have special learning needs or difficulties, but the same could be said about any type of reading). For more on this, see the response to the 2017 article by Charlotte C. Gill on music notation, and my follow-up article in The Conversation (‘The insidious class divide in music teaching’, 17 May 2017).

Gibb continues by noting a new panel of musicians and educationalists who he has tasked to draw up a new musical curriculum for primary schools. Details of this panel can be found here, an impressive list of individuals. He also notes a £1.33 million funding boost to music education hubs.

All of this is good and springs from the best intentions. But there is more to it than that. There are wider issues of cuts to music in secondary schools, not least because of pressure on pupils to take subjects in the EBacc. Nonetheless, however important this subject is, Gibb is speaking here about primary schools, so I will stick to those. A facile tweet from children’s author Michael Rosen asked ‘has he [Gibb] consulted with music teachers on this matter? Is Gibb an expert on music education? Can he read music? What has it done for him?’ No Schools Minister will ever be an expert on all areas of education, and Gibb has made clear that he is consulting a wide range of individuals involved in music education. Whether he himself can or cannot read music I do not know (I would suspect so on the basis of some of the choral repertoire he mentions having sung), but that is irrelevant as to whether he wants others to be able to learn it.

A group of musicians published a letter in the Observer in May 2018 expressing huge concern about the decline in instrumental music teaching in primary schools. In response the Department of Education noted that they were investing almost £500m in music and arts education programmes between 2016 and 2020. £300m of this was for music education hubs, and £120m for the Music and Dance Scheme, which enables some to attend specialist music schools. This amounted in 2018/19 to £75 million of ring-fenced funding to the hubs. But as detailed in an important survey from the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), wider cuts to their budgets greatly limit schools’ ability to buy in services or replace and repair instruments, while excessive pressure for accountability in other subjects, especially maths and English, lead to music’s being marginalised within the curriculum. Many respondents noted the decline in the number of staff in school music departments, or how music teaching is allocated to other types of teachers, or conversely music teachers are having to teach outside their subject area. Others commented on how the hubs remain short of cash, and instrumental tuition is often offered just for one year, in the context of schools in which little else goes on musically. Whole Class Ensemble Teaching (WCET), has been found increasingly to be available for less than one term, while there are few routes to progress beyond this to further musical education after WCET has ended. Access to singing teaching was also found to have declined.

Gibb’s intentions are good, but clearly more is needed. If he is serious about his wishes, money needs to be found and ring-fenced for dedicated music teachers within primary schools, over and above what is provided by the hubs. Furthermore, there should be proper tests to ensure such teachers have the fundamental music skills, including notational and aural skills, which alas are no longer necessarily guaranteed even by possession of  a music degree. Teachers who cannot themselves read music are obviously unable to teach children to do so. I hope very much the committee will take account of the concerns of organisations such as the ISM and others who have been looking at these issues for some time, and in light of their recommendations Gibb or any successor will match their intentions with the appropriate resources and provision of time within the curriculum.


Some thoughts on classical vs. popular music from pianist Peter Donohoe

The pianist Peter Donohoe recently posted an interesting piece of text on social media, in response to a question posed on Quora: ‘Is classical music truly “superior” to the popular music of any era? And, if so, why is it?’. There has been many a debate within musicological circles on this issue, not least as relate to the shaping of curricula for music education. In Anglophone musicology, it is very rare to find many scholars who would argue for any primary importance for classical music, with the result often being that it is becoming increasingly marginalised in a good deal of institutions. Those who have read this blog will know this is not a situation I favour, and have posted various things relating to the subject: see for example this set of responses to a radio talk given by Simon Zagorski-Thomas on a related subject, also another set of responses to an article by Stella Duffy on the arts, elitism and community (and this follow-up), not to mention the debate on teaching musical notation in schools following an article by Charlotte C. Gill. I have also posted some related articles on musical canons, and this on deskilling in musical education.

The dominant ideologies within academia are by no means necessarily shared more widely in the musical world – indeed can be quite antagonistic. I believe it is very important to encourage a wider discourse, involving many who care about music, on these subjects, and so with permission I am posting Donohoe’s text here, and also part of a response of my own drawing on a paper I gave on a few occasions in 2018 in musicological populism.

I welcome further responses from any angle (but would request that people refrain from any personalised insults or abuse towards others, and just address the arguments).

 

The following is Donohoe’s response:

This is a reply to recent tweet asking me my opinion of this: The tweeter in question asks: ‘Could it just be an era thing?’

It is only related to the era in that the determination with which the mediocre seeks to defeat the excellent is gaining ground.

However good pop music is – I include all the other brackets such as rock, country, blues, etc – by the side of the best classical music, it is always primarily commercialised, it is always primarily aimed at a majority audience, it is always the product of less skill on the part of both performer and listener, and it is always short-lived – even 40 years, as in the lasting effect of The Beatles is nothing compared to the greatest classical music. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, and The Beatles were all fantastic in their field, but not in the same field as the best classical music.

By what authority or standard of measurement is Jimi Hendrix the equal of Franz Liszt? The question also applies all the other absurd claims made in this piece. Dylan’s lyrics are more complex and deeper than the libretto of Mozart’s operas? The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds as complex as a Haydn string quartet? The Beatles were every bit as ground-breaking as Beethoven. Give me a break – this is utter twaddle and has no basis in analysis. And who said greatness equates to complexity?

Pop music does not need to be taught as it is at its best a reactive protest against the status quo – in which case if it becomes part of the status quo it has no function – and at its worst it has considerably less content than most nursery rhymes, no harmonic grammar, no sense of shape, form and no skill. That it can be better than that is undoubtedly true, and I have a deep affection for certain pieces of pop music from across the years of my life, but to suggest that it equates to the best classical music is ridiculous, pretentious, and to my mind makes a mockery of popular culture, and its position in society.

 

The following is part of my response:

The arguments above about popular music being commercialised (with which I agree) would certainly make a significant body of musicologists unhappy, and they try to deny, that there is any real alternative. For example:

‘Although we live in a commercially dominated culture, the music industry, despite its many faults, more closely approaches a meritocracy and offers opportunities to a wider spectrum of artists than any other form of support – certainly more than the patronage systems of old. Music by women can continue to flourish in the public sphere, but only so long as it manages to sell tickets and recordings: the unexpected success of the Lilth Fair concerts, featuring exclusively female artists, confirmed not only the artistry of the participating musicians but also the willingness of a mass audience to support their efforts.’

Susan McClary, ‘Women and Music on the Verge of the New Millenium’, Signs, vol. 25, no. 4 (Summer 2000), pp. 1285-6.

 

‘…the condemnation of fusion for its commercial success drastically underestimates the vitality, subtlety, and expressiveness of the pop traditions that influenced David. It is nothing more than an antipopulist chauvinism that turns from the unacceptable view that “what sells is good” to the opposite and likewise unacceptable view that “what sells must be bad.”

And finally the contrast of commercial fusion with noncommercial earlier jazz amounts to elitism pure and simple, to a snobbish distortion of history by jazz purists attempting to insulate their cherished classics from the messy marketplace in which culture has always been negotiated. Those who advocate such a view should reread Ralph Ellison’s review of Blues People, where he reminded Baraka that even Bird and the other early boppers, the ne plus ultra for many critics of esoteric jazz intellectualism, “were seeking . . . a fresh form of entertainment which would allow them their fair share of the entertainment market” (1978:59). Or, in a different connection, they should read recent nonhagiographical music histories that have Beethoven hawking the same opus to three different publishers, or Mozart conniving, with a sad lack of savvy, at one music-business killing or another. Music created with an eye to eternal genius and blind to the marketplace is a myth of European Romanticism sustained by its chief offspring, modernism.’

Gary Tomlinson, ‘Cultural Dialogics and Jazz: A White Historian signifies’, in Katherine Bergeron and Philip V. Bohlman (eds.), Disciplining Music: Musicology and its Canons (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 82-3.

 
‘I’ve noticed that, when I go to conferences or similar events in continental Europe, people make the assumption that, because I’m interested in music, I must have an interest in and commitment to new music; that’s not an expectation about me in particular, but a taken-for-granted assumption about what it means to be seriously engaged in music. (In the UK or the USA, people make no such assumption.) [….] In my book, I referred briefly to critical theory in general and Adorno in particular, as a way of introducing one of the main intellectual strands of the ‘New’ musicology of the 1990s, but I made no direct link between Adorno’s critique and new music. In her commentary, Anne Boissière (2001, p. 32) picked this up, asking why I didn’t discuss ‘the problem of contemporary music which resists consumption’: instead, she complained, I made music sound as if it was just another commodity, and in this way passed up the opportunity to offer ‘a critical analysis of consumer society’. In which case, she asked, ‘what point is there in making reference to Adorno?’: if one’s critique isn’t motivated by moral or political commitment, as Adorno’s was, then what is there to it but nihilism?

Actually, the argument Boissière is putting forward here, and which other contributors also reflected, has a long and rather peculiar history. It originates in the conservative critique of the modern world—the attack on capitalism and consumerism that developed throughout the German-speaking countries in the 19th century (where it was associated with the nostalgic values of an idealised rural past), and fed ultimately into the Nazi creed of ‘blood and soil’; Adorno’s critical theory might accordingly be seen as appropriating a conservative tradition in order to attack the right-wing ideology of his own day.’

Nicholas Cook, ‘Writing on Music or Axes to Grind: road rage and musical community’, Music Education Research, vol. 5, no. 3 (November 2003), p. 257.

 
‘My contention is that petty capitalism – a term I take to encompass myriad small-scale form of entrepreneurial, commercial activity in culture – has been one of the key means by which progressive leftist, anti-racist, and resistant forms of culture, music, and art have been made possible: have been produced, circulated, and lived. It’s a despised category of economic activity and analysis, generally seen as collusive with capital, as politically irredeemable, an insignificant and ineffective in any meta-historical analysis. But with regard specifically to cultural activity it sits somewhere crucial between full-blown corporate capitalism and the quite different but just as marked forms of cultural, ideological, and aesthetic closure and policing that tend to characterize statist and other kinds of subsidized cultural institutions, whether in music, broadcasting or academia. I’ve researched statist cultural institutions rather deeply, as those who know my writings on IRCAM and the BBC will be aware. So my argument today is that while there is no necessary connection between progressive or politicized culture and these small-scale, entrepreneurial petty capitalist interventions – and in that sense there is no deterministic relation – there are, nonetheless, opportunities; they might be conceived as affordances or, better, in William Connolly’s fruitful phrase, indebted to complexity theory as pluri-potentialities. In terms of the possibility of new experimental, and alternative forms of production and circulation, informed by a politic of cultural production, we should be more aware of this category of activity and what it can achieve.’

Georgina Born, ‘On Music and Politics: Henry Cow, Avant-Gardism and its Discontents’, in Robert Adlington (ed.), Red Strains: Music and Communism Outside the Communist Bloc (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 64.


New contributions to #notationgate from Jon Henschen and Andrew Mellor

Readers of this blog will recall #notationgate in Spring of 2017, a public debate about the role of Western (and other) musical notations in education and music-making in general, provoked by a polemical article by Charlotte C. Gill, in which she claimed that musical notation was ‘a cryptic, tricky language – rather like Latin – that can only be read by a small number of people, most of whom have benefited from private education’. This led to a major letter to The Guardian in response, which I and several others co-ordinated, with signatories from a range of leading musicians and musicologists (see here for the full list, and a range of links to other responses). I also wrote a follow-up article for The Conversation (‘The insidious class divide in music teaching’, 17 May 2017). It should be registered, though, that there was another group of mainly musicologists and some music educationalists who drafted another letter in response to ours, but which was never published, arguing that the first response was inflammatory, and insistence on musical notation discriminated against some with various learning and other difficulties. This was however never published.

In August of this year, Jon Henschen published an article for Intellectual Takeout (‘The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)’, 16 August 2018), with statistics showing just 11% of people (presumably in the US) could read music well, and linked this to wider declines in the quality of a good deal of popular music, citing a study (Joan Serra, Álvaro Corral, Marián Boguñá, Martín Haro and Josep Ll. Arcos, ‘Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music’, Scientific Reports 2, article 521 (2012)) which demonstrated increasing homogeneity of content in terms of pitch, timbre and other parameters. Henschen also alluded to the domination of songwriting by Lukasz Gottwald of the United States and Max Martin from Sweden, suggesting that a lack of wider notational skills provided the opportunity for just a few individuals to dominate, with all that implies in terms of homogeneity.

Anyhow, Andrew Mellor has published another short piece for Classical Music magazine (‘Academics who dismiss musical literacy have confused recreation with study’, 10 October 2018), engaging more deeply with the major academic divides on the subject which did flare up a little during the original #notationgate and continued in responses to Henschen’s article. I have a lot of sympathy with his criticisms of the substitution of music sociology for the study of music (which is not to say that music sociology is not also an important discipline), and the dire consequences of reducing notational requirements in education. Here is a section from the article:

…one university academic went for the jugular: stave notation is relevant only to ‘the minority music of the elites’, he said, claiming notated music accounts for just ‘3.5% of all concerts and recordings’. Some Facebookers retorted: isn’t ‘the minority music of the elites’ a little incendiary and over-simplified? The academic responded calmly: studies repeatedly tell us that mostly wealthy people enjoy classical music and opera. […]The academic clarified his position: sure, students at university can learn western notation if they want to, but they might find it more useful to learn how to use music production software.

[…] The real reason some universities no longer require music students to be able to read music – and yes, you did read that correctly – is that it widens their potential market. It means lecturers don’t have to consider how best to maintain musical literacy skills in their students, nor take the time and effort required to test them. In some cases, it tells of a faction who wish to see ‘the minority music of the elites’ ousted from university music departments altogether.

Anyone who believes this intellectual debasement will flood higher education with new perspectives and alternative narratives is dreaming. Ditching notation is not about opening music education up, but about closing huge swathes of it off. There is hardly a western musical form in existence that cannot be analysed and contextualised using notation. More importantly, there are questions surrounding instrumental competence, not least for those graduates who proceed to teach practical music-making in schools.

Marketplace education has a lot to answer for, not least the redefinition of what it means to study a subject rigorously. Some universities will go to any length to pander to the whims and parameters of their student ‘customers’. We learned recently that a British university is to launch a joint degree in journalism and PR. If that doesn’t feel like a marketing department defining the content of a degree course, I don’t know what does.

The results of all this will be further inequality and division. The classical music scene in this country is arguably thriving like never before, but if musical notation becomes the preserve of private schools and Oxbridge, five centuries of music really will become the plaything of the minority. What’s worrying is that there are plenty who are willing that to happen, knowing it will lead to all-out extinction. And that’s when Jon Henschen’s nightmarish vision will come to fruition.