The IICSA Report into Residential Schools – material on specialist music schools and some initial thoughts – Part 1Posted: March 1, 2022 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: Abuse, Chetham's, Culture, Dance, History, Music - General, Musical Education, Public Schools, Specialist Music Schools, Yehudi Menuhin School | Tags: abuse, alistair tighe, anne rhind, boarding schools, central school moscow, channel 4 news, chetham's school of music, childline, chris ling, clare moreland, david thomas, Duncan McTier, Frances Andrade, frances shorney, Graham Smallbone, grooming, guildhall school of music and drama, Helen Bennett, IICSA, john vallins, julien bertrand, Malcolm Layfield, marcel gazelle, michael brewer, music and dance scheme, nicholas chisholm, nicholas smith, operation kiso, peter crook, peter hullah, Philip Pickett, purcell school, richard hillier, rosemary rapaport, Royal Northern College of Music, rzysard bakst, Specialist Music Schools, st mary's school, wells cathedral school, Wen Zhou Li, yehudi menuhin school | 3 Comments
Today, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse have published their long-awaited report into residential schools, including specialist music schools, following their hearings in Autumn 2019. As a participant in the inquiry who gave verbal evidence and also a wide range of written data, submitted via lawyers Slater and Gordon, I wanted to draw attention to the sections relating to specialist music schools (as the report is 223 pages long), and offer some comments. I earlier published a post with a wide range of links to the testimonies and videos from the inquiry, and also an extensive range of testimonies collected at the time from former pupils at my former school, Chetham’s School of Music. Other relevant posts are indexed on my home page – perhaps most relevant are my digest of reported cases of abuse from 1990 to 2012, and detailed account of the trial of Michael Brewer and the aftermath.
Chetham’s School of Music, cloister buildings.
The report details widespread abuse throughout the four English specialist music schools (SMSs), including various cases for which circumstances including the fact that the alleged perpetrator is deceased precluded criminal proceedings. I am very glad that they have drawn attention to the allegations against Rzysard Bakst at Chetham’s and Marcel Gazelle at the Yehudi Menuhin School (for which I and several others worked with Channel 4 News to bring the story to light) in particular. But key to this type of report is not just which perpetrators carried out which incidents, but also how they were able to do so within the institutions in question, how those institutions responded when such allegations came to light, and which measures either were or have been put in place to safeguard pupils. It is clear that there were extremely serious deficiencies on the part of the schools, which enabled these incidents to happen. I link these to a much wider toxic culture (as attested to in the Chetham’s testimonies linked above) of reckless abuse of power, premature sexualisation, bullying, harassment, physical and emotional as well as sexual abuse, and in general, a privileging of the reputation of the institutions over the welfare of the pupils, as is made clear in the report. Furthermore, as also identified in the report, there are specific factors relating to specialist music schools which make pupils especially potentially vulnerable: the power and charisma of teachers, the intensely competitive environment in which the chances of ultimate success are low, the intimacy of the 1-1 teaching relationship, and more. From when these schools were founded (Purcell and Menuhin in the early 1960s; Chetham’s, Wells, and St Mary’s, Edinburgh, all became wholly or partially SMSs at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s), the dangers in terms of child welfare should have been obvious, but my research has uncovered little evidence of any particular concern about this on the part of those invested with power and responsibility at the schools. All sought inspiration from schools and pedagogy in Eastern Europe: the Central School in Moscow was the direct model for the Menuhin School, and by implication also St Mary’s (which was itself modelled on the Menuhin School), the Purcell School; Rosemary Rapaport, co-founder of the Central Tutorial School, later Purcell School, was inspired by what she saw in Czechoslovakia, and also wrote about the contrast between what students achieved in the UK and in Russia; the plans for Chetham’s were explicitly compared to schools in Russia and Hungary, and both John Vallins and Michael Brewer visited Hungary and the Soviet Union to seek information on approaches to tuition; pedagogy at Wells was deeply influenced by the violinist Yfrah Neaman, Lebanese-born but Moscow-trained. Furthermore, many teachers at the schools came from Eastern European ‘schools’ of playing and pedagogy, and made much of the mystique associated with these in the West. Specialist music education was in large measure an Eastern European development (there are a few precedents in Weimar-era Germany and even in the Third Reich, but these were not long-lasting) – many such schools sprung up throughout Eastern Europe after 1945, inspired especially by the model of the Moscow Central School, founded in 1932. Approaches to teaching which were developed in highly authoritarian and undemocratic societies were being transplanted into a Western liberal democracy; a theme of my forthcoming history will be the stark incompatibility of these with the wider values, including child welfare and nurturing, which should have been expected in the UK. To this day debates continue to rage as to what is reasonable in terms of expectations on young people studying music and dance at a high level, with examples from Russia and China cited in opposition to a more liberal and child-centered approaches.
Through the course of events, the actions of particular head teachers and music directors has been especially deficient, even when not directly involved with abuse – the report makes reference to John Vallins, Peter Hullah and Clare Moreland at Chetham’s, and Peter Crook at Purcell. The testimonies of these individuals and some others at the hearings were not impressive, and communicated to many alumni with whom I am in contact a sense of complacency, marginalisation, and even denial. Alas it is probably unsurprising to many to see confirmation that institutions have sought to protect their own reputations and those of their most senior staff, in the face of allegations of abuse, bullying, harassment, and so on, and those going forward to register such things can find themselves shunned, marginalised or victimised. This is why mandatory measures and reporting are needed, and proper protection offered for those who come forward. There is still a long way to go in this respect, and I will say more about this when writing about the report’s conclusions in a subsequent post. Many dangers are present in tertiary as well as primary/secondary music education: some will be aware of the case of Philip Pickett, jailed in 2015 for eleven-and-a-half years for offences including rape of female students in locked sound-proofed practice rooms. Also shocking was the reaction of the then-principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the late John Hosier, simply telling the parents of one girl who was attacked to take her to study somewhere else (see also my articles following the Pickett case here and here). I am aware of detailed testimony relating to another former conservatoire principal of a similar nature, from two individuals unbeknown to each other when they spoke to me, and relating to two different teachers who had committed grievous sexual offences. When considering going to the police about these cases, they were threatened with expulsion and career ruin by the principal in question. The possibilities for such corruption of power, in a world in which reputations are everything, and careers are greatly fragile and dependent upon good favour within narrow circles, must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Here are the key passages from the IICSA report:
In 2013, Michael Brewer, the former director of music at Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester, was convicted of sexually abusing a former student when she was 14. His victim took her own life after giving evidence at his trial. This prompted other former pupils to come forward, with 47 alleged perpetrators reported to the police, 35 of whom were connected with the school. Four were charged with criminal offences, including Christopher Ling who had abused eight young girls, often in the guise of ‘rewards and punishments’ at his home during tutorials, during music courses in school holidays and at the school itself. This first came to light in 1990, shortly after Ling moved to the USA, taking a group of girls with him as pupils. Extradition was not pursued and no further action was taken at the time by the school or by others. It was, as one victim put it, “as if it hadn’t happened”. (p. 2)
At the Purcell School, a specialist music school, allegations against staff were not responded to appropriately under the headship of Mr Peter Crook. This is unsurprising, as the headteacher demonstrated a failure to understand some basic principles of safeguarding. For example, in 2009 Mr Crook took a group of Year 9 boys to his home, discussed his own sexual experiences with them, told the boys how to measure their penises and told them he would ignore it if he caught two boys masturbating each other. When this came to light, it was decided that no disciplinary measures were to be imposed on the headteacher.
Teachers and others exploited their positions of trust to abuse children in all the various types of educational settings the Inquiry considered. Some settings pose heightened risks. Boarding schools were described to us as “the ideal environment for grooming”, as the children have an increased dependency on those around them. (pp. 2-3)
In the specialist music schools examined, the power and influence of often revered and influential music teachers made some pupils even more vulnerable to being sexually abused by them. The reputations of both the musicians and the schools were often seen as more important than their victims and potential victims when allegations were made or concerns were raised. The response was similar when concerns were raised about well-liked and generally respected members of staff in other school contexts, in both the independent and state sectors. (p. 3)
There are details of the testimony of RS-A2 and RS-A3 on pp. 7-8, both relating to horrific abuse at the hands of Chris Ling. I will not give all the details, but quote here aspects relevant to the environment and response of the school. Very notable is the behaviour of houseparents (in a position of loco parentis in such schools), for which the evidence is damning.
RS-A2 was a boarder at Chetham’s School of Music (Chetham’s) in Manchester in the 1980s, from the ages of 13 to 18. She was far from home and found the atmosphere in the school to be “oppressive” and very competitive. She felt that there were no staff members who were approachable.
Christopher Ling became RS-A2’s violin tutor at Chetham’s when she was 15. RS-A2 said that she saw Ling as a father figure, and that he had convinced his students that he was their only chance of success. RS-A2 noticed that Ling frequently commented on the appearance of his female pupils, and he sometimes gave RS-A2 a shoulder massage for pain she developed from over-practising.
When Ling’s abuse of pupils at Chetham’s came to light in December 1990, RS-A2 was interviewed by Greater Manchester Police in the presence of the housemistress, Mrs Anne Rhind. Although the female police officer who interviewed her was “kind”, RS-A2 had the impression that Mrs Rhind was worried about the impact on the school and that she was angry with RS-A2.
After RS-A2 disclosed the abuse at school, she spoke to her mother about it on the telephone. RS-A2 said that she later discovered that her mother tried to contact her at Chetham’s, but Mrs Rhind would not let her speak to or see RS-A2, saying that she was busy. RS-A2 said that she had not known at the time that her mother had tried to see her because Mrs Rhind did not tell RS-A2 that her mother had come to the school.
Some time after she was interviewed, RS-A2 recalled being told by the police that the case would not proceed due to a lack of evidence. Neither the police nor the school offered any counselling or support.
RS-A2 was allocated a new violin teacher at Chetham’s who also made sexual allusions in lessons and forcefully kissed her, but RS-A2 did not report it. She did not think she would be listened to: “if the other abuse hadn’t been listened to, then why would this?”
RS-A2 provided another statement to the police in 2013, when the case against Ling was reopened. Ling shot himself in the head when US marshals arrived at his home to serve extradition papers upon him in September 2015. When she heard of Ling’s suicide, RS-A2 felt that again the voices of his victims had not been heard. She felt shocked and angry, and described his suicide as “a final kick in the teeth”.
The sexual abuse has continued to affect RS-A2 emotionally and physically, causing problems with trust and self-esteem, and has affected her relationships with men. RS-A2 has not played classical music since leaving Chetham’s and finds it difficult to listen to it. (pp. 6-7)
RS-A3 joined Chetham’s when she was 15 years old, living at the school as a boarder. Ling was her instrumental teacher and RS-A3 said that she looked up to him as an inspiring teacher. He continued to sexually abuse her, not on school premises but at his private residence, during additional lessons or tuition courses at weekends and in the school holidays.
In autumn 1990, during a self-awareness course, RS-A3 disclosed that she had been sexually abused by Ling. Her parents were informed and reported him to the police. By this time, Ling was teaching in the United States and RS-A3 was in the sixth form at Chetham’s. Greater Manchester Police interviewed RS-A3 and several other girls at the school, although RS-A3 recalled being told by the police subsequently that there was not enough evidence to extradite Ling to face trial in England.
In 2013, the police reopened the case against Ling. RS-A3 was interviewed again by the police because the evidence gathered in 1990 had been lost. Extradition proceedings were initiated to bring Ling back from the United States to face trial in England, but Ling killed himself before he could be extradited.
When RS-A3 heard of his suicide, she felt a sense of relief but also was disappointed that Ling had never faced justice for his actions:
“I wanted it confirmed that we were telling the truth and I have missed out on the recognition of what we had gone through. I am especially angry that the school will never be held accountable”.
The abuse continues to affect RS-A3. She struggles to show her feelings and feels numb and disconnected. She gave up playing the violin as it triggered uncomfortable emotions. (pp. 7-8)
The following passage relates to the nature of specialist music provision in the UK, about which I am working on a history at present.
B.2: Music schools
2. Through the Music and Dance Scheme (MDS), the Department for Education provides income-assessed grants or bursaries to pay all or part of the fees for children at specialist music or dance schools in England. The schools themselves decide whom to offer places and may withdraw a place according to their own policies.
3. There are four specialist music schools in the MDS in England:
• Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester (Chetham’s);
• The Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey;
• The Purcell School for Young Musicians in Hertfordshire (the Purcell School); and
• Wells Cathedral School in Somerset.
These four specialist music schools are independent boarding schools, although day pupils also attend. In all four schools, there have been allegations of sexual abuse of students by teachers or other adults working at the school.
4. A watershed moment came in 2013, when Mrs Frances Andrade took her own life shortly after giving evidence at the trial of Michael Brewer. The former director of music at Chetham’s was convicted of sexual offences against her when she was a pupil and boarder at the school (when named Miss Frances Shorney, as she is referred to below). Mrs Andrade’s death and Brewer’s conviction were widely reported in the press, prompting many former pupils of Chetham’s and the other specialist music schools to come forward and speak about their experiences of child sexual abuse within music education from the 1960s to the present day. Many spoke to the police through Operation Kiso, a large-scale investigation by Greater Manchester Police. Many more contacted Dr Ian Pace, a musicologist and former pupil of Chetham’s, who had written a number of articles on his blog, Desiring Progress, regarding the trial of Brewer and the incidence of child sexual abuse in specialist music education.
Chetham’s School of Music
5. Chetham’s is situated in the centre of Manchester, close to Manchester Cathedral. The Cathedral choristers are educated at the school.79 It became a co-educational specialist music school in 1969, having been a boys’ grammar school since 1656. Chetham’s is the largest of the four specialist music schools, currently providing full-time academic education, in addition to specialist music tuition, for just over 300 pupils aged between 8 and 18. More than one-third of its student body is in the sixth form (aged 16 to 18). At the time of the Inquiry’s hearing in October 2019, the school had 220 boarders and around 10 percent of its students were from overseas.
6. Incidents of child sexual abuse which occurred at Chetham’s between the 1970s and the 1990s led to five adults who worked with children there facing criminal charges. Some allegations of child sexual abuse at Chetham’s were reported after the alleged perpetrators had died, resulting in no further action being taken by police.’ (pp. 24-25)
The report looks specifically at the cases of Michael Brewer and Chris Ling, as well as the nature of Operation Kiso, set up soon after the Brewer trial. The case of Michael Brewer has been the most prominently reported because of the trial of him and his former wife, and the tragic suicide of their victim Frances Andrade, née Shorney, during the course of the trial. Especially notable here are the details of how Brewer’s departure from the school were handled, in such a manner as enabled him to continue working with young people. On the grapevine, at the time of his departure, I heard rumours about some scam involving a violin manufacturer and him, but this would have been far less serious. It cannot be underestimated how fundamental a role Brewer played in the lives of all who attended the school when he was Director of Music (some early reports described him simply as a choirmaster, which downplayed his power – see my earlier blog post here on Brewer), and as such what it meant to see him convicted of such a serious crime.
7. Michael Brewer was the director of music at Chetham’s for 20 years, from his appointment in 1974. He was appointed by and directly accountable to the governing body (known at that time as the School Committee), rather than the headteacher. Brewer was a powerful figure, having complete autonomy over all matters relating to music. Mr Peter Hullah (headteacher from 1992 to 1999) told the Inquiry that “the Director of Music was the School”. Brewer was also highly regarded outside the school. He left Chetham’s in December 1994 and continued to work with young people as the artistic director of the National Youth Choir, which he had founded in 1983. Brewer was awarded an OBE in the 1995 New Year’s Honours List for services to music education.
8. Frances Shorney was a boarder at Chetham’s during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Brewer groomed and sexually abused her when she was 14 and 15 years old in his office at Chetham’s and also at his family home. The sexual abuse escalated from kissing and touching to oral sex and penetrative sexual intercourse. At one point, because Miss Shorney was exhibiting emotional and behavioural problems, the headteacher, Mr John Vallins, agreed that she should move into the Brewers’ family home in order to help her cope with the pressures of the school. Brewer continued to sexually abuse her when she lived with his family. It was not until many years after she left Chetham’s that she felt able to confide in a fellow musician about the sexual abuse she had suffered as a pupil, before making formal allegations to the police in 2011.
9. In the course of its investigation into the allegations against Brewer, Greater Manchester Police spoke with a number of former pupils of the school. Several recalled that it was common knowledge amongst the student body that Brewer had an inappropriate sexual relationship with Miss Shorney and that Brewer had targeted other girls. One witness told the police that Brewer had made aggressive sexual advances towards her on a school trip when she was 16, which she had rebuffed.
10. The police also identified a former pupil, RS-A187, whom Brewer groomed and then engaged in sexual activity with over several months in 1994, when she was 17 years old and he was 49. RS-A187 gave evidence for the prosecution at the trial to show that Brewer had a sexual interest in the teenage girls in his care. Brewer did not face any criminal charges in relation to RS-A187, because it was not a criminal offence for a teacher to engage in consensual sexual activity with a pupil over 16 until 2001.
11. In November 1994, the headteacher, Mr Hullah, became suspicious of the nature of the relationship between Brewer and RS-A187. Mr Hullah asked the housemistress, Mrs Anne Rhind, to speak to RS-A187, and later spoke to Brewer himself. Brewer immediately acknowledged to the headteacher that a personal relationship had developed with RS-A187 which “did cross a professional boundary”, and said that his position had become untenable and that he wished to resign immediately.
12. The governing body accepted Brewer’s resignation with immediate effect, which brought the headteacher’s investigation into the matter to an “abrupt halt”. Brewer faced no disciplinary action. The reason given publicly for his departure was that he had retired due to ill health. Brewer told the court in 2013 that this was Mr Hullah’s suggestion, and accepted that this had been a “cover-up”. Mr Hullah told the Inquiry that Brewer had resigned and not retired, and that Brewer had not complained of any health problems at that time, but he denied that there had been a cover up in 1994. Mr Hullah stated that he had informed the governing body of all the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation from the school.
13. Brewer was paid his full salary from when he left Chetham’s in December 1994 until August 1995, which Mr Hullah considered to be a gesture of goodwill on the part of the governing body. Brewer continued to be associated with Chetham’s as an advisor and to work closely with young people as the artistic director of the National Youth Choir. Mr Hullah did not notify the National Youth Choir, the local authority or the Department for Education (which at that time operated ‘List 99’, a barred list of those deemed unsuitable to work with children) of the circumstances or the fact of Brewer’s resignation, although there was a statutory duty to notify the Department for Education of such resignations.
Mr Hullah did not consider that the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation were such as to require any referrals or notification.
14. In February 2013, Brewer was convicted of indecently assaulting Frances Shorney on multiple occasions when she was under 16.105 The trial judge sentenced Brewer to six years’ imprisonment and described him as a “predatory sex offender” whose behaviour was “manipulative and depraved”. He noted that Brewer’s power and influence in the school was such that he was able “with little, if any, prospect of challenge from anyone else”. He also expressed surprise that witnesses testified to Brewer’s good character in the knowledge that he had conducted a clandestine relationship with a pupil, and appeared to be “more than happy to overlook one of the most shocking aspects of this case”. (pp. 25-27)
The case of Chris Ling constitutes the most serious of all the allegations relating to Chetham’s, but was essentially ‘hushed up’ for over 20 years, even though many including myself were fully aware of the nature of his departure both from the school and the country (though not the scale or full nature of the offences). It is quite amazing to note the lack of interest on the part of headteacher John Vallins in Chris Ling’s whereabouts, together with his pupils, after fleeing to the United States.
15. Christopher Ling taught the violin at Chetham’s. He was recruited by Brewer in 1985. He left Chetham’s at the end of the school year in summer 1990 for a teaching role at the University of Miami, taking with him as his pupils a small group of girls from Chetham’s.
16. In autumn 1990, a female pupil at Chetham’s, RS-A3, disclosed that she had been sexually abused over a long period of time by Ling, who had been her violin tutor. Greater Manchester Police began a criminal investigation. The police identified eight girls who alleged they had been sexually abused by Ling while they were pupils at the school. The victims were aged between 9 and 15 years at the start of the abuse, which ranged from kissing, spanking and sexual touching to full sexual intercourse in some cases. Ling operated a reward and punishment system which enabled him to facilitate the sexual abuse, most of which took place at his private residence during tuition at weekends and on music courses during the school holidays. Some sexual assaults occurred in a small coffee room at Chetham’s.
17. Two of Ling’s victims, RS-A1 and RS-A2, gave evidence to the Inquiry. They both recalled making statements to the police in 1990. RS-A1 was interviewed at home over five hours. RS-A2 was then 16 years old. She told the Inquiry that she had been interviewed by the police in the presence of the housemistress, Mrs Rhind, which she found unhelpful. She had the impression that Mrs Rhind was worried about the reputation of the school and was angry with her.
18. RS-A2 recalled the police subsequently telling her that the case would not proceed due to a lack of evidence. Mr Vallins recalled that the police said there was sufficient evidence to charge Ling but that the offences were not extraditable. It appears that the prosecutor was wrongly advised by a senior Crown Prosecution Service lawyer that it was not possible to seek extradition from the USA in the circumstances.
19. Once it was clear that Ling would not be prosecuted, the school did not carry out any investigation into his conduct, nor did the governors or headteacher initiate any review of child protection arrangements at the school. The school did not notify children’s social care or the Department for Education of the allegations. The school did not make contact with Ling’s employer in the USA at any point. Mr Vallins stated that the school was not aware of where Ling was teaching, even though he had taken a number of pupils from Chetham’s with him. No school policies or procedures were updated or introduced. The children affected were not offered any counselling or any other form of support by the school. RS-A1 recalled “It was as if it hadn’t happened”. (pp. 27-28)
In the section on Operation Kiso, do note also further comments relating to a houseparent.
20. In the aftermath of Brewer’s trial, the police received a large number of complaints by former students of Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (RNCM, a college for students aged over 18, some of whom had been pupils at Chetham’s) alleging non-recent sexual abuse of pupils and students by staff. In February 2014, Greater Manchester Police launched Operation Kiso, a large-scale investigation into sexual offending at both institutions. During this investigation, 47 alleged perpetrators were reported to the police, 35 of whom were associated with Chetham’s. A number of the allegations related to staff who were deceased and therefore could not be prosecuted, including the highly esteemed piano teacher Ryszard Bakst, against whom the police compiled a “compelling”file of evidence, including complaints from six women. Criminal charges were brought against four men for sexual offences against pupils at Chetham’s: Nicholas Smith, Malcolm Layfield, Christopher Ling and Wen Zhou Li.
21. Nicholas Smith was associated with Chetham’s as a visiting conductor. In September 2014, he was sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting a 14 or 15-year-old Chetham’s pupil in the late 1970s. Smith had invited RS-A164 to his cottage for the weekend, as he knew she was homesick and unhappy, having endured “frankly sadistic” treatment at the hands of a housemistress. He sexually assaulted her by knocking her to the ground and groping her while his wife was in the bath upstairs. RS-A164 had been a pupil at Chetham’s at the same time as Frances Shorney and decided to come forward after reading reports of her death.
22. Malcolm Layfield taught and conducted chamber music at Chetham’s in the 1970s and 1980s, and also at the RNCM where he was appointed head of strings in 2002. Layfield was tried and acquitted in 2015 of the rape of an 18-year-old student in the 1980s, when he had been in his 30s. During the trial, he claimed that the sex had been consensual but admitted behaving “shamefully” by having consensual sexual intercourse with a number of his female students from Chetham’s and the RNCM, the youngest of whom was 17, during the 1980s.
23. In 2013, a teacher at Chetham’s, Wen Zhou Li, was arrested and charged with the rape of an overseas student, RS-A165, in the late 1990s.123 The charges were withdrawn before trial due to evidential issues. RS-A165 then brought a civil claim against Chetham’s for the sexual abuse she alleged that Li had committed against her when he was her tutor and her educational guardian at the school. In May 2021, a civil court found that Wen Zhou Li had kissed RS-A165 on several occasions in a teaching room at Chetham’s when she was 15, and that this was “the beginning of an escalating course of sexual assaults” committed in his car and in his flat, where she stayed on occasion because he was her educational guardian.The judge found that “Mr Li exploited the opportunities presented by being [RS-A165’s] teacher and by being her guardian”. The judge also found that Li was instrumental in persuading RS-A165 and her parents that she should leave the school where she was studying music and follow him to his new teaching post at Chetham’s in 1996. Chetham’s was ordered to pay damages to RS-A165.
24. During Operation Kiso, Greater Manchester Police re-investigated the Christopher Ling case. Because the original files of evidence were no longer in existence, the police had to interview the complainants again and build a new case file. The investigation identified 12 women who alleged that they had been abused by Ling as children, eight of whom had been pupils of Ling’s at Chetham’s. The Chetham’s pupils included RS-A1, RS-A2, RS-A3, RS-A4 and RS-A5, all of whom provided accounts of their abuse to the Inquiry.
25. In 2014, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service pursued Ling’s extradition from the USA to stand trial in England on 77 sexual offence charges relating to 11 complainants. In September 2015, as US Marshals arrived at his Los Angeles home with a warrant for his arrest, Ling shot himself dead. (pp. 28-29).
Then there are the following sections on the other three specialist music schools in England. That on the Menuhin School, which mentions the allegations against Marcel Gazelle, and also raises questions about safeguarding responses to other more recent allegations.
The Yehudi Menuhin School
26. The Yehudi Menuhin School was founded in 1963 by the celebrated violinist Yehudi Menuhin with the objective of educating young string players and pianists with exceptional musical ability from across the world. It began with 15 pupils and remains the smallest of the specialist schools, with 86 students across nine year-groups as at March 2019, and 68 full or weekly boarders. Sixty-one pupils benefit from MDS funding.130 The school is situated in Stoke d’Abernon, near Cobham in Surrey.
Allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse
27. In May 2013, following press reports of the trial and conviction of Brewer and the death of Mrs Andrade, Channel 4 News broadcast a segment focussing on allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse at specialist music schools. A number of former pupils spoke to Channel 4 News to allege sexual abuse by Mr Marcel Gazelle, a renowned pianist and the first director of music at The Yehudi Menuhin School. He died in 1969. One complainant recalled him coming into the dormitory in the morning, and his hands tickling her under the bedclothes “where they shouldn’t be”.
28. Around the time of the Channel 4 broadcast, four women contacted the headteacher, Dr Richard Hillier, to inform him of sexual abuse by Gazelle when they were among the first pupils at the school in the 1960s. All allegations were referred to the police, who logged the reports but took no further action as Gazelle was deceased. Dr Hillier discussed the complaints of non-recent sexual abuse with the school’s designated safeguarding lead (DSL), the senior management team and the chair of governors. No changes were made to school policies, because Dr Hillier was satisfied that music staff were no longer permitted to access boarding houses.
29. In 2009, a former student, RS-A218, contacted the director of music with allegations that a non-music teacher repeatedly sexually abused her over a 2-year period in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when she was under 13 years of age. RS-A218 did not wish to make a complaint to the police, and it appears that the allegation was not referred to the police at that time. When the director of music brought the allegation to the attention of Dr Hillier in 2013, Dr Hillier arranged to meet and speak with RS-A218 before referring the matter to the police, without naming her, in accordance with her wishes.
30. In around 2006, a female student complained that her tutor, RS-F13, had made sexualised and inappropriate comments in one-to-one instrumental lessons, which made her uncomfortable. The student was moved to another teacher by the headteacher, Mr Nicholas Chisholm. Mr Chisholm warned RS-F13 verbally about using inappropriate language but at that time he did not consider this to indicate a possible safeguarding risk and so the matter was not notified to the local authority.
31. In 2013, another female student, RS-A204, made an allegation that RS-F13 had attempted to kiss her a year previously. The allegation was referred to the local authority designated officer (LADO). A disciplinary investigation concluded that the disputed allegation was “unsubstantiated”. However, the school had sufficient concerns regarding RS-F13 that restrictions were placed upon his teaching relating to the time and location of his lessons. RS-F13 also had to undertake further safeguarding training.
32. Around the same time, a former student of a different specialist music school, RS-A170, made a complaint through Operation Kiso that RS-F13 had a sexual relationship with her in the 1980s, when she was 16 and his pupil.143 RS-A170’s account to the police raised issues regarding her consent to some of the sexual activity but she declined to support a prosecution. An internet search by a Greater Manchester Police officer revealed that RS-F13 was teaching at The Yehudi Menuhin School but the officer did not record this information and did not pass it on to the police force to which the case was referred (the alleged incidents were not connected with Chetham’s or the RNCM and did not take place within the operational area of Greater Manchester Police). No police force contacted The Yehudi Menuhin School in connection with RS-A170’s allegations to ascertain whether any potential safeguarding risks to children were appropriately managed. The Yehudi Menuhin School was not made aware in 2013 of the existence of RS-A170’s allegations about RS-F13’s conduct. Had the school been aware of this information, it would have been relevant to the investigation of the allegation made by RS-A204.
33. Further concerns regarding RS-F13’s conduct were raised in 2014, when a parent complained to the school’s DSL that RS-F13 had an overly close relationship with her child. He wanted to take photographs of her, would not permit her father to stay when he gave lessons at his private residence, gave her hand massages and seemed to have power over her. The pupil was moved to a different teacher. Dr Hillier and the DSL decided that the concerns did not warrant discussion with the LADO. A short time later, RS-F13 resigned from the school over an unrelated issue regarding new contractual terms. (pp. 29-31)
The section on Wells Cathedral School concentrates in particular on the case of Julien Bertrand, another case, the relationship of pupils to cathedral staff, and another case involving allegations against Malcolm Layfield, who faced criminal investigations with relation to Chetham’s, as documented above/
Wells Cathedral School
34. Wells Cathedral School is an independent day and boarding school for boys and girls in Somerset. It is a relatively small school of around 750 pupils from nursery to sixth form. There are 556 pupils in the senior school, approximately half of whom board, and there are 188 pupils whose parents live overseas. Unlike the other specialist music schools, it is predominantly an all-round school, with only around one-quarter of its pupils (approximately 160) from Year 6 upwards enrolled in the specialist music programme. It has very close links with the neighbouring Cathedral – all choristers are educated at Wells Cathedral School and some Cathedral employees have contact with pupils through the choir and music teaching.
35. In 2006, Julien Bertrand, a former member of staff at Wells Cathedral School, was convicted of sexual offences against RS-A202 and another boy at a school where he had worked previously, and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Bertrand groomed RS-A202 and his family over a number of years. The offending began at a different school when RS-A202 was 14 years old, culminating in penetrative sexual assaults at Wells Cathedral School when RS-A202 was 17 years old. Bertrand began working at Wells Cathedral school as a graduate music assistant in 2002, with responsibility for supervising practice sessions for those pupils who were specialist musicians. Bertrand quickly volunteered his services as a French assistant and a badminton coach, and was appointed assistant housemaster in 2003. Several members of staff at Wells Cathedral School voiced concerns to the deputy headteacher or the headteacher about the conduct of Bertrand in relation to pupils at the school, and especially towards RS-A202. Bertrand was given an informal warning in 2003 for inviting RS-A202 to his room late at night.155 In 2004, Bertrand began an Open University course to train as a music teacher, whilst he continued working at the school. Around this time, the boys in the house where Bertrand was assistant housemaster were noted to be making comments about his closeness with RS-A202. These concerns were discussed with the housemaster, who spoke to Bertrand and considered that this failure to observe appropriate boundaries was due to Bertrand’s inexperience in the role. In 2005, RS-A202 disclosed to a member of Cathedral staff that he had been sexually abused by Bertrand. The deputy headteacher was informed and he immediately reported the allegations to the police. Bertrand was arrested the same day. His flat at the school was searched and the police seized evidence including photographs and videos of RS-A202 and other boys. The headteacher suspended Bertrand and prohibited him from entering the school grounds.
36. RS-A202 was offered counselling with the school counsellor, which he accepted. The parents of children at the school were informed that Bertrand had been suspended following an allegation of sexual abuse, without identifying RS-A202. The school had obtained written references before employing Bertrand but after his arrest the DSL found that the references were missing from Bertrand’s file. It was suspected that Bertrand may have removed them himself. Following the arrest of Bertrand, Wells Cathedral School reviewed and revised its safeguarding policies and practice, including the staff code of conduct. External training providers were invited to give safeguarding training to all staff.
Other safeguarding concerns
37. In the early 2000s, a number of low-level concerns were raised in relation to the conduct of RS-F23, another member of staff at Wells Cathedral School. The DSL was concerned by RS-F23’s repeated infractions of school rules and failures to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. The DSL kept detailed dated records of any concerns reported to her by staff, as well as her own observations of RS-F23 and his interactions with children at the school. The DSL ensured that all reported concerns were passed on to the deputy headteacher or headteacher. The school took a number of actions in response to these concerns, which included giving a formal warning in relation to aspects of his conduct, ensuring he was mentored in his paid role and requiring him to cease his voluntary role at the school, which had given him access to the boarding house.
38. In addition, Mrs Helen Bennett stated that in her role as DSL, she received and recorded a number of concerns over a period of several years that a member of Cathedral staff had given lifts to boys in his car, and had allowed children to enter his accommodation next to the school grounds, which was a breach of his contract with the Cathedral. Mrs Bennett said that she discussed her concerns with the Cathedral safeguarding staff but, to her disappointment, no formal disciplinary action was taken by the Cathedral in respect of this conduct by a member of its staff. Since May 2019, a written Safeguarding Partnership has been established between the school and the Cathedral. The headteacher, Mr Alistair Tighe, considered that under the partnership agreement it would “probably not” be open to the Cathedral safeguarding authorities to take a less serious view of a safeguarding concern than the school, because of commonalities in their respective policies. A code of conduct for Cathedral staff coming into contact with choristers was in development at the time of the Phase 1 hearing.
39. In 2013, allegations came to light regarding the misconduct of Malcolm Layfield towards a sixth-form pupil under the age of 18 on a Wells Cathedral School music tour abroad in 1990. Mr Layfield was not a member of staff but had accompanied the school tour as guest conductor. There was no criminal prosecution arising from the allegations. When the allegations were reported in the press in 2013, the school decided to commission two independent safeguarding reviews from external experts – one to examine the school’s response in 1990 to the rumours which had surfaced at that time, and a second to audit the effectiveness of the current safeguarding arrangements at the school. The first review, by a former police child protection officer, concluded that the school had acted in accordance with child protection practice in 1990, by attempting an investigation and questioning potential witnesses (the girl had not wished to speak to the headteacher or make a complaint at the time). The second review found that the school’s safeguarding practice in 2013 was compliant with statutory requirements, although it made some recommendations for
improving the security of the school site, which were implemented by the school. (pp. 31-33)
The section on the Purcell School is longer than all the others except for Chetham’s, and raises equally serious issues about the way the institution dealt with allegations and the behaviour of former headteacher Peter Crook.
The Purcell School for Young Musicians
40. The Central Tutorial School for Young Musicians was founded in 1962 in central London, changing its name to The Purcell School for Young Musicians (the Purcell School) in 1973 and moving to its current site in Bushey, Hertfordshire in 1997. It teaches 180 boys and girls from the ages of 10 to 18, although almost half the student body is in the sixth form. The majority of the pupils board but it has approximately 40 day pupils. The school had 36 international students in October 2019.
41. The Inquiry examined concerns raised regarding Mr Peter Crook, the headteacher of the Purcell School from 2007 to 2011, and allegations made against two members of staff, RS-F20 and RS-F80, during his headship.
42. A former teacher at the Purcell School, Mr Duncan McTier, was the subject of allegations brought to the police during Operation Kiso. In November 2014, he pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and one attempted indecent assault which took place in the 1980s. The three victims had all been students of McTier, two at the RNCM and one at the Purcell School. In 1985, McTier had attempted to indecently assault the 17-year-old Purcell student by trying to grope her at his home after a private lesson. In response to newspaper reports that McTier had been charged with offences against students, the Purcell School issued a press release which stated that McTier had not been an employee of the school but had given private lessons to some pupils. The press release stated that a recent inspection report by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) confirmed that the school’s procedures were robust.
Allegations against RS-F20
43. In January 2009, while attending an external course, a Purcell sixth-form student aged under 18 alleged that she had been in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a member of staff, RS-F20. The allegation was reported by the course leader to the local authority who notified the police. The student, RS-A160, spoke to the police and indicated that there had been consensual sexual activity with RS-F20 when she was over 16. This would have constituted an ‘abuse of trust’ offence under section 16 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. RS-F20 was interviewed by police and denied any sexual activity but did accept that he had hugged RS-A160 and kissed her on the cheek.173 RS-A160 was not willing to support a prosecution and the investigation concluded that the allegation was “unfounded”.
44. The case was referred back to the Purcell School. The headteacher, Mr Crook, arranged for RS-F20 to undertake further safeguarding training with the DSL. No disciplinary action was taken against RS-F20, and his subsequent behaviour and contact with students was not monitored. No records of the allegation or of any steps taken were kept by the school.
45. Five years later, in 2014, another sixth-form student under the age of 18 made similar allegations against RS-F20. RS-A191 disclosed to a friend that she had a sexual “relationship” with RS-F20, and showed text messages of a sexual nature from RS-F20. The police and the local authority began a joint investigation, and notified the Purcell School. The then headteacher, Mr David Thomas, suspended RS-F20 and also notified the chair of governors, the DSL and the deputy headteacher. While the local authority investigation considered that the allegations were substantiated, the police concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute RS-F20, as RS-A191 was unwilling to provide evidence. A police application to obtain a Risk of Sexual Harm Order in order to restrict RS-F20’s contact with children was unsuccessful.
46. The case was referred back to the Purcell School for an internal investigation. RS-F20 resigned before a disciplinary meeting could take place. Mr Thomas took the view that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the disciplinary investigation. He made a referral to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), setting out the circumstances of RS-F20’s resignation from the school and also notified the Charity Commission of the incident. The DBS referred the case to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) but it had no jurisdiction because RS-F20’s role was not defined as unsupervised teaching work. The Purcell School retained records relating to the 2014 allegation against RS-F20, and liaised with police subsequently when concerns were raised about RS-F20 contacting female pupils at the school via social media.
Allegations against RS-F80
47. In May 2010, RS-A192, a Purcell sixth-form student aged under 18, disclosed to a member of school staff that for some months she had been in an inappropriate relationship with a young staff member, RS-F80. RS-A192 spoke to several other staff members and reported the abuse to Childline before the school notified the LADO of the allegation two days later. RS-A192 alleged that RS-F80 had digitally penetrated her six months earlier, on the school field in the dark, when they were disturbed by the headteacher, Mr Crook. Mr Crook later told the strategy meeting and the Inquiry that he had not witnessed any sexual activity between RS-F80 and RS-A192 but recalled that he had told them to go inside and requested the DSL to ensure that RS-F80 received some further safeguarding training. At the time, Mr Crook did not report the incident to the LADO or arrange for anyone to speak to RS-A192, and no record of the incident was made.
48. After the LADO was notified in May 2010, the police commenced a criminal investigation. RS-A192 and RS-F80 were both interviewed, as was the headteacher. Mr Crook told the police that he thought that RS-A192 was not telling the truth, and believed that “fantasy and exaggeration featured heavily in her account of events”. When RS-F80 was interviewed by police, he admitted that an inappropriate sexual relationship had existed and that RS-A192 had told the truth about the sexual activity on the field. On 23 September 2010, RS-F80 accepted a police caution for the offence of sexual touching while being in a position of trust and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register. The LADO reminded the headteacher to refer the case to the Independent Safeguarding Authority to consider whether to bar RS-F80 from working with children, which he did.
Safeguarding concerns relating to the conduct of the headteacher
49. Throughout 2009 and 2010, a number of concerns were raised by staff and some parents regarding the behaviour of Mr Crook, in relation to inappropriate conversations he was alleged to have had with children at the school.
50. The first concern to be raised related to a meeting with the headteacher, the housemaster and the Year 9 boarding boys at the headteacher’s private accommodation on the school campus, on a Sunday evening in May 2009. Mr Crook described it as a personal, social and health education (PSHE) lesson and a “sexual talk”. He told the Inquiry it was in response to an incident of sexualised bullying in the boarding house involving two or three boys from that year group, in which two boys were rumoured to have ejaculated onto the bed of a third boy. A covert recording of the headteacher was made by one of the boys, which did not surface until some months after the meeting was held.
51. During the meeting, Mr Crook spoke to the boys at length about puberty, masturbation, pornography and other sexual matters. He discussed his own sexual experiences and fantasies. He told the boys how to measure their penises and spoke to the boys about sexual experimentation with one another, telling them that he would ignore it if he caught two boys masturbating each other. Mr Crook used explicit and obscene language during the meeting.
52. A group of school staff wrote anonymously to the chair of governors, Mr Graham Smallbone, about the meeting at the headteacher’s house. Mr Smallbone responded by letter, stating that he could not respond to the concerns without knowing the identity of the staff members. When no action was taken, whistleblowers on the school staff subsequently anonymously notified the local authority of their concerns about the conduct of the headteacher. The local authority considered the complaint over a series of strategy meetings in which the chair of governors participated. The local authority decided the allegation was “unsubstantiated” on the basis that the incident did not amount to a safeguarding risk. The local authority sent social workers to the Purcell School to ascertain the welfare of the boy who was alleged to have been bullied.
53. A number of other complaints were notified to the LADO regarding Mr Crook’s alleged conduct and language with pupils. The local authority considered each allegation, and all but one were concluded as unfounded or unsubstantiated. In July 2009, the local authority found an allegation was “substantiated” that Mr Crook had used obscene and inappropriate sexually explicit language when questioning two students who were rumoured to be in a sexual relationship.
54. The substantiated case was referred back to the school for the board of governors to take disciplinary action against Mr Crook. In September 2009, Mr Smallbone requested that the LADO reconsider the conclusion that the allegation was “substantiated”. The LADO declined to do so. The governing body commissioned an “independent review” to ascertain why staff had reported their concerns directly to the LADO, which the chair of governors considered to be in contravention of school procedures. The reviewers interviewed 47 members of staff. Their conclusions included that Mr Crook had “used totally inappropriate language with pupils and has taken a dangerously personal interest in their sexual conduct” and recommended that he be given a formal final written warning and placed on probation. The governing body convened a disciplinary meeting in November 2009, when they decided not to discipline the headteacher with a formal warning or otherwise.
55. When a covert recording of Mr Crook’s remarks surfaced several months after the initial referral, the local authority reconvened a number of strategy meetings to consider the matter again, and concluded that the allegation was “unfounded” as there was no evidence of any intent to harm children. The strategy meeting concluded that the ‘PSHE lesson’ was not an appropriate response to the allegation of bullying and that Mr Crook had made inappropriate remarks to the boys. They advised that these concerns should be dealt with through the school’s own disciplinary procedures, which Mr Smallbone assured them had been done. In fact, Mr Crook was never the subject of any disciplinary sanction in relation to his inappropriate conversations with children at the school.
56. Mr Crook resigned from the school in November 2011, having signed a compromise agreement.
57. In 2018, the governors of the Purcell School commissioned an independent safeguarding review to consider the school’s responses to a number of previous child safeguarding concerns. The reviewer noted that “the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher in post at the time of the case studies were not available for interview and so the reviewer was only able to examine documentary evidence”. The reviewers concluded that Mr Crook had made a “serious error of judgement” in holding a PSHE session in the manner he did and that it raised questions about the safeguarding culture of the school. The independent review also concluded that the chair of governors had not acted impartially in dealing with the complaints against the headteacher and that the failure to discipline Mr Crook was a “misjudgement”. (pp. 33-37)
The following passages from the section on Boarding Schools are also very relevant. Following the revelations of the Brewer trial and other information coming into public view about sexual and other abuse at Chetham’s, I noted amongst the alumni community marked differences in responses between boarders and ‘day pupils’ (those who commuted in on a daily basis, and were not resident). Many of the latter were less inclined to believe in the scale of the issue and its impact upon former pupils, not having experienced that sense of vulnerability which comes from being away from home, not being cared for by those with a personal investment in one’s welfare comparable to that of a parent, and feeling so much at their mercy. The consequences of this for those who suffered abuse (as well as chronic bullying and other behaviours) could be catastrophic.
3. Boarding schools could be said to provide “the ideal environment for grooming”. Certain characteristics unique to the boarding environment heighten the risks of sexual abuse of pupils by staff.
3.1. Boarders are under the authority of adults in the school and are dependent upon them for their welfare. Staff may live on site and spend time alone with individual children, creating opportunities for grooming and abuse, as was the case with Julien Bertrand, who sexually abused a boarding pupil at Wells Cathedral School. For children living away from home, staff play a unique role in their lives and this may create a dynamic of power and control that can be abused by offenders. The innate power imbalance between children wanting to succeed and staff responsible for helping them can facilitate abuse. This is especially true of staff with pastoral roles, such as housemasters or housemistresses and matrons. In some boarding schools, a sense of staff having power and control over pupils may be exacerbated by a strong sense of hierarchy within the school.
3.2. There is often a higher incidence of individual tuition at boarding schools, in music or sports coaching or for additional academic tuition. This can lead to unique and close relationships developing between pupils and staff. At Chetham’s in the 1980s and 1990s, both Michael Brewer and Christopher Ling, amongst others, exploited their positions of power and their one-to-one tuition with pupils to sexually abuse children.
3.3. Some boarding schools, especially long-established institutions, have developed strong traditions and a particular ethos in which the institution’s own rules and ways of doing things are seen as paramount. This may lead to a sense of exceptionalism and the tolerance of perceived ‘idiosyncrasies’ from staff, which can mask abusive or grooming behaviours. This enabled Jonathan Thomson-Glover’s offending to go undetected at Clifton College: “With a father and a grandfather who were Old Cliftonians, he had a deep understanding of the school’s history, culture and values, which camouflaged his eccentric behaviour”.
3.4. Boarding schools often produce a strong sense of group allegiance and very close relationships may exist between members of staff, some of whom will live together on site. Pupils’ awareness of such allegiances between staff may make it more difficult to identify staff members in whom they may confide, impeding the reporting of concerns. As was reflected in the evidence from Clifton College, parents as well as school governors in the independent sector may have attended the school themselves and have a strong loyalty to the institution and a tendency to protect its reputation.
3.5. Boarding pupils can be emotionally isolated because they are separated from their parents. Sometimes parents may choose to send their children to boarding school to distance them from domestic difficulties. Some boarding schools are also geographically isolated and some have limited opportunities for contact with people outside of the school. This was the case with many of the schools referenced in Counsel’s closed residential schools account.
3.6. Around one-third of boarding pupils are international students who are living far away from their families, having to adapt to what may be a very different culture, and who may also encounter difficulties in communicating in English. Some international pupils may have limited opportunities to contact their families, either because of time-zone differences or because of the regime of the school.
3.7. The very nature of boarding schools can create a number of issues that can compromise effective safeguarding. The school may exist within a “bubble where there is little influence over the norms of the school from the outside environment”. Boarding schools may be less often visited by external agencies, which can find it difficult to understand their practices and ethos. (pp. 57-58).
Then there is a section looking at specific dangers in the context of specialist music education, drawing in part on my testimony. The creation of a special conference between music and dance schools to discuss safeguarding is to be welcomed, but there is still much more work to be done on the specific dangers of this type of education in all respects – also relating to the psychological welfare of those who will invest a large amount of their time and emotional energy during formative years to an elusive goal which few will attain (because of limited amount of work). These former pupils, sometimes having to deal with feelings of failure and worthlessness, are every bit as much a part of the schools’ legacy as those (including myself) who have gone onto successful musical careers.
C.3: Additional risks in specialist music schools
8. The Inquiry heard evidence about child sexual abuse and safeguarding concerns which arose at the four specialist music schools in England. These are boarding schools, although some pupils attend as day pupils. All the specialist music schools include overseas students amongst their boarding pupils, who may be far from home and family.
9. Music schools present particular challenges in terms of safeguarding. Instrumental tuition involves a high proportion of one-to-one teaching, usually with the same tutor, and often a degree of physical contact will be necessary. At specialist music schools, tuition may be provided by renowned and distinguished instrumentalists, who teach on a freelance basis without qualifications or training for teaching children. In the case of choir schools, choristers will come into regular contact with adults in the choir, or working at the cathedral, who are not employees of the school. Children who aspire to become successful musicians may look up to and even revere their teacher, who may seek to exploit their power and authority. There can be great pressure on children to succeed and make a career in the somewhat closed world of classical music. Concerns about being seen as ‘difficult’ may dissuade children from making complaints about their teachers, who can have significant influence over their future education and career. Evidence from former pupils indicated that the atmosphere within specialist music schools could be intensely competitive and emotionally charged, with insufficient regard for the emotional well-being of children.
10. The specialist music schools are independent boarding schools and are required to comply with the Independent School Standards and the NMS for boarding schools. Currently, there are no additional safeguarding requirements for specialist music education, notwithstanding the additional risks in these settings. A safeguarding conference took place between the specialist music and dance schools in 2018 and these schools now meet twice a year to discuss safeguarding. (pp. 59-60).
There is also an important passage on the role of educational guardians in residential schools, referencing a specific recent example involving Chetham’s:
14. International students whose parents are not in the UK need an educational guardian
if they attend a British boarding school in order to obtain the relevant visa. Educational
guardians act in place of the parents while the child is in the UK, supporting the child
throughout their studies and providing a home for them during holidays or weekends.
He or she may be an individual appointed by the parents, such as a family member or
a friend of the family, or the parents may use the services of an agency to provide an
15. Educational guardians are unregulated. There is no statutory licence, compulsory
registration or training required for individuals or companies wishing to provide educational
guardian services. If an educational guardian is appointed by a parent, the guardian is not required to comply with any standards or to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service
(DBS) certificate, and the school is not required to carry out any checks. This means
that individuals who are unsuitable to work with children, or even those who have criminal
convictions for child sexual abuse, can be appointed as educational guardians.
16. Currently, the NMS for boarding schools permit a member of school staff to be
appointed as the educational guardian of an international student, although some schools
do not permit this. As Ms Richards told us, school staff acting as educational guardians
blurs boundaries, with the potential to cause problems or to prevent problems surfacing.
At Chetham’s in the late 1990s, for example, violin tutor Wen Zhou Li was the educational
guardian of a 16-year-old girl whom he sexually abused while she was residing with him
during weekends and school holidays. In 2013, shortly after the arrest of Wen Zhou Li,
ISI inspectors found that there was another staff member at the school who was acting as an
educational guardian to a student.
I will follow this up with another blog post considering the remaining sections of the report which are relevant to specialist music schools, their conclusions, and offer some more extended reflections of my own.
The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013Posted: August 12, 2014 | Author: Ian Pace | Filed under: Abuse, Academia, Alan Doggett, Chetham's, Music - General, Musical Education, PIE, Public Schools, Specialist Music Schools, Yehudi Menuhin School | Tags: alan doggett, channel 4 news, chetham's, chris ling, ciaran jenkins, clare moreland, Clifford Hindley, colet court, Duncan McTier, Frances Andrade, helen pidd, ian lake, jenovera williams, john vallins, kay brewer, Malcolm Layfield, martin roscoe, michael brewer, national youth choir, nicholas smith, Norman Lebrecht, operation winthorpe, paul gallagher, Philip Evans, Philip Pickett, philippa ibbotson, purcell school, quentin poole, robert waddington, robin brandon-turner, Robin Zebaida, ryzard bakst, st mary's school, st paul's, wells cathedral school, Wen Zhou Li, yehudi menuhin school | 7 Comments
[The following is an extensively redacted version of a wider document on abuse in musical education written in May-June 2013, edited in June 2014, for the purposes of briefing several politicians on the subject. Other sections from this document were included in my previous post ‘Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry’, 31/12/13, updated 12/8/14, from which I reproduce the conclusions here]
The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer
None of the cases of abuse in musical education (see my earlier post on the subject), however, would command anything like the same degree of shock and public attention as the trial, conviction and sentencing of Michael and Kay Brewer in 2013, which has served as a major catalyst for a wider debate on the dangers of abuse in musical education. As mentioned earlier, Michael Brewer had been Director of Music at Chetham’s since 1975, appointed at the age of just 30 to the most senior musical position in the school, and had remained in that position until resigning in 1994 (though he was still working on some collaborative projects with two teams from Chetham’s in coaching and leading workshops for hearing and vision-impaired children on a project based around Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time in 2005 – see Susan Elkin, ‘Breaking sound barriers’, Daily Mail, 29/3/05). The complainant, Frances Andrade, nee Shorney, who studied at Chetham’s as a boarder from 1978 to 1982 (leaving at the age of 17), had been known for some time to others concerned about abuse in musical education for her own campaigning activities. After hearing about Roscoe’s stance against Layfield in 2002, Andrade contacted Roscoe, to tell him about her abuse at the hands of Brewer (As revealed by Roscoe interviewed by Channel 4 News, 26/3/13). She had been pursuing the cases not only of Brewer but also various other teachers at Chet’s, and had spoken both to police and the Headteacher at Chetham’s, Clare Moreland (previously Claire Hickman) about these (Information communicated to the author by e-mail from a close friend of Andrade, February 2013; also through communications with Martin Roscoe and others).
In 2009 (sometimes reported as the summer of 2011), Andrade had confided in a friend, singing teacher Jenevora Williams, who worked with choirs in St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, and was teacher-in-residence at the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (NYCGB), that she had been sexually abused by Michael Brewer and his then-wife Kay from the age of 14 when at Chetham’s (Nick Britten and Duncan Gardham ‘Frances Andrade ‘traumatised’ by reliving abuse of 30 years ago’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13; Russell Jenkins & Lucy Bannerman, ‘Choirmaster’s victim wanted to put past behind her’, The Times, 9/2/13; Nick Britten, ‘Suicide of choirmaster’s victim’, The Telegraph, 9/2/13; Tom Henderson and James Tozer, ‘Choirmaster who abused girls and the twisted wife who joined in’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13; James Tozer and Nazia Parveen, ‘Ordeal of Rape Trial’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13). Brewer was at this time still the principal conductor of NYCGB (of which singers ranged between the ages of 9 and 22), which he himself had co-founded and served as artistic director since 1983 (see ‘National Youth Choir’ and also this site); he was also internationally well-known for his choral work with young people and led the BBC programme Last Choir Standing in 2008 (see ‘Interview with Mike Brewer’, BBC, 17/7/08). Without Andrade’s permission, Williams (whose daughter Andrade was teaching violin) took this information to the police in 2011, on account of fear for the safety of children with whom Brewer was still working, saying later ‘I’d been wrestling with my conscience as to the most appropriate course of action…I knew raking it up would cause difficulties for people but I am a teacher and disclosure of sexual abuse is something we are trained to deal with’ (see Williams’ one interview after the verdict, in James Murray and Eugene Henderson, ‘I told police of abuser to save other children’, Sunday Express, 10/2/13.). Andrade would come to say in court that she was ‘being put under pressure to give evidence’ (ibid).
Michael Brewer was arrested around August 2011 (see Lucy Bannermann and Richard Morrison, ‘Paedophile choirmaster Michael Brewer worked with children after his arrest’, The Times, 15/2/13, in which it is asserted that there was an eight month gap between Brewer’s arrest and being charged), and following the police investigation, both he and Kay Brewer were charged with rape and multiple cases of indecent assault in April 2012 (Kim Pilling, ‘Choir Director charged with rape’, Press Association Mediapoint, 27/4/12. At the time of the arrest, one former Chetham’s student, Kathryn Turner, wrote as a comment on the blog of Norman Lebrecht that ‘Sexual abuse by staff was endemic at Chetham’s school which I attended between 1969-1980’. See Lebrecht, ‘Dreadful news: Chethams teacher and wife are charged with student rape’, Slipped Disc, 27/4/12). The NYCGB suspended Brewer from his position following his being charged and quickly issued a statement on behalf of their chairman of trustees, Professor Chris Higgins, that ‘These allegations relate to events over 30 years ago, before the choir was founded, and have nothing to do with the NYCGB nor Mike’s time as artistic director’ (‘Choir Director charged with student while at top music school’, The Telegraph, 28/4/12). Chetham’s themselves, understandably unable to comment on any specifics following the arrest, issued the following statement:
“Chetham’s School of Music takes all matters regarding the safeguarding of children extremely seriously and the welfare of our students is of paramount concern to all staff and governors.
“We are aware that Michael Brewer has been charged with offences that are alleged to have happened while he was employed by the school many years ago.
“We are co-operating with this investigation but while this matter is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further.” (cited in Russell Jenkins, ‘Music school couple in court on rape charge’, The Times, 8/6/12).
The trial of the Brewers took place beginning on January 15th, 2013, with Michael Brewer charged with one case of rape and 13 counts of indecent assault, and Kay Brewer charged with one count of indecent assault and aiding and abetting rape. Brewer was alleged to have regularly sexually abused Andrade in his office, touching her private parts, in his camper van, kept on school grounds, whilst he would also ask her to perform oral sex upon him outside of school, sometimes by a canal. She herself was said to have felt at the time, as a vulnerable teenager, that the abuse was a ‘small price to pay for the affection’; he had used ‘his power, influence and personality to seduce her’, using ‘flattery and affection’; Peter Cadwallader, prosecuting, had described Brewer’s personality as ‘dynamic and very charismatic’. After Kay Brewer had learned about Michael’s sexual interactions with Andrade, she was said to have confronted her when she visited their house (which appeared to be a regular occurrence, including after Andrade had left the school, at which time this particular event was said to have occurred), and said that she herself (Kay) had always wanted a sexual relationship with a woman, and so that Andrade ‘owed her’. Despite Andrade’s protestations that she was not interested, Kay made her go upstairs and performed sexual activity upon her, with Michael present and Andrade tied to a bed loosely with a belt (though apparently able to escape if required); after this Andrade was required to show Kay what she had done with Michael earlier, and he had non-consensual sexual intercourse with her. From the beginning of the trial, it was made clear that Andrade had had a troubled childhood, and was rebellious and drawn to drink from a young age, though was academically and musically talented (Kim Pilling, ‘Music School Boss denies Rape’, Press Association Mediapoint, 15/1/13; Russell Jenkins, ‘Choir director and wife ‘sexually assaulted pupil’’, The Times, 15/1/13).
Furthermore, Brewer was said to have pinned another 17-year old girl to a wall during a school trip, telling her ‘you want it really, don’t you?’, though no sexual activity resulted after the girl ran off, and had had a sexual affair with a further girl, then aged 16 in the early 1990s (involving highly explicit comments about her legs and breasts, leading to her being asked to strip topless, and Brewer exposing himself when she was in his office), leading to his being asked to resign from the school after being discovered by the then-headmaster (Peter Hullah) (Pilling, ‘Music School Boss denies Rape’).
Andrade herself first appeared in court on the second and third days (January 16th and 17th – see Chal Milmo, ‘Violinist found dead after testifying against her abuser’, The Independent, 8/2/13) and told the court that she now realised that she was in the hands of paedophiles, detailing how her relationship with Brewer had proceeded from kisses through intimate touching to full sex (intensifying when she was 15), with Brewer using various techniques of flattery and seduction, saying:
I felt nurtured in many ways, I felt cared for. I felt special, I was very flattered. I did not feel at the time I was a victim. It was a relationship that developed in a completely normal way. We would kiss, he would touch me.
Andrade also revealed how she had earlier been abused by an uncle as a child, and had not known any type of other relationship before Brewer. She described how he liked her to perform oral sex upon him whilst he drove, and how Kay Brewer apparently knew everything and also said how she ‘loved’ her. After leaving the school to study abroad, she continued to receive letters from Brewer, but lost interest after finding a new boyfriend. Andrade said that she had relegated the abuse to ‘a place where I could emotionally handle things’, traumatised by those others who would be affected by it, and had initially not wanted to go to the police herself, but had changed her perspective after being asked by detectives if the allegations were true. She was apparently suspended from the school for bad behaviour, and at this point had gone to live with the Brewer family (see below for further information on this which came to the author’s attention subsequent to the trial), and would travel with them on holiday and stay with them rather than other pupils on school trips. She also described Kay Brewer asking her to touch her breasts after undergoing reduction surgery. She had also confronted Brewer in 2002 about what he had done at the time of the Layfield affair, and given him an ultimatum to confess to the police (which he did not do) (Kim Pilling, ‘Woman tells of Music Boss Sex Abuse’, Press Association Mediapoint, 16/1/13; Russell Jenkins, ‘Choir leader sexually abused musician, court hears’, The Times, 16/1/13). She affirmed that it had been a friend who had told police, and that she had initially been unhappy (Jenkins, ‘Choir leader sexually abused musician’; a further report, James Tozer and Mario Ledwith, ‘Choirmaster began relationship with rape victim when she was just 14’, Daily Mail, 16/1/13, suggests that she told a ‘doctor’ about this, and that person told police, but this is probably just a confusion arising from the fact that Williams possessed a doctorate), whilst also mentioning that she had thought Brewer to be the ‘bee’s knees’ and a special teacher ‘who needed to be worshipped’ by pupils (James Tozer, ‘Choirmaster tied girl aged 16 to his bed and raped her while his wife watched’, Daily Mail, 16/1/13). Also especially notable in terms of Andrade’s perception of Brewer’s legitimising of abuse from other teachers was the following comment, made in the context of discussing Layfield:
This was where my anger came out. Several friends of mine had been raped. I rang Mike and blamed him for it, because he was having a relationship with me and hid what was going on at the school because of it. (cited in ‘I was subjected to brutal sex attack by former Chets boss and his wife’, Manchester Evening News, 17/1/13).
The following day, however, Andrade underwent intensive cross-examination at the hands of defence counsel for Michael Brewer, Kate Blackwell QC, who told the complainant that she was ‘indulging in the realms of fantasy’ and that she had ‘told this jury a complete pack of lies about the visit to this house’ (referring to the night when the rape was alleged to have taken place), asking how she could have ‘spent the night lying next to two of your rapists?’ Andrade replied in strong terms, claiming that she had felt guilty, had not known how to get out of the situation, and attacking Blackwell for having ‘no feminine understanding of what someone goes through like that. What shock your body goes through. How you almost feel you deserve it’. Bernadette Baxter, who represented Kay Brewer, also suggested that the allegations were ‘a complete fantasy’ which were ‘designed to get attention’, to which Andrade replied ‘If I wanted attention I would have done this an awfully long time ago’. One interesting detail from this day’s proceedings, however, was Brewer’s admission that ‘I’m always in a room with an adult now because I recognise I have a problem with being attracted to younger girls’ (Kim Pilling, ‘Woman ‘lied over choir boss rape”, Press Association Mediapoint, 17/1/13).
After Andrade’s defence of her own allegations, things went worse for Brewer the following day, January 18th, with the appearance in court of the woman who as a girl at Chetham’s (becoming head girl) had had a sexual relationship with him in 1994. Evoked by the prosecution in order to prove a pattern of unhealthy interest on Brewer’s part in teenage girls, the woman claimed that whilst she did not see the affair at the time as abuse (and recalled Brewer saying to her ‘I would not want you to think I am abusing my position’, which she then agreed he was not), but saw things somewhat differently now. She portrayed a rather sordid world of encounters in Brewer’s office and practice rooms, then how she attempted to end it before going to university, with Brewer resisting this, then described him exposing himself to her, being bought presents including matching watches (and also being given Winnie the Pooh books by Kay), and how he had admitted to her being involved with one other pupil (having frequently made comments about various pupils), who he called a ‘bad girl who seduced me into bed’. Then they were found together in Brewer’s office by Hullah (after a housemistress had been alerted, who herself started to listen at doors), leading to Brewer’s resignation, after which point he tried further to contact her, which she also resisted. In conversations with the authorities, the then-girl and Brewer agreed to maintain that their relationship consisted entirely of hugging and kissing, and it became agreed by Hullah (who appeared in court the same day) after he had discovered the two that a different reason would be given for Brewer’s resignation. Hullah himself described Brewer as ‘zany and unpredictable’ but with a ‘reputation as a highly professional voice trainer’, who apparently helped pupils with personal problems and strove to help them achieve high things (Kim Pilling, ‘Music Teacher ‘fondled student’, Press Association Mediapoint, 18/1/13. I personally recall it being suggested by some individuals (including a then-teacher at the school) at the time of Brewer’s resignation that this was due to some type of scam he had going with a manufacturer of strings or bows).
Following another day of proceedings, January 23rd, in which Michael Brewer mostly spoke to his defence counsel about his feelings of desolation at the break-up of his relationship with the girl in 1994 (using the phrase that he ‘effectively committed suicide’ after the girl’s mother recorded and passed to Hullah a phone conversation, in which Brewer promised to protect the girl for her remaining time at school), resignation (but then being awarded the OBE very soon afterwards) and also gave his own description of Andrade:
I saw her as a very talented, vivacious musician but I was already aware of her problems and her lack of discipline. She found practice very difficult.
Her creativity was exceptional and her application was really poor.
She was vivacious, dynamic, commanding on stage (but) underneath was insecure, depressive, hysterical and a fantasist.
Brewer went on to deny the charges of sexual abuse (or any sexual encounters) with Andrade, and alluded to the phone call he had received in 2001 [sic] from her accusing him of abusing her and calling for him to give himself up to the police, saying that he had contacted a solicitor and been advised not to respond until he received something in writing. Otherwise he mostly went on to describe his earlier life and career (Kim Pilling, ‘I was in love with teen – choir man’, Press Association Mediapoint, 23/1/13. By this time the number of press articles reporting the trial was increasing, but most of them essentially reiterated some of the material provided by the Press Association).
Perhaps most significant in this day’s proceedings was the fact that Judge Martin Rudland ordered that five of the charges of indecent assault upon a child must be recorded as not guilty due to insufficient evidence about the age of Andrade at the time of the allegations (ibid). This left eight further counts of indecent assault and a rape charge, but it is believed by some that the information about the dropped charges was received by Andrade (now back at her home in Guildford, following the trial through the media) that evening, leading her erroneously to believe that all charges had been dropped. At some point that evening or night, Andrade took her own life via an overdose , without leaving a suicide note; an iPad was found on her bed next to her by her husband Levine, with a story saying how these five charges had been dropped (Her body was found on January 24th. See Milmo, ‘Violinist found dead after testifying against her abuser’).
The extent to which Andrade’s death was provoked by this misunderstanding , or by trauma induced by being branded a fantasist and described in such unflattering terms by Brewer that day, or for that matter in response to Brewer’s own metaphorical evocation of the notion of suicide (bearing in mind that Andrade had had a previous history of suicide attempts) remains unclear, even after the recent inquest in which the coroner felt unable to deliver a verdict of suicide, on the grounds that he was unsure Andrade intended to kill herself (see Gemma Mullin, ‘Coroner slams mental health services for failing concert violinist who dies days after giving evidence against predatory paedophile former choirmaster’, Daily Mail, 25/7/14; Andy Crick, ‘Suicide is ruled out on victim of pervert’, The Sun, 26/7/14; ‘Violinist Frances Andrade ‘failed’ by mental health services’, BBC News England, 25/7/14; ‘Violinist Frances Andrade ‘did not kill herself”, BBC News UK, 25/7/14). However, news of the death quickly spread around the music world – together with the clear knowledge that this must not be mentioned publicly until after a verdict (and would be kept secret from the jury) – causing widespread shock and horror.
As the judge struggled with dealing with the fact of the chief complainant having taken her own life during the course of the trial, no further proceedings ensued until January 29th. Also at this stage, some further private discussions developed between myself, Roscoe, another woman who was a contemporary of mine at Chetham’s, D, and Philippa Ibbotson, a freelance musician and also occasional columnist on musical matters (but who had also written an article on sexual abuse – Philippa Ibbotson, ‘The hidden offenders’, The Guardian, 3/9/08) for the Guardian. I had already resolved at this stage to organise a petition calling for a public inquiry into abuse at Chetham’s and possibly elsewhere, having been aware of the allegations about Ling for over 20 years, and knowing some things also about Layfield, as well as recalling from my time at the school various male teachers having had sexual relationships with sixth-form girls (and in one case a woman having had a relationship with a boy); some of this was at the time gossip and hearsay, but often relatively clear to many who saw some of the ‘couples’ together, their body language and so on.
The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had been a pupil at Cranleigh School whilst John Vallins, headmaster of Chetham’s from 1974 to 1992, had been a housemaster and English teacher there; Rusbridger had invited Vallins to write a regular Country Diary for the newspaper following the headmaster’s retirement (John Vallins, ‘The Countryman and the Editor’, Cranleigh Contact No. 33 (April 2007), p. 5), which still continues to the present day. Nonetheless, Rusbridger was prepared to back comprehensive coverage not only of the continuing Brewer trial, but also wider stories about Chetham’s to be published after the trial’s conclusion. During the following two weeks, Ibbotson worked together with the young Northern editor of the paper, Helen Pidd, in consultation with Roscoe, myself and D (all of whom had connections to networks of former alumni from the school), determined to use this opportunity to reveal more of the wider abuse which had gone on at Chetham’s, concentrating above all on the cases of Layfield, Ling and Bakst (about whom evidence was coming to light of widespread groping and molestation of the majority of his female students over a period of almost three decades), seeking first-hand accounts such as would be demanded by The Guardian’s lawyers before allowing named accusations to be printed.
The trial finally resumed on January 29th with now relatively banal denials and cross-examinations of Michael Brewer by the prosecuting counsel concerning both the affair with Andrade and the former head girl in 1994, in which Brewer denied the former and minimised the extent of the latter (though admitting ‘chats’ with her when she was stripped to the waist) he did however admit that Andrade had stayed with his family at their house in Chorlton, south Manchester, allegedly because she had become too disruptive to remain in boarding (Pat Hurst, ‘No interest in schoolgirls: accused’, Press Association Mediapoint, 29/1/13; Helen Pidd, ‘Choir master accused of raping girl admits affair with another pupil’, The Guardian, 29/1/13; Russell Jenkins, ‘Music director enjoyed ‘wonderful’ chats with student stripped to the waist’, The Times, 29/1/13). Kay Brewer appeared in court the following day and tearfully denied any sexual contact with Andrade when questioned about the alleged rape, but admitting giving the girl in 1994 the Winnie the Pooh book, inscribed with a comment ‘Don’t worry about things, he is just a normal human being with all the same insecurities and doubts as you, love Kay’. By this time Michael and Kay Brewer had become estranged), and Kay described how she hoped this would provide another lasting relationship for him, whilst denying that he slept around and drawing attention to her own churchgoing activities (Kim Pilling, ‘Ex-wife denies ‘abetting’ rape’, Press Association Mediapoint, 30/1/13; Chris Riches, ‘Tearful wife denies helping choirmaster to rape girl, 18’, The Express, 31/1/13).
Earlier that week, the former Deputy Headmaster of Chetham’s, Brian Raby (who had retired in 1985), had been scheduled to appear as a character witness for Michael Brewer, but was dropped in favour of John Vallins, who was asked if aware of Brewer’s indiscretions with Andrade being ‘the talk of the school’, and of the deputy head calling in various students to make inquiries, both of which Vallins denied, saying of the later ‘I feel confident he would have passed on to me anything like that if he thought it merited serious concern’ (Pilling, ‘Ex-wife denies ‘abetting rape”).
Other figures provided character references for both of the Brewers. Lady Eatwell OBE, previously Suzi Digby nee Watts, founder of The Voices Foundation and conductor of multiple choirs, as well as a former judge on the BBC show Last Choir Standing which featured Brewer so prominently, spoke of him as ‘the world’s biggest influence in choral music for the young’, who had made the UK choral movement ‘one of the jewels in our crown’. Eatwell said that ‘Mike’ was ‘deeply concerned with the development of young people’, that ‘His personal integrity is 100 percent intact’ and ‘I’ve never heard a hint of impropriety’ (Riches, ‘Tearful wife denies helping choirmaster to rape girl, 18’). Conductor, flautist and music teacher Anastasia Micklethwaite described Brewer as a ‘wonderful man’ who had been an ‘inspiration to thousands of musicians across the world’, whilst harpsichordist Robyn Koh, a contemporary of Andrade’s at Chetham’s who had become her birthing partner and godparent to her sons, claimed Andrade had been known for being ‘prone to exaggeration’, and had never told her of being abused by the Brewers (Helen Pidd, ‘Ex-wife knew choirmaster accused of rape had affair with another student’, The Guardian, 30/1/13). Two different priests, Rev Richard Gilpin of St Clement Church in Cholrton, and Rev Stephen Brown of St Peter’s in Haslingden, spoke up for Kay Brewer, calling her ‘a very caring and responsible person’ and ‘sensitive, reliable and trustworthy’ (Riches, ‘Tearful wife denies helping choirmaster to rape girl, 18’; ‘Vicars in praise of shamed pair’, The Express, 9/2/13). Brewer’s second (and current) wife Sandra called Andrade ‘manic, hysterical and very loud’ when she had called and demanded to speak to her in 2001, but said that Brewer had revealed his relationship leading him to leave the school, and called him ‘a gentleman’ (‘Choirmaster admits being in love with sixth former’, Manchester Evening News, 30/1/13). Jenevora Williams, however, appeared to attest to her reasons for going forward to the police with the information provided her by Andrade (claiming that Andrade had agreed that she could pass on her name), and the moral dilemma she had faced, though also pointing out that she knew of no present incidents involving Brewer (Kim Pilling, ‘Teacher ‘wrestled with conscience”, Press Association Mediapoint, 8/2/13. This release is somewhat misleading as it gives the impression that Andrade had appeared again in court, when she was already dead by this point).
After a further delay occasioned by a juror having to be absent for several days, the jury retired following summings-up. Following two days of deliberations, they returned with a verdict on February 8th, finding Brewer guilty of five of the charges of sexual assault, and Kay Brewer guilty of one, though clearing both of the charge of rape (Nick Britten, ‘Woman sexually assaulted by choirmaster killed herself after giving evidence against him’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13).
The Aftermath of the Brewer Trial – Further Information on Chetham’s and Elsewhere
Press coverage following the verdict was overwhelmingly focused upon the dreadful news of Andrade’s death (See Nick Britten, ‘Woman sexually assaulted by choirmaster killed herself after giving evidence against him’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13; Nick Britten and Duncan Gardham, ‘Frances Andrade ‘traumatised’ by reliving abuse of 30 years ago’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13; Russell Jenkins and Lucy Bannermann, ‘Sex abuse victim killed herself after trial ordeal’, The Times, 9/2/13; Nick Britten and Duncan Gardham, ‘Destroyed by reliving abuse she hid for 30 years’, The Telegraph, 9/2/13.), which could now be published (and Andrade could be named as she was dead). Her son Oliver (one of four children) revealed his mother’s earlier suicide attempts, and claimed that her death had come about as a result of her having been called a ‘liar’ and ‘fantasist’ at the court. He also revealed that she had been advised by police not to receive any type of therapy until after the end of the case, which had dragged on for almost two years and become a big strain, and went onto criticise various aspects of the court system in such cases (Lauren Turner and Kim Pilling, ‘Teacher ‘let down’ by court system’, Press Association Mediapoint, 8/2/13; Kim Pilling and Emma Clark, ‘CPS defends itself over abuse case’, Press Association Mediapoint, 9/2/13), criticisms which were taken up by numerous other commentators, some focusing upon the harsh cross-examination she had undergone at the hands of Kate Blackwell, and various drawing upon comments from police chiefs, lawyers, politicians and rape counsellors (see Cahal Milmo, ‘Violinist found dead after testifying against her abuser’, The Independent, 8/2/13; James Tozer and Nadia Parveen, ”This feels like rape all over again’: Violinist driven to suicide by ordeal of trial after being branded a ‘liar and fantasist’ by woman QC’, Daily Mail, 8/2/13; Joan Smith, ‘For the victim trials can be a second ordeal’, The Independent, 8/2/13; Helen Pidd, Philippa Ibbotson and David Barry, ‘Sexual abuse victim’s suicide sparks call for review of court procedures’, The Guardian, 9/2/13; Nick Britten, ‘Suicide of choirmaster’s victim: Victim’s court ordeal raises questions over pressure on witnesses’, The Telegraph, 9/2/13; James Tozer and Nazia Parveen, ‘Driven to Suicide’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13; Chris Riches, ‘Suicide of choir director’s sex victim’, The Express, 9/2/13; Dan Thompson, ‘My tragic mum was driven to suicide by being branded liar in Chetham’s rape trial. Trial showed a dark past at Chet’s’, Manchester Evening News, 9/2/13; Elizabeth Sanderson and Tom Hendry, ‘My wife killed herself because she was on trial, not the choirmaster’: Husband’s anguished account of how abused wife spiralled to suicide after court ordeal’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13; Jerry Lawton, ‘Sex victim suicide after trial ordeal: Tragic violinist accused of lying takes own life’, Daily Star, 9/2/13; Stephen White, ”Cross-examination made me feel I’d been raped all over again’: Violinist who killed herself after giving evidence against her choirmaster abuser’, Daily Mirror, 9/2/13; Nafeesa Shan, ‘Choir perv’s victim kills herself after court ordeal: Fury over sex case trauma’, The Sun, 9/2/13l see also the Attorney General’s written answers to questions from Emily Thornberry MP on 27/2/13 and 1/3/13); the Labour MP for Stockport, Ann Coffey, backed by Childline founder Esther Rantzen, would later initiate a parliamentary debate on whether specialist courts were needed for sex abuse victims (Jennifer Williams, ‘Coffey’s Commons fight for sex abuse victims’, Manchester Evening News, 18/3/13; the House of Commons debate on 18/3/13; and ‘MP’s fight to protect abuse victims’, Manchester Evening News, 20/3/13). A string of articles portrayed a rather idealised view of Andrade, though some did mention her being given up for adoption as a baby, the death of her adoptive father soon before she auditioned for Chetham’s, her previous history of suicide attempts (dating right back to her time after first arriving at Manchester) and self-harm, and the fact that her abuse at the hands of her uncle had continued right up until her wedding (to Indian violinist Levine Andrade) in 1988 (see various previously mentioned articles, and Helen Pidd, ‘Michael Brewer’s victim told how much-loved teacher became abuser’ and ‘Frances Andrade: ‘a force of creativity”, The Guardian, 8/2/13′ ; Russell Jenkins and Lucy Bannerman, ‘Choirmaster’s victim wanted to put past behind her’, The Times, 9/2/13; Britten and Gardham, ‘Frances Andrade ‘traumatised”; Britten and Gardham, ‘Destroyed by reliving abuse she hid for 30 years’; Peter Walker, ‘Frances Andrade killed herself after being accused of lying, says husband’, The Guardian, 10/2/13; David Barrett, ‘Police argue over who told abuse victim: don’t get help’, The Telegraph, 10/2/13; Martin Evans, ‘Abuse victim Frances Andrade was told not to seek therapy, family claim’, The Telegraph, 10/2/13; Rachel Dale, ‘Sex victim death not our fault, says CPS’, The Sun, 10/2/13; David Leppard, ‘Violinist’s suicide: judge attacked’, The Sunday Times, 10/2/13; Jane Merrick and Brian Brady, ‘Chris Grayling’s rape comments raise fury after abuse victim’s suicide’, The Independent, 10/2/13; Peter Dominiczak, ‘Death of Frances Andrade will put other victims off coming forward, says Home Secretary’, The Telegraph, 11/2/13; Tom Rawsteon, ‘Rape trial ordeal drove my wonderful mother to six suicide attempts’, Daily Mail, 11/2/13; Chris Riches, ”Sacrifice’ of suicide wife in sex case trial’, The Express, 11/2/13; Martin Evans, ‘Police review after sex abuse victim’s suicide’, The Telegraph, 11/2/13; Nick Britten and Peter Dominiczak, ‘Violinist’s suicide could stop abuse victims coming forward, warns May’, The Telegraph, 12/2/13; Jonathan Brown, ‘Defence lawyers exploit the weakness of sex abuse victims, says police chief Sir Peter Fahy’, The Independent, 12/2/13. In a few other places some wider information was given about Brewer, mentioning how he had been nicknamed ‘Brewer the Screwer’, had likely groomed Andrade from the time she first entered the school, and was known by others to have asked girls in class to massage his shoulders and the like (Tom Henderson and James Tozer, ‘Choirmaster who abused girls and the twisted wife who joined in’, Daily Mail, 9/2/13).
The headteacher of Chetham’s, Claire Moreland, made a statement outside court to saying:
What we have learned during the course of the last four weeks has shocked us to the core. The passage of time between the offences and now does not lessen this shock.
“Mr Brewer has been found to have committed the most appalling acts which took place during his time at the school and he breached the trust placed in him by the school, its staff and, most importantly, the students.
“On behalf of the current school staff, I wish to express my profound and sincere apology and regret. And most of all I wish to express the sorrow and sympathy we feel for the family of our former student who died under such tragic circumstances and had to endure so much. (Cited in Pidd, ‘Michael Brewer’s victim told how much-loved teacher became abuser’. See also ‘Hurt caused by choirmaster Michael Brewer ‘must never be forgotten’, The Telegraph, 8/2/13)
Further ire was directed at the school’s having allowed Brewer to resign from his post on health grounds and thus remain working with children (Russell Jenkins, ‘Abuser quit on ‘health grounds”, The Times, 9/2/13). The NYCGB (who in an early statement went so far as to say ‘we hope that Mike Brewer’s legacies for young singers – including vocal excellence, outstanding performance opportunities, and exploring a vast repertoire – will remain core to NYCGB’s work’ (see Pilling and Clark, ‘CPS defends itself over abuse case’)) would in due course issue a statement denying all knowledge of any problems with Brewer prior to his being charged (without clarifying whether they knew of the circumstances of Brewer’s resignation from Chetham’s), and assuring readers of their operation of strict child protection policies (National Youth Choir of Great Britain, ‘News: Thu, Feb 14th 2013: Important Statement’; see also Norman Lebrecht, ‘National Youth Choirs of GB on its convicted ex-director’, Slipped Disc,. Further criticisms were aimed at NYCGB and their chairman, Professor Christopher Higgins, for allowing Brewer to continue to work with the choir during the eight-month period between his arrest and being charged, even following a concern being raised by a child protection official from Durham County Council back in October 2011; trustee Judy Grahame, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Arts, said that ‘The chairman seemed to be more concerned about protecting Mike Brewer than looking after the interests of the children, and I thought that was wrong’ (Lucy Bannerman and Richard Morrison, ‘Paedophile choirmaster Michael Brewer worked with children after his arrest’, The Times, 15/2/13; Nick McCarthy, ‘Abuser left in choir job after arrest’, Birmingham Mail, 15/2/13; Mark Tallentire, ‘Accused abuser kept in choir role’, The Northern Echo, 16/2/13).
The fruits of Pidd and Ibbotson’s investigations for The Guardian were printed over the course of the following week, creating a storm of negative publicity for Chetham’s and also the Royal Northern College of Music. First up was a story published on the day of the verdict concerning Layfield (Helen Pidd and Philippa Ibbotson, ‘Claims of sexual misconduct against second former Chetham teacher’, The Guardian, 8/2/13; see also Nick Britten and Peter Dominiczak, ‘Violinist’s suicide could stop abuse victims coming forward, warns May’, The Telegraph, 12/2/13), and a redacted version of the correspondence between Martin Roscoe and Edward Gregson concerning Layfield’s appointment (and Roscoe’s subsequent resignation) from 2002 (‘Correspondence over appointment of Malcolm Layfield at Royal Northern College of Music’, The Guardian, 8/2/13). Roscoe was widely perceived in the music world as having been vindicated and courageous for taking his stand (at considerable personal and emotional cost to himself, as he would reveal in interview) (see Charlotte Higgins, ‘After Michael Brewer: the RNCM teacher’s story’, The Guardian, 13/2/13), whilst four days later, Layfield would quit the RNCM board (Helen Pidd, ‘Ex-Chetham’s teacher quits RNCM board amid claims of sexual misconduct’, The Guardian, 12/2/13), and a week later than that would resign as Head of Strings at the college (Helen Pidd, ‘Teacher quits music college amid sex allegations’, The Guardian, 19/2/13). [This paragraph has been especially heavily redacted because at the time of writing, Layfield has been charged with one count of rape and is awaiting trial]
Next up was a series of horrifying accounts, featuring on the front page and in a large spread of the paper, bringing home to many the nature of the abuse of female students by Chris Ling, for which ten of his former students agreed to speak to the paper about their experiences, some when as young as 14. They spoke of his grooming and manipulation techniques, repeated groping, sexual touching under the pretext of a massage, requests for oral sex, use of systems of rewards and punishments (involving indecent spanking), requests for pupils to play naked in lessons and various else. One student spoke of how she took her complaints to headmaster John Vallins but nothing came of them (Helen Pidd and Philippa Ibbotson, ‘Pupils accuse third teacher of abuse at top music school’; ‘A musical hothouse where ‘Ling’s strings’ say they fell prey to abuse’; ‘Chetham’s school of music: former pupils speak out’, The Guardian, 10/2/13). Other victims contacted Pidd soon afterwards and there were further accounts of his abuse, his evocation of the figures of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady during lessons, or asking students to imagine being injected with a syringe of the HIV virus if they made a mistake, whilst one who used to clean Ling’s house at Reading at age 15 also detailed sexual assault involving nudity, blindfolding and spanking (Helen Pidd and Philippa Ibbotson, ‘Chetham’s school of music: further abuse allegations emerge’, The Guardian, 12/2/13; Helen Pidd ‘New claims emerge of sexual abuse at Chetham’s music school’, The Guardian, 13/2/13).
Pidd and Ibbotson also published accounts of five students of Ryszard Bakst from both Chetham’s and the RNCM, detailing how he would sexually assault them (sometimes as young as 13) on the sofa of his house, force their hands down his crotch until he became aroused, grope their breasts and place his hand up their skirts, sometimes disappearing in the middle of a lesson to masturbate. Bakst’s status at the school was made clear; it was said that ‘his general demeanour was quite intimidating’ and he exerted a ‘Svengali-like influence on many of his pupils’, how much of a privilege it was said to be to study with him, and how one pupil who confided in another teacher was told that this complaint should not be taken further as it would ruin some of his male students’ careers (Pidd and Ibbotson, ‘Chetham’s school of music: further abuse allegations emerge’).
Then, just six days after the verdict, many were further shocked by the news of the arrest of prominent flagship violin teacher Wen Zhou Li (who had earlier taught for a long period at the Menuhin School) on charges of rape (Helen Pidd, ‘Chetham’s music school violin teacher arrested on suspicion of rape’, The Guardian, 14/2/13). At the time of writing, Li has not yet been charged . Other journalists started to look more deeply into the culture of cover-up which had allowed Brewer’s abuse of Andrade to continue, asking various ex-students (including myself) about their knowledge of events at the time, and considering more deeply whether such abuse was an especial danger in the environment provided by a music school (see Amy Glendinning, ‘Chetham’s child sex abuse investigation widens’, Manchester Evening News, 14/2/13; Neil Tweedie, Nick Britten and Joe Shute, ‘Frances Andrade: A culture of abuse, denial and cover-up’, The Telegraph, 15/2/13; Richard Morrison, ‘The very act of teaching music made Chetham’s school ripe for fear and exploitation, say two famous alumni’, The Times, 20/2/13).
Immediately after the verdict, former Chetham’s pupils, many of who had been following the trial avidly, organised into new communities on social media to discuss their often conflicted responses to the conviction of Brewer, who had played such a prominent part in most of their schooling (as director of music, aural teacher, conductor of both orchestras and choirs at the school, and writer of reports on every single student’s progress). Divides quickly emerged: some were in denial about the verdict, others became angry about the aftermath with the new revelations about the school, many wanted to separate Brewer from anything else to do with the school, especially as it existed at present, whilst another equally large community was angered by the whole phenomenon, and began avidly discussing many other incidences of molestation, groping or other abuse, as well as a good deal of wider neglect and psychological abuse; these would remain topics of conversation for a good while. Some expressed the view that now was the time for former pupils to get behind the school at its time of need (a refrain which would be echoed soon afterwards by the management and their representatives), and for a while in amongst a 1970s and 1980s alumni community there grew bitterness towards mounting press coverage and intense hostility towards some of those (including myself) who clearly had some involvement with this. It became clear that many former pupils’ own sense of identity and reputations were quite intimately tied up with the reputation of the school, and any suggestion that the institution itself shared some responsibility were strongly rejected by that reason. Other hostility was directed towards Williams, blamed for forcing the court case in the first place (There are some hints of this perspective in Russell Jenkins and Lucy Bannerman, ‘Choirmaster’s victim wanted to put past behind her’, The Times, 9/2/13. However, Jenkins and Bannerman do quote Oliver Andrade, saying of Fran that ‘Sticking to her morals she knew she must do what was right, to tell the facts as they were and leave it to the law to decide, even as she was only just beginning to see that Brewer’s actions were indeed abuse’).
The pianist Peter Donohoe, a student at Chetham’s and the RNCM in the late 1960s and early 1970s, wrote a long blog post soon after the trial expressing his doubts about the institutions, and admiration for Roscoe in having stood up against Layfield, as well as expressing support for the ongoing petition (see below) (Peter Donohoe, ‘Sexual Abuse at Chethams and RNCM’, published early 2013). Questions were asked about Hullah (despite his having been responsible for the dismissals of Brewer, Layfield and Bakst), who went on to become a bishop (Norman Lebrecht, ‘Chetham’s head during sex abuse years became a bishop… and still heads a school’, Slipped Disc, 11/2/13).
Great Manchester Police made clear that they were now investigating the new allegations, and at first mentioned nine ‘key’ suspects (Helen Pidd, ‘Music schools sex abuse inquiry focuses on nine key suspects’, The Guardian, 18/2/13). This investigation (still ongoing) would come to be known as Operation Kiso. Meanwhile, in the light of continued negative press coverage, Claire Moreland wrote to all Chetham’s parents on February 18th to say the following:
As Half Term approaches, I am sure that you will be talking with your sons and daughters about the difficult events of the last few weeks and the ensuing media attention. With that in mind I would like to let you know that we have invited Manchester City Council Children’s Services into the School after Half Term to carry out a collaborative review with us of our Safeguarding Policy and Procedures. We welcome this visit which will take place during the week beginning 4 March. It is an opportunity for the School to demonstrate that we have robust Policies and Procedures in place which are applied routinely and rigorously.
We are confident that students are well protected. This has been borne out by inspections carried out by various government bodies in recent years. As you are aware, our procedures are also annually reviewed and approved by the Governing Body and have been regularly and independently reviewed by Ofsted and the Independent Schools Inspectorate.
Once the Police investigation into historical allegations has concluded we will of course be instigating an independent review of past events. I thank you for your continuing warm support and your understanding at this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to give me or any member of the pastoral team a call with any concerns, and in the meantime I wish you all a peaceful and happy Half Term break with your families. (Claire Moreland to Chetham’s Parents and Carers, 18/2/13, forwarded to the author)
The freelance critic Norman Lebrecht, who had earlier printed Nigel Kennedy’s revelations about the Menuhin School in 2003 and also coverage of the resignation of Peter Crook at the Purcell School in 2011, gave intense coverage to the Brewer trial and the fall-out from the verdict on his blog Slipped Disc, in various entries which provoked a flurry of responses. He invited the cellist Michal Kaznowski to write about sexual and psychological abuse from the late cellist Maurice Gendron in the late 60s and 70s at the Menuhin School, which led to other commentators (using pseudonyms, as was common on this blog) also relating their own unhappy experiences of the place (Norman Lebrecht, ‘It wasn’t just Chetham’s. Abuse was going on at Yehudi Menuhin School and elsewhere’, Slipped Disc, 10/2/13). Another article related allegations pointing to all of the three principal music colleges in London (the RCM, RAM, GSMD) (Norman Lebrecht, ‘Sex abuse in music schools: three fingers point to London’, Slipped Disc, 12/2/13), relating to cases which I and others working with me would discover more about in due course.
Together with two other former Chetham’s students, both pianists (and Bakst students), Paul Lewis and Tim Horton, a petition was launched in mid-February, for publication in The Guardian and then submission to the heads of the music schools and colleges, and all appropriate ministers and their shadow counterparts. The text was as follows:
In recent weeks, the ongoing allegations of historical sexual abuse at Chetham’s School of Music have put many aspects of music education under intense public scrutiny. Following the conviction of the former director of music, Michael Brewer, the tragic death of Frances Andrade, and extensive testimonies in the press of other abuse, it is clear that there should now be a full independent inquiry into the alleged sexual and psychological abuse by Chetham’s staff since the establishment of the institution as a music school in 1969. Such an inquiry would ideally extend to other institutions as well, some of which have also been the subject of allegations of abuse.
Recent press reports have suggested that during this time many students complained to senior members of staff about the sexually abusive behaviour of a number of Chetham’s teachers, but that no satisfactory action was taken. While it is of primary concern that those who stand accused should be investigated as soon as possible, if these allegations are shown to be correct it will be important to understand the wider implications of a school culture which facilitated such abuses of trust, and afforded alleged offenders long-term protection. For this reason, we ask senior members of staff from that time to account for what appears to be the severe failure of the school system to protect its pupils from those who exploited their positions of power. The prevalence of sexual abuse which appears to have continued unhindered over many years suggests an alarming lack of responsibility and competence in the management of a school which had, above all, a duty to protect the welfare of its students and to nurture the artistic potential of every pupil. That Chetham’s appears to have failed in this respect, and with such devastating consequences for the personal and professional lives of the alleged victims, now requires some considerable explanation from those who held senior positions of authority. (see Ian Pace, ‘Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education’, Desiring Progress, 9/5/13, and the earlier entries (all replete with comments, some giving detailed information on abuse) from 16/2/13 and 19/2/13)
By February 19th, when it was published in The Guardian (Pidd, ‘Teacher quits music college amid sex allegations’, and ‘Call for inquiry into abuse allegations’, The Guardian, 19/2/13), the petition had gained around 550 signatories including over 200 former Chetham’s students; by the 24th, when it was closed for the first time, there were over 1000 signatories including over 300 from Chetham’s (including a number of former teachers), and various luminaries from the musical world (for my own reflections on the petition, see ‘Q&A: Ian Pace’, Classical Music Magazine).
During the short period when the signatures were being compiled, and also for a while afterwards, I myself received a huge amount of private correspondence, with many giving sometimes graphic (and deeply upsetting) details of much more widespread abuse spanning all five music schools and all the four major music colleges (as well as a few relating to other colleges, and to several choir schools). By this point I was now in possession of a huge amount of highly sensitive information which – if even only half of it were definitely true – pointed to there being a vast network of abuse in musical education over a long period.
For obvious reasons of confidentiality, I cannot divulge anything more than the overall gist of this information here. Suffice to say that, with respect to Chetham’s, further allegations relating to a very wide range of teachers (some of them familiar to me from my time there, but I was unaware of their being abusers), and to the situation also of students being sent away in the 1970s and 1980s to live with other people, including one especially alarming case involving kidnapping. I became aware of a very large number of alleged victims of Chris Ling, and of the fact that there might be as many as 50 (or even more) of Bakst over a period of several decades. Some claimed that when they went forward to the authorities or (in the case of Ling) to the police, they were ignored, or ostracised by teachers, houseparents and fellow pupils.
Over and above this, there were legions of stories emerging of physical and psychological abuse (some of which were unfortunately familiar): 11-year olds being violently struck over the head with large objects, blunt objects being thrown at pupils across the class, another student punched in the face by a 6’4″ teacher in front of a whole class, girls being pushed down to squash their breasts against desks by male teachers, students being publicly humiliated in front of others in wantonly cruel fashion, teachers casually smacking students on their behinds (in 2012!), liberal and enthusiastic use of corporal punishment, widespread bullying encouraged by teachers. Many stories came forward of long-term emotional instability and severe depression (and several successful suicides) from former pupils; whilst while at the school there were a great many serious eating disorders (including a hunger strike on the part of some girls which went unnoticed), much self-harm, and in the late 1990s an epidemic of suicide attempts; many were expelled afterwards. Various teachers would take out their own emotional insecurities on their instrumental pupils, one teacher regularly throwing her bags at them in a violent rage in lessons. Another would insist that she only needed 3 or 4 hours sleep per night and would insist that her teenage boys should make do with the same, to save more time for practice; one followed her instructions leading to a nervous breakdown.
The defenders of Chetham’s were now starting to become more public, and some of the community of parents and current pupils were enlisted in support of the school. Football correspondent for The Independent Ian Herbert, whose 12-year old son George was a pupil at the school, learning trumpet, piano and composition, wrote a spirited defence of the current school, standing up for head teacher Claire Moreland and director of music Stephen Threlfall, citing the conductor Paul Mann (who had interrupted applause at a concert he had recently given with the Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra in London to say ‘In case you’ve been wondering, this is what the real Chet’s is about’) on how the current child protection checks ‘bear out a world unrecognisable from the Brewer days’, and saying how current pupils ‘don’t recognise this picture which has been presented of their school’ (Ian Herbert, ‘The two sides of Chetham’s: what the press reports – and what the parents see’, The Independent, 1/3/13). Two leaders of one alumni group on social media posted an appeal for people to write to Judge Rudland to urge a lenient sentence for Michael Brewer (but were met with contempt by many others).
With the information of which I was in possession (further details below), I was concerned to find a way of making more of it public (subject of course to the consent of those who had entrusted me with it) in order to strengthen the case for an inquiry. I had already sent my petition to the appropriate people, but in time received non-descript responses from the heads of the specialist music schools (in the case of Chetham’s, only the bursar, not the head, replied), whilst after a while the Department for Education made it clear that they had currently no plans for an inquiry. A similar response was received by various others who had lobbied their MPs to write to the DfE. After being contacted by Channel 4 News, and receiving various assurances in terms of victim support and legal guarantees, as well as gauging that they were the news organisation most likely to treat this responsibly whilst having the potential to communicate to a wide audience, I worked for a while with a group of others to help both GMP with general information relating to Chetham’s, and also help Channel 4 News with a major feature looking at abusive behaviour in each of the major specialist music schools.
Whilst this was going on behind the scenes, for several weeks media coverage was quieter, until the sentencing of the Brewers on March 26th – Michael Brewer received a sentence of six years whilst Kay Brewer was sentenced to 21 months (Helen Pidd, ‘Chetham’s music teacher Michael Brewer jailed for sexually abusing pupil’, The Guardian, 26/3/13; Russell Jenkins, ”Predatory’ choirmaster Michael Brewer and wife jailed’, The Times, 26/3/13; Nick Britten, ‘Jailed: predatory sex abuser who drove victim to her death’, The Telegraph, 27/3/13; Anthony Bond, ‘Paedophile choirmaster and wife are jailed for sexually abusing former pupil who was found dead after giving evidence against him’, Daily Mail, 26/3/13; James Tozer, ‘Free in three years, abusive choirmaster whose victim killed herself’, Daily Mail, 27/3/13; Chris Riches, ‘Jailed, paedophile choirmaster and wife whose victim committed suicide’, The Express, 27/3/13; Nafeesa Shan, ‘Choir perv jailed: Suicide case paedo’s 6 yrs’, The Sun, 27/3/13). Brewer was said by Kate Blackwell to ‘extend his sorrow for Mrs Andrade’s death’, but he nonetheless ‘continues to deny any offending towards her’ . The judge’s verdict during sentencing was especially telling in terms of the responses of supporters of Brewer (a significant number of whom, including many prominent figures in the music and Manchester business communities, had apparently written to appeal to him for a shorter sentence):
14. It is surprising that all those who have spoken so well of you at your trial, when called by you in your defence, did so, it seems, in the full knowledge of your relationship with M. It may well be that they were not aware of the detail of the way in which you exploited her but they were apparently nevertheless more than happy to overlook one of the most shocking aspects of this case.
15. Indeed, perhaps one of the few positive features to have emerged from this case is the resulting close scrutiny of the seemingly wider acceptance of this type of behaviour amongst those who should know better. (‘His Honour Judge Martin Rudland, Manchester Crown Court, R –V- Michael Brewer and Hillary Kaye Brewer, 26 March 2013, Sentencing Remarks’; this was noted in Pilling, ‘Chetham’s school choirmaster Michael Brewer jailed for six years’; Pidd, ‘Chetham’s music teacher Michael Brewer jailed’ and Bond ‘Paedophile choirmaster and wife are jailed’)
This was accompanied by a new stream of broadcast reports, in several of which were featured anonymous accounts by former Chetham’s students of the abuse they suffered, and also how the authorities took no notice, and some talking about how abuse claims spread beyond Manchester (‘Sex abuse claims spread beyond Manchester music school’, broadcast on ITV, 26/3/13; ‘Chetham’s choirmaster Michael Brewer jailed for sexual abuse’, broadcast on BBC, 26/3/13 (text only); ‘Chetham’s teacher Michael Brewer jailed for sexual abuse’, broadcast on Channel 4, 26/3/13). Oliver Andrade also gave a much-admired TV interview, testifying to his mother’s bravery, arguing that the judge was fair, and refusing to countenance criticism of Kate Blackwell (‘Son speaks of late mum’s legacy after her abuser is jailed’, broadcast on ITV, 27/3/13; see also Mark Blunden, ‘Son of sex abuse victim backs defence lawyer’, The Evening Standard, 27/3/13).
Then in early April the reports by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council into Chetham’s were made public, and it became clear that the school had been found severely wanting. The ISI report included the following:
On Child protection policy generally:
Discussions with staff indicated that not all are clear about the process to be followed when concerns are reported or allegations made, and the procedures specified by the school are not always implemented in practice – for example, the safeguarding concerns form is not always completed and informal discussions are held instead.
Parents’ views – in response to survey carried out recently by the school about music experiences provided by school and progress made by children in music:
Approximately one-third of parents responded, the majority positively, but a very small minority of parents indicated their dissatisfaction with the information they are given about their child’s progress in instrumental tuition, a factor mentioned at the time of the previous ISI inspection. Comments from parents in response to the ISI questionnaire confirmed that this remains an issue.
On Child Inspection regulatory requirements:
At the time of the inspection visit, the school’s child protection policy was found to cover most of the requirements which are the duties of proprietors of independent schools. However, the school’s written policy is not suitably comprehensive and has not been properly implemented. (ISI report downloadable here)
The Manchester City Council report included the following:
Section 4.1 (b) (viii)
No evidence was provided of any formal, minuted governing body/school committee meetings called so that leaders and governors could reflect on the implications of recent allegations in connection with the school, carry out appropriate scrutiny, audit and self evaluation and consider the need to conduct a comprehensive review of current safeguarding policies, procedures and practice;
There was no evidence to confirm that governors had sought assurances about current safeguarding arrangements, given the context of recent allegations, resulting in convictions and arrests of individuals connected with the school. A current employee was arrested on 14th February 2013 in relation to an historic allegation, is presently suspended and is the subject of
ongoing police investigation.
There are inconsistencies in relation to the CPO, designated governor for safeguarding and the head of academic music’s understanding of school policy and procedures for teaching at the home of a tutor. This ranges from an understanding that pupils ‘wouldn’t ever have home tuition’, to it is not encouraged or sanctioned by the school and would only be agreed and arranged by parents, to if there was an exceptional circumstance that required teaching at the home of a tutor, there would be a risk assessment completed and parental consent sought. No reference is made to home tuition in the staff, pupil or parents handbooks. During interviews with pupils some pupils stated that home tuition regularly takes place.
It was the view of some pupils however, that there was little point in raising issues or concerns because they would not be listened to or acted upon. This was borne out in the pupils’ response to the ISI questionnaire. 36% of pupils responded negatively to the statement: ‘the school asks for my opinions and responds to them’, when a negative response of more than 20% is seen as significant by the ISI.
The named governor for safeguarding has been identified as the person other than a parent, outside the boarding and teaching staff of the school, who pupils can talk to if they feel the need. No reference is made of this in the pupil or parent handbooks. When pupils were asked about who, other than a parent/guardian they could turn to, some pupils cited the named governor for safeguarding, others did not know about such a person and one pupil referred to them as ‘some random person’ that they were told to contact if they needed to and added that they were told about this person in a recent assembly.
The Local Authority saw little evidence that the Governing body/school committee have sufficiently held the senior leaders of the school to account regarding providing assurances that the current arrangements for safeguarding are actually being implemented, applied robustly, monitored appropriately or evaluated effectively. In the context of recent convictions, allegations and ongoing police investigations, where extra assurances would be expected, this is a cause for concern.
6.2 Arrangements are present to promote a culture and climate of effective safeguarding at Chetham’s School of Music but the arrangements are not routinely and reliably implemented, robustly applied, monitored or evaluated by the senior leadership team, governors and Feoffees. This demonstrates inadequate oversight of safeguarding by the proprietors and therefore the Local Authority is not confident about the overall effectiveness of the leadership and governance of safeguarding arrangements in the school.
6.3 The Feoffees as proprietors of the school have not effectively discharged their duties with respect to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils. They have not ensured that the Headteacher has fulfilled her duties for the effective implementation of the school’s policies and procedures in regard to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils.
6.4 It is our view that in similar circumstances, in a state-maintained school setting, the nature of these findings, including the current context referred to in 6.1 above, would lead us to invite the chair of governors or trustees to a formal review meeting to discuss the capacity for governance and senior leadership to address the failings identified. (full report accessible here)
Chetham’s responded on their website initially as follows:
Unfortunately we believe the time allowed for the Review was insufficient. We have made detailed written representations and submitted further documentation to both MCS and the ISI, seeking meetings with both organisations to discuss these points in detail. There is enormous interest in the School at the current time and it is imperative that Chetham’s, and all students, staff and parents associated with it, are treated and represented accurately.
In addition to further dialogue with the ISI and MCS, we will be seeking a meeting with the Department for Education to discuss the Review’s findings and share a detailed action plan to demonstrate how we are remedying the issues highlighted. (some of this statement is reported in Helen Pidd, ‘Music school at heart of abuse scandal failed to safeguard pupils, reports find’, The Guardian, 3/4/13; all of the above above is published on Ian Pace, ‘Publication of Reports into Chetham’s by ISI and MCC: Senior Management and Governors should consider their position’, Desiring Progress, 3/4/13. See also this later statement from Chetham’s from 8/5/13)
The response of the DfE was as follows:
Schools have a legal and moral duty to protect children in their care. It is clear from the Independent Schools Inspectorate and Manchester City Council’s reports of their joint visit that the standard of care at Chethams school must be improved.
“Today (Tuesday) under section 165(3) of the Education Act 2002, we have served a notice requiring the school to produce an action plan setting out what it will do to meet the regulatory standards. The law requires the school to produce an action plan to set out how it will address the deficiencies the ISI inspection identified.
“Chethams now has until May to produce the action plan — if the plan is inadequate the Education Secretary has powers to remove the school from the register of independent schools.” (Statement forwarded to the author by Ciaran Jenkins of Channel 4 News)
An increasing campaign was mounted by Chetham’s parents and pupils on the blog of Norman Lebrecht to refute the various claims and defend the school, in which a small number of deeply unhappy parents responded to a chorus of others (see Norman Lebrecht, ‘Manchester Council condemns Chetham’s for failure to address ‘recent allegations’, Slipped Disc, 3/4/13; ; ‘The skies just darkened over Chetham’s, Slipped Disc, 3/4/13). Key to the arguments posited (which had begun to emerge from the time of the Guardian reports in February) was the notion that it was wrong for these ‘historic’ allegations to be dragged up because of the hurt they caused current pupils. Text forwarded to Lebrecht via one parent revealed an organised campaign, with the apparent blessing of the head girl and Deputy Head of the School responsible for pastoral care (Norman Lebrecht, ‘Chet’s kids organize blog mob’, Slipped Disc, 5/4/13). At a meeting with parents at the beginning of term, Sunday April 14th, Claire Moreland was questioned by a few (though the majority appear to have been supportive) and was forced to reveal that current teachers were being investigated by GMP, giving a figure of ‘less than five’ (Norman Lebrecht, ‘How many teachers are being investigated at troubled music school?’, Slipped Disc, 17/4/13).
Channel 4 News continued to work on their report, which was broadcast on May 7th. The major revelation here, for the purposes of which the Channel 4 team had spoken to multiple pupils from who studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School in the 1960s and 1970s, was about the first director of music and co-founder of the school, Belgian pianist Marcel Gazelle, revealed as a serial abuser of girls as young as 10 in their beds (the broadcast was very careful in terms of what could be said both for legal reasons and because of the watershed, but many from the school at the time privately commented that the scale of Gazelle’s activities, allegedly involving multiple rape of older girls as well, was not always clear). For this broadcast, Nigel Kennedy was tracked down and persuaded to take on the record about Gazelle, revealing that he was the figure to whom he had referred in interview with Lebrecht back in 2003. The former student Irita Kutchmy chose to speak on the record about her own abuse at the hands of Gazelle, lending the broadcast, which alleged that abuse had gone on at all five specialist music schools, a vivid immediacy (Ciaran Jenkins, ‘Exclusive: Sex scandal implicates all five UK music schools’, Channel 4 News, 7/5/13). I immediately published on my blog a long article on Gazelle and the early culture of the Menuhin School, drawing upon accounts by various former students to paint a bleak picture of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at all levels, which brought Gazelle’s wife Jacqueline into the picture as well. This produced bitter responses from their son Didier, denying the allegations, protesting that ‘What was acceptable 50 years ago, is now considered as an offence’ and asking ‘Where is the limit between affection and sexual abuse?’ (Ian Pace, ‘Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School’, Desiring Progress, 7/5/13)
These new revelations was widely reported by all the leading UK newspapers (see in particular Victoria Ward, ‘Music school abuse scandal alleged to involve five top schools’, The Telegraph, 8/5/13, drawing upon some new information not broadcast by Channel 4), and also local and international press, and there followed a stream of further allegations, including Michal Kaznowski making more public his memories of Maurice Gendron (Paul Gallagher and Sanchez Manning, ‘Famous cellist was abusive monster, says former pupil’, The Independent, 9/5/13), the violinist Sacha Barlow speaking of inappropriate sexualised touching from the age of 12 by other members of staff at the school in the 1980s (Paul Gallagher, ‘Fresh abuse claims hit top music school’, The Independent, 12/5/13), and a former teacher at two (unspecified) specialist music schools, who had also spoken to Channel 4 News, talking of the ‘toxic’ atmosphere at the institutions, the attempted rape she suffered at the hands of one teacher, and the total lack of pastoral care at the places (Victoria Ward, ‘Teacher describes ‘toxic’ atmosphere at music schools’, The Telegraph, 9/5/13), also (for C4 News) urging against complacency that such abuse could not happen today. In this context, I elected to re-open the petition until the end of May (Alex Stevens, ‘Abuse in music schools: Petition reopens after new press coverage and MP’s support’, Classical Music Magazine, 10/5/13), and it has since received several hundred further signatories, and the backing of Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central.
On the day of broadcast of the Channel 4 News report, GMP made clear to Helen Pidd at The Guardian that as part of Operation Kiso they were investigating a whole 39 music school teachers from Manchester, of which 10 formed the nucleus of the operation, 12 were known through third-party referrals, another 12 were involved in activities which would probably not lead to criminal charges (in particular those who had sexual affairs with sixth-formers before 2003), and 5 were dead (Helen Pidd, ’39 Manchester music school teachers face inquiry’, The Guardian, 7/5/13). The very scale of the abuse being investigated was now becoming clearer to many.
By autumn 2013 four different teachers had been arrested – double-bassist Duncan McTier (who taught at the RNCM, but not at Chetham’s), violinist Wen Zhou Li (arrested in February 2013 right after the Brewer trial, at which time he was still teaching at Chetham’s), conductor Nicholas Smith (for offences against an underage girl in the 1970s) and violinist Malcolm Layfield (see above). McTier and Smith were charged in May 2014 (Helen Pidd, ‘Music teacher charged with indecent assaults’, The Guardian, 6/5/14; ‘World-renowned conductor charged with sexually assaulting Chetham pupil’, The Guardian, 27/5/14) and appeared in court in June (Helen Pidd, ‘Two musicians appear in court accused of sexually abusing music school pupils’, The Guardian, 13/6/14); McTier pleaded not guilty, whilst Smith did not enter a plea, but his solicitor indicated that he would be pleading not guilty. It was only at this stage that the Royal Academy of Music, where McTier now taught, decided to suspend him from his current job (not after his arrest the previous year). It was also revealed that McTier’s charges related not only to the RNCM but also to the Purcell School. It is anticipated that the trial will take place in the autumn of 2014. In January 2014, Greater Manchester Police indicated that they would seek the extradition of Chris Ling (Helen Pidd, ‘Police may seek extradition of US-based teacher accused of abusing pupils’, The Guardian, 6/1/14; James Tozer, ‘Violin teacher accused of sex abuse against female pupils at prestigious music college threatened with extradition proceedings so he can face trial in UK’, Daily Mail, 6/1/14); Layfield was charged with one count of rape in July 2014 (Helen Pidd, ‘Violin teacher charged with rape over alleged attack at Chetham’s school’, The Guardian, 29/7/14).
Further revelations came to light in 2014 about the knowledge of Moreland about earlier crimes after Paul Gallagher at the Independent was forwarded (by myself, with permission), letters from ex-pupils to Moreland (and also Gregson) in 2002 concerning the abuse they had suffered at the hands of Layfield. These heart-felt and distressing letters were met with stock replies of one or two sentences, just saying that current pastoral care systems meant this couldn’t happen again, rather than acknowledging any concern for the victims (Paul Gallagher, ‘Elite music school Chetham’s loses pupils in backlash at allegations of historic sexual abuse’, The Independent, 28/1/14). Moreland claimed in an self-justificatory interview published after the Independent article that she only heard about anything being wrong at the school in late 2011 (Richard Morrison, ‘Does Chetham’s have a future?’, The Times, 12/2/14).
By coincidence, the appearance of the Channel 4 News report come just before another devastating revelation following a sustained investigation by The Times and The Australian, concerning the late former Dean of Manchester Cathedral (1984-1993), Robert Waddington, about whom various former choristers had come forward to detail the sustained grooming, sexual abuse and sadistic beatings they had suffered at his hands, both in Manchester and when he had worked as a teacher in the 1960s and 1970s in Queensland (see Sean O’Neill, Michael McKenna and Amanda Gearing, ‘Archbishop in ‘cover-up’over abuse scandal’, ‘Accused cleric built reputation at small school in Australia’, and ‘Former Archbishop of York ‘covered up’ sex abuse scandal’, The Times, 10/5/13; Sean O’Neill, ‘Behind the story’ and ‘Victim of clergyman’s abuse was groomed as young chorister’, The Times, 10/5/13; Amanda Gearing, ‘Choirboy haunted by painful memories’, The Times, 10/5/13; Steve Doughty, ‘’I was the boyfriend of a monster’: Victim of paedophile priest speaks out as former Archbishop of York denies covering up child abuse claims’, Daily Mail, 10/5/13; Sean O’Neill,’ Church abuse suspect ‘investigated three times’, The Times, 11/5/13). Chetham’s School provides the majority of choristers for the cathedral and has other close links with the institution (I detailed this in Ian Pace, ‘Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music’, Desiring Progress, 12/5/13), and one former Chetham’s pupil soon came forward to detail his own abuse at the hands of Waddington (who was a close friend of headmaster John Vallins); it was also made public that Waddington had been on the board of governors for Chetham’s during his tenure as Dean, thus overlapping with the period of some of the worst abuse scandals alleged to have gone on at the school (Sean O’Neill, ‘Dean preyed on us during his reign at top music school, says former music pupil’ and ‘Dean was still preying on choirboys when Church ruled him too ill to be a risk’, The Times, 16/5/13; Paul Gallagher, ‘Former Dean accused of sex abuse was a governor at scandal-hit music school’, The Independent, 16/5/13; Michael McKenna and Amanda Gearing, ‘Accused cleric link to top music school abuse probe’, The Australian, 18/5/13). The coverage had focused on the culpability of the Church of England in covering up Waddington’s abuse; Chetham’s have not at the time of writing made any public comment about his involvement there other than to confirm his tenure as a governor.
A final complication was provided by the announcement of the abolition of the position of Director of Music at the Purcell School, thus rendering incumbent Quentin Poole redundant (see Norman Lebrecht, ‘Reports: Music School abolishes Head of Music post’, Slipped Disc, 12/5/13 and ‘Why Purcell is back in the headlights’, 14/5/13; both articles contain plentiful comments from individuals associated with the school). It is believed that this relates to a personal feud between the former Headmaster, Peter Crook and the Chairman of Governors. Crook fired the civil partner of Poole (about whom there have been suggestions of impropriety with pupils), and then after Crook’s own firing in 2011 (see earlier in this article), the Chairman fired Poole himself; but this all needs clarification in the face of many conflicting accounts.
Two further developments arising out of the Brewer trial have recently emerged. One is that the Cabinet Office’s honours forfeiture committee decided to strip Brewer of his OBE, awarded to him in late 1994; this forfeiture was announced on May 28th (Matt Chorley, ‘Exclusive: Paedophile choirmaster Michael Brewer whose victim killed herself is stripped of his OBE’, Daily Mail, 28/5/13; Christopher Hope, ‘Convicted child abuser Michael Brewer stripped of OBE by Queen’, The Telegraph, 28/5/13; Helen Pidd, ‘Former Chetham’s director Michael Brewer stripped of OBE’, The Guardian, 28/5/13). The following day, it was also announced that Brewer would appeal against the length of his sentence (‘Sex abuse choirmaster Michael Brewer in sentence appeal’, BBC News, 29/5/13; ‘Choirmaster jailed for sexually abusing pupil seeks to appeal against sentence’, The Guardian, 29/5/13; ‘Sex abuse Chethams teacher Michael Brewer in court bid to have sentence cut’, Manchester Evening News, 30/5/13).
A report was published on April 10th, 2014, by the Surrey Safeguarding Adults Board, into the suicide of Frances Andrade (Hilary Brown, ‘The death of Mrs A. A Serious Case Review’, Surrey County Council: Safeguarding Adults Board, see also the summary and press release). This report found much to be desired in the treatment of Andrade when she went to the police and during the proceedings, but also in particular had the following to say about musical education in general and the dangers therein:
Music schools, in common with other “hothousing” establishments, create pressures that may have a particularly damaging impact on young people who are vulnerable and/or without parental support. These settings are competitive, and feed into expectations already placed on the young person to be “special” and to succeed. The adults around them, who are often prominent performers in their own right, are invested with exceptional power and influence and are in a position of trust from which they exert considerable leverage over whether their pupils achieve success in their chosen fields. The music world is not alone in this regard, -similar pressures arise in elite sports academies, boarding schools, ballet schools, cathedral and choir schools, drama and performing arts courses, art schools and other areas of endeavour that create a backdrop for this very particular and potent form of grooming.
Chethams School provided an ideal environment for this kind of abuse to occur. The school seemed unaware of the risks of sexual abuse and it does not appear to have proactively promoted a child protection agenda. Boundaries were blurred and some staff seemed at times to act with impunity. When, Mrs A was sent, as a teenager, to live with MB and his family it was effectively a private fostering arrangement, put in place without any proper scrutiny or formal overview. The atmosphere of elite performance teaching created what one pupil described as a belief that you were “special”6 and it placed teachers in an exclusive and powerful position in relation to their protégés.
In response to this case another music teacher (MR), a man who had acted as a whistle-blower, published an article offering a window onto the culture in these circles at the time we are speaking of from which it can be seen that Mrs A was not alone in being at risk from abusive sexual relationships and unprofessional behaviour. MR later said,
Music lessons are one-to-one… So, if you’re determined to behave wrongly, there’s the opportunity: “It’s one of the easiest situations to abuse, I would have thought.”
He further discussed how music teaching in particular, takes place in a context of emotional intensity and that pupils’ crushes on staff are commonplace.
So this culture of sexualised behaviour between teachers and pupils that developed in the school at that time was, to some extent, known about and condoned. This culture may also have prevailed at the Royal Northern College of Music as there was considerable overlapping of staff, and this became the focus of contention specifically in relation to the appointment of ML to a senior post at the college. MR publicly confronted the principle of the college about the suitability of this appointment, given widespread allegations about ML’s sexual exploitation of young women students, at considerable cost to his career7. When he made his concerns public, he received many letters of support from students disclosing past abuses and concerns. Mrs A was one such pupil/student. When his whistle-blower’s warnings went unheeded, he recounted that
“Letters from pupils and professional musicians poured in, one was from [Mrs A] … She was a force to be reckoned with …”There was tremendous passion and anger.” Chethams therefore represented a very particular context in which it was possible for MB to target and groom Mrs A from a position of trust, power and influence. Although it seems to have been common knowledge that some teachers within the music network around Chethams and the Royal Northern Music School had sexual relationships with their pupils this was not formally addressed.
1. THIS REVIEW DID NOT HAVE A MANDATE TO COMMENT ON ISSUES OF CHILD PROTECTION BUT URGES CHILDREN’S SAFEGUARDING BOARDS AND THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS INSPECTORATE TO PAY ATTENTION TO ALL SCHOOLS ESPECIALLY, BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY, BOARDING SCHOOLS INCLUDING THOSE CONCERNED WITH “SPECIAL” PUPILS OR THOSE THAT HAVE ELITE STATUS. THIS INCLUDES SO CALLED “FREE” SCHOOLS THAT EXIST TO SOME EXTENT OUTSIDE OF LOCAL NETWORKS. (Brown, ‘The death of Mrs A’, pp. 8-10)
These view resembles that presented in my own article for the Times Educational Supplement (Ian Pace, ‘The culture of music education lends itself to abuse’, TES, 8/5/13).
Since the events of the first half of 2013, there have been a range of other cases in the news of musicians and music teachers involved with abuse. In September 2013, another female music teacher was convicted of abusing children, this time boys. Jennifer Philp-Parsons, the then 45-year-old former head of music at a Devon school, was found guilty of sexually abusing two 16-year old boys (within one hour of each other) at her marital home, after having also pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual activity with a male aged 13 to 17 while in a position of trust, during May to June of that year; one report unfortunately described her as having ‘seduced’ (rather than abused) the boys (John Hall, ‘Teacher jailed for alcohol-fuelled sex sessions with two teenage pupils at her home’, The Independent, September 19th, 2013). Philp-Parsons was jailed for two years and six months, placed on the sex offenders register, and made the subject of a sexual offences prevention order. Graphic descriptions were provided of grooming the boys so as to become their favourite teacher, how she would ply the boys with alcohol and then sexually exploit them, as well as texts between her and the boys, though the defence tried to claim she was devoted to the boys, and blame this on the failure of her marriage (Richard Smith, ‘Jennifer Philp-Parsons: Teacher jailed for alcohol-fuelled sex sessions with two teenage pupils’, The Mirror, September 19th, 2013) whilst police also suggested there might be further victims, and urged them to come forward (Luke Salkeld, ‘Music Teacher, 45, had sex with two male 16-year old pupils in her home during drunken party while her husband slept upstairs’, Daily Mail, September 19th, 2013).
One of the most serious cases to come to light in recent times is historic, that of Alan Doggett, conductor and composer who was closely associated with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and conducted the first performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Jesus Christ Superstar, about whom I have written at length (Ian Pace, ‘UPDATED: Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange’, Desiring Progress, 28/3/14). Over a dozen former pupils at Colet Court School in London (prep school for St Paul’s) have testified to Doggett’s abuse of boys aged as young as 10, sometimes in front of others (raping boys in dormitories), regular sexual touching of genitals of almost all boys, and even a form of child prostitution whereby they would be paid for allowing Doggett to use them. Doggett also taught at City of London School for Boys, St Mary’s School for Girls and Culford School, as well as running the London Boy Singers, a group of around 1000 boys drawn from schools all over London, before committing suicide in 1978 when facing molestation charges against a boy. There are many further allegations of abuse at some of these institutions. Since my own work and pioneering articles by Andrew Norfolk at The Times, a whole police investigation, Operation Winthorpe, has been set up to look at a mass of allegations at both Colet Court and St Paul’s (though I have been informed that Doggett is no longer part of the investigation) (Andrew Norfolk, ‘Teachers ‘abused boys at Osborne’s old school”, The Times, 25/3/14; ‘The teacher sat us on his lap until his face went very red’, The Times, 25/3/14; ‘Friends to stars had easy access to boys’, The Times, 25/3/14; ‘Boys punished for telling of abuse by teacher’, The Times, 28/3/14; ‘Police look into ‘decades of abuse’ at top school’, The Times, 9/4/14; ‘Abuse claims against 18 teachers by ex-pupils at top public school; St Paul’s co-operates with police inquiry led by head of Savile investigation’, The Times, 1/5/14; ‘Accused teacher kept on working for 24 years’, The Times, 1/5/14; ‘Teacher kept job for 16 years after pupils found sex tapes’, The Times, 20/5/14; ‘Colet Court and St Paul’s: a culture of child abuse’, The Times, 20/5/14. See also Benjamin Ross, ‘My Sadist Teachers at St Paul’s Prep School Betrayed a Generation’, Daily Mail, 1/6/14); at the time of writing, there have been seven arrests to date (‘Man arrested on suspicion of sexual assault at St Paul’s school’, The Guardian, 1/8/14).
In connection with investigations into Home Office funding for the Paedophile Information Exchange, the former civil servant Clifford Hindley, also a musicologist who wrote about the operas of Benjamin Britten, was named as the individual who had ensured such funding went ahead (Keir Mudie and Nick Dorman, ‘Huge sums of TAXPAYER’S cash ‘handed to vile child-sex pervert group’ by Home Office officials’, Sunday People, 1/3/14; see also David Hencke, ‘Revealed: The civil servant in the Home Office’s PIE funding inquiry and his academic articles on boy love’, 1/3/14). I wrote an extended piece analysing how deeply paedophile themes ran through many of Hindley’s writings on both Britten and Ancient Greece (Ian Pace, ‘Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship’, Desiring Progress, 3/3/14).
The pianist and composer Ian Lake was revealed to have been a serial abuser of both boys (as young as 10) and girls at Watford School of Music and the Royal College of Music (RCM) (Paul Gallagher, ‘Decades of abuse by Royal College of Music piano teacher Ian Lake boosts demands for inquiry’, The Independent, 29/12/13). Lake had received a little-reported conviction for a sexual offence (of which details remain hazy) in 1995. One of his RCM victims spoke of telling the then principal, Michael Gough Matthews (Principal from 1985 to 1993, died in 2012), and whilst she was given a change of teacher, nothing else happened, so Lake was free to do the same to others. This type of process has been described by multiple victims at different institutions (including, for example, victims of Ryszard Bakst at the Royal Northern College of Music). Matthews’ successor as Principal, Dame Janet Ritterman, who was Principal at the RCM at the time when Lake was convicted (and is now Chancellor of Middlesex University), has been contacted for comment about what was known about Lake, but has declined to respond. Another late teacher at the RCM, Hervey Alan, was identified as having attempted a sexual assault on a student; again, when she complained, she received a change of teacher, but no further action was taken (Paul Gallagher, ‘Royal College of Music hit by more sex abuse allegations’, The Independent, 10/1/14). Furthermore, the victim (who was also a student of Lake’s on the piano) underwent a second attempted assault from a college porter, about which nothing was done after she complained. This woman has also detailed the ways in which not being prepared to respond to sexual advances in the professional world could hinder one’s career, a story which is all too familiar, and needs to be considered seriously alongside all the other dimensions to this issue. I have argued for a while that the granting of unchecked power to prominent musicians, administrators, and fixers almost invites the corruption of such power, and more, rather than less, state intervention is needed to ensure that proper employment practices are observed in a freelance world. Many musicians would hate this, for sure, and claim it represented an unwarranted intrusion by government into a field which should be driven by ‘purely musical’ concerns, but in my view the latter serve as a smokescreen for cynical and callous power games.
Robin Zebaida, pianist and examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM, responsible for the ‘grade’ exams that many young musicians take) since 1998, was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year old girl at the same time as he was seducing her mother; Zebaida received a two-year conditional discharge, was made to sign the sex offenders register for two years, and pay a £15 victim surcharge. The trial heard of romantic evenings with plentiful alcohol with Zebaida kissing the mother whilst groping the daughter; Zebaida would also claim he touched the daughter lightly on account of back problems she suffered following a car crash which had killed her father and brother (‘Concert pianist fondled girl of 15 while kissing her mother, court told’, The Telegraph, 21/11/13; Jennifer Smith, ‘Oxford-educated concert pianist ‘French kissed fan on his sofa while simultaneously fondling her 15-year-old daughter’, Daily Mail, 21/11/13; Hayley Dixon, ‘Concert pianist denies fondling girl, 15, while kissing mother’, The Telegraph, 26/11/13; Lucy Crossley, ‘Internationally renowned concert pianist found guilty of groping a 15-year-old while French-kissing her mother’, Daily Mail, 2/12/13; ‘Pianist guilty of sex assault on teenager’, The Telegraph, 3/12/13). I am not aware of the ABRSM having made any comment, but gather that Zebaida’s nature was well-known to others (private communications from an examiner).
In November 2013, Philip Evans, music teacher at the private King Edward’s School, Edgbaston, Birmingham (which dates from 1552 and was set up by Edward VI), pleaded guilty to seven sexual assaults, ten charges of making indecent photographs of children, and six counts of voyeurism; more than 400 000 indecent images were found on his computer (Teacher Admits Sexual Assault’, Press Association, 28/11/13). The trial found that Evans, who had also acted as an RAF ‘leader’ in the school’s Combined Cadet Force, had abused teenage boys whilst pretending to measure them for their school uniforms, and installed high tech equipment in changing rooms and showers to film pupils. Evans was sentenced in December to three years and eight months imprisonment (‘Paedophile music teacher jailed’, Evening Standard, 20/12/13; Jonny Greatrex, ‘Music teacher jailed for sexually abusing teenage pupils while pretending to measure them for uniforms’, Daily Mirror, 21/12/13; ‘Music teacher who rigged up hidden camera to film himself sexually abusing boys has been jailed’, Daily Mail, 20/12/13).
In February 2014, the early music conductor and former Guildhall School teacher Philip Pickett was charged with eight counts of indecent assault, three counts of rape, two counts of false imprisonment, one count of assault and one count of attempted rape (see the press release from City of London Police reproduced at Ian Pace, ‘Philip Pickett arrested on 15 charges, and interview with Clare Moreland in The Times’). Quite incredibly, Pickett’s trial was allowed to be postponed from October 2014 to January 2015 so that he could finish touring. Defence barrister Jonathan Barnard said at the Old Bailey ‘My client is a world famous musician and therefore earns his living on a job to job basis and has tours across the globe throughout the autumn – but the season slows down in the new year’. The Crown agreed on the grounds that ‘the allegations are at the latest 20 years old and the earliest, 40 years old’ (Ben Wilkinson, ‘Musician’s historic sex crimes trial put on hold’, Oxford Mail, 18/3/14).
Then in March 2014, an 18-year old oboist, Robin Brandon-Turner appeared in court on charges of making a girl perform oral sexual upon him when she was aged between 6 and 10 (and he was between 13 and 17); Brandon-Turner said he was just ‘experimenting’ at the time (‘Young musician Robin Brandon-Turner admits sex abuse’, BBC News, 17/3/14). He was given a two year probationary sentence in June 2014 at the High Court in Edinburgh, and ordered to attend a programme to address his behaviour (‘Sex abuse young musician Robin Brandon-Turner sentenced’, BBC News, 16/6/14).
On the basis of all the many published articles and reports, and also the wide range of information communicated to me privately, I have been able to surmise the following situation for the various schools and colleges, which has been presented to various politicians involved in abuse campaigning. It would not be appropriate to reproduce this here, but some other issues can be addressed.
Psychological and emotional abuse is believed by many to be rampant in the profession throughout education and elsewhere (Definitions are difficult in this context, as various studies have indicated. See in particular Kieran O’Hagan, Emotional and Psychological Abuse of Children (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1992), pp. 18-35, and O’Hagan, Identifying Emotional and Psychological Abuse: A Guide for Childcare Professionals (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006), pp. 27-40, in the latter of which several writers are cited on a preference for the term ‘psychological maltreatment’ (p. 30). The definitions examined here definitely encompass the types of abuse which can be identified within musical education. This subject is definitely in need of wider research in a musical context). To give just one of many examples of how this has been reported by many: a teacher looks to reduce a vulnerable student to tears at the beginning of most of their instrumental lessons, thus enabling them to take the student on their knee or otherwise physically comfort them. They aim to destroy the student’s fragile confidence and sense of identity and remake them in their own image. This can be a prelude to sexual abuse or simply a strategy for control and domination.
Why Focus Specifically on Musical Education?
Sexual and other abuse have been discovered – and in various cases the perpetrators dismissed, banned from working with children and/or faced criminal convictions – in many fields of life. However, there are reasons why its manifestation in musical education deserves special individual treatment. My own article, written in February 2013 and published in May in the Times Educational Supplement, on why those studying music might be particularly vulnerable to abuse, is included at the end of this article. A recurrent issue for many commentators has been that of one-to-one tuition and the power accorded to individual teachers to dominate students who are utterly at their behest (see Britten and Dominiczak, ‘Violinist’s suicide could stop abuse victims coming forward’; Tweedie, Britten and Schute, ‘Frances Andrade: A culture of abuse, denial and cover-up’; Jonathan West, ‘Sexual abuse at music schools’, 2/3/13; Pidd, Ibbotson and Carroll, ‘A musical hothouse in which ‘Ling’s strings’ say they fell prey to abuse’. Some rather crude sub-editing made an interview with RNCM principal Linda Merrick – Helen Pidd, ‘One-to-one music tuition ‘may be abolished”, The Guardian, 1/3/13 – characterise Merrick’s views in a simplistic fashion. Merrick merely argued that this mode of teaching might be looked at again, as I argue in ‘Q & A: Ian Pace’, Classical Music); this type of teaching is significantly more prevalent in musical education than elsewhere.
The classical music profession is highly competitive and often highly aggressive as many people jostle for a relatively small amount of available work. This fact is often mobilised in order to justify cruel treatment of young musicians, maintaining that they require such treatment in order to be ‘toughened up’ for the demands of a professional career. The effects upon those who do not succeed can and have been devastating.
Classical music depends upon a large degree of state money in order to function, yet there is little in the way of wider state intervention in the workings of the profession – because of the dangers especially in education but more widely in terms of abuse and maltreatment of adult musicians, I argue that the ‘hands-off’ approach of the Arts Council may no longer be most appropriate. When it is possible for some powerful musicians to build their own fiefdoms, and use the fact of their holding such power to dictate that others may have to sleep with them or artificially please them in other ways, there is immense potential for corruption. A state-subsidised world featuring individuals reigning over unchecked power must be reconsidered.
Whilst the UK conservatoires have their roots in the nineteenth century, and in particular the move towards a degree of professionalization of musical education in the last few decades of that century, when most of those schools were either founded or began to move towards their modern form, the five specialist music schools were all founded between 1962 and 1972, and so are a recent phenomenon. Whilst the first two of these – the Purcell School (previously the Central Tutorial School for Young Musicians) (founded 1962), and the Yehudi Menuhin School (founded 1963) – were essentially created ‘from scratch’ to provide a more intensive level of musical education from a young age, the remaining three – Chetham’s (founded as a music school in 1969), Wells (music school section founded 1970), and St Mary’s (founded as a music school in 1972) all had existing choir schools prior to taking on their specialist music form. Furthermore, both the Menuhin School and St Mary’s in particular (the latter of which was viewed by Menuhin as a sister school in Scotland to his own institution) drew inspiration from existing models of specialist music tuition as provided in the Soviet Union – during a time at the height of the Cold War, in which this country was dedicated to the production of soloists who would win international competitions (following the shock provided by the victory of American pianist Van Cliburn in the 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow), in such a way that all other considerations were secondary . How these various aspects of the schools’ pedagogical history and roots affected their development – permitting widespread psychological abuse and much sexual abuse, the latter arguably an extension of the former – requires comprehensive and detailed scrutiny by experts. It is worth pointing out in this context the fact of a huge sexual abuse scandal affecting the Central Music School in Moscow (founded 1932, and in some ways the major model for future secondary specialist music education), in which pianist Anatoly Ryabov was accused of abusing 53 different girls, many of them aged 12 or 13, between 1987 and 2011. When the case came to court, the children and their mothers were blamed for over-ambition and destroying the school’s legendary reputation, and seducing a venerable teacher, whilst Ryabov was portrayed in the press as if fighting Putin’s regime, and much of the Moscow musical establishment swung behind him. All of the charges were thrown out and Ryabov found not guilty (information provided to me by one individual closely involved with the trial).
The last relatively comprehensive study of musical education in the UK was undertaken in 1978, commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (Training Musicians: A Report to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on the training of professional musicians (London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1978)), when many of the specialist music schools were still in a state of relative infancy. Nothing was mentioned in this about the dangers of abuse in such institutions, though their role in terms of producing professional musicians remains a consideration throughout. It is now high time, after 35 years, for a new report, more detailed and sophisticated in its methodology than before, to be produced as the outcome of an inquiry. The specialist music schools in particular have inhabited a nebulous and secretive world with insufficient external scrutiny, despite being in receipt of a considerable amount of state money.
In spite of all of the above, various individuals who have been investigating abuse in musical education remain wary or sceptical about positing the existence of a ‘ring’. It would probably be more accurate to refer to large overlapping networks of individuals frequently complicit in facilitating or covering up each other’s actions, rather than something more centrally organised.
Examples of the connections involved include the fact of teachers frequently moving between multiple institutions. Many also teach on summer courses or are involved with orchestral and choral coaching. There are especially intricate networks connecting both former and current staff at Chetham’s in particular.
Factors deterring students from coming forward
There are many factors mitigating against students or former students from coming forward either to the police or the media about experiences of abuse. These include the factor of peer pressure and the strong potential for ostracisation by alumni communities, fears for professional reputation, and minimisation or trivialisation of the issue of psychological abuse. Arguments have also been made about how uncovering of abuse this will hurt funding for classical music at a time when it is most vulnerable (see, for example, Richard Morrison, ‘Music teaching’s dark past is in danger of destroying its future’, BBC Music Magazine, April 2013, p. 25 and for a more fervent expression of this, Denis Joe, ‘Don’t let abuse fears ruin music: A Savile-style inquiry into one of the UK’s top music schools could wreck the informality essential to music tuition’, Spiked Online, 7/3/13). Others have attacked those who have come forward concerning ‘historic’ abuse at institutions on the grounds that revelations of such experiences have a harmful effect upon those studying at the institutions today (this has been a recurrent complaint by many current parents and pupils posting to Norman Lebrecht’s blog). Knowledge of the experiences of Frances Andrade in court also gives fear to those who might have to undergo a similar experience. Furthermore, some of the abuse would not at the time have constituted a criminal act, if consensual, and with victims over the age of 16 prior to 2003.
The difficulties of coming forward are exacerbated for younger victims – it is well-known and often commented how many abuse victims wait several decades before deciding to speak out (See, for example, Connie Burrows Horton and Tracy K. Cruise, Child Abuse and Neglect: The Schools’ Response (New York: The Guilford Press, 2001), pp. 39-40; Thomas G. Plante and Kathleen L. McChesney, Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), p. 20; David Gray and Peter Watt, Giving Victims a Voice: joint report into sexual allegations made against Jimmy Savile (London: NSPCC, 2013), p. 20; Kathryn Westcott and Tom de Castella, ‘The decades-long shadow of abuse’, BBC News Magazine, 25/10/12). This very fact unfortunately likely plays a fact in the widespread perception in amongst the music world (and propagated by those managing its institutions) that abuse is primarily ‘historic’, belonging to a more distant era. That this may simply be the result of the fact that victims of more recent abuse do not yet feel ready to speak out should not be discounted. Furthermore, musicians in their 20s and 30s tend to have more precarious careers (unless hugely successful), and are more vulnerable to hostile criticism, whether made explicit or not, such as might come about as a result of their taking their complaints forward. It should be borne in mind that as the professional world of classical music is relatively small and many individuals are closely connected through shared professional and educational experiences, there can be especially great difficulties in victims maintaining anonymity if they go forward, on account of easy spread of gossip and relative ease of identifying them.
Conclusion: Issues for an Inquiry
between 1945 and 1989 only four public inquiries were held into institutional abuse. These were the Court Lees inquiry (1967) into excessive use of corporal punishment at Court Less approved school in Surrey, the Leesway Children’s Home inquiry (1985) following offences of indecency involving the taking of photographs of children, the Kincora Boy’s Home, Belfast, inquiry (1986), following suggestions of a paedophile ring operative at the institution, and the Melanie Klein House inquiry (1988) into the use of restraints upon older girls in an establishment managed by Greenwich Social Services Department (see Brian Corby, Alan Doig & Vicki Roberts, Public Inquiries into Abuse of Children in Residential Care (London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001), pp. 79-81 for an overview of these four inquiries). Numerous other inquiries have followed since the 1990s, and the sexual abuse of children began to feature more prominently (one study suggests that the inquiries in the mid-1980s viewed sexual abuse in institution as part of a ‘bad apple’ syndrome (ibid. p. 83)). Most relevant to this amongst the post-1989 inquiries include the following:
(a) Scotforth House Residential School (1992), involving the physical abuse of children with learning difficulties;
(b) Castle Hill Residential School, Shropshire (1993) – sexual abuse of pupils by head of the school
(c) Oxendon House (1994) – inappropriate restraint and therapy techniques used by staff on older children with emotional and behavioural problems
(d) Islington: community homes, (1995) – concerns about risks to children from staff with previous child abuse convictions (see the charts of inquiries in Corby et al, Public Inquiries into Abuse of Children, pp. 77-78).
Other prominent inquiries from this period, including the Waterhouse Inquiry into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales (2000), can fairly be considered to be of a different nature to that requested here.
The Castle Hill Inquiry pinpointed the extent to which the abusing headmaster, Ralph Morris, was a ‘charismatic leader of the school who was very much in control of the environment’, how the particularities of the boys (who exhibited educational and behavioural problems) led to their not being trusted to be able to tell the truth, and called for independent schools to be brought more under the purview of authorities in order that allegations of abuse can be seen in their entirety and appropriately responses made (Corby et al, Public Inquiries into Abuse of Children, p. 84).
But also relevant in some respects as a model for an inquiry into abuse in musical education would be the ongoing Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry set up by the Northern Ireland Executive (http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/historical-institutional-abuse (accessed 28/5/13)). Noted in particular are the following:
• The “Acknowledgement Forum” allows people to contribute their experiences without any of the stress of having to appear on a witness stand. All info to be collated into a report, and records destroyed after the Inquiry ends.
• The “Statutory Inquiry” is more public and involves questioning, but not agressive cross-examination (and names cannot be published by the press). They have the legal authority to force institutions to release documents or appear for questioning if needed.
This may be a good model for the workings of an inquiry into abuse in musical education.
Issues which a public inquiry might address would include the following:
• The extent and nature of abuse of all types in specialist music education, providing opportunities for victims past and present to achieve some type of closure and be heard.
• The historical roots of secondary specialist music education since the foundation of the five schools between 1962 and 1972, and the models in terms of pedagogy and child welfare upon which they drew.
• The nature of psychological and emotional abuse and the dangers of its occurrence in musical education.
• The nature of regulation and safeguarding and how this affects independent schools who receive state money through the Music and Dance scheme. Proposals for the extent to which these schools might be brought in line with other state institutions.
• Requirements in terms of formal training for instrumental teachers.
• Only a minority of students will likely attain professional careers – potential for serious damage to those who don’t, who have devoted their all to becoming a musician.
• Guru teachers and their webs of control – charismatic cults and their effects upon pedagogy.
• Questions about whether the central focus of exclusive 1-1 teaching remains appropriate.
• The culture of classical music and the exploitation of unaccountable power towards those whose careers and livelihoods are always vulnerable. The extension of such a culture and its values into musical education.
• The tendency of musical institutions to insulate themselves from the wider world and normal demands in terms of humane treatment of those they nurture.
• That there is a sexual component to music (and musical performance) could not be plausibly denied– but how is this to be handled when teaching young musicians?
It is clear that there is abundant evidence pointing to widespread abuse within musical education. Some of this may be able to be addressed via criminal proceedings, but as indicated elsewhere, there are various factors deterring victims from speaking out; furthermore various forms of abuse do not constitute criminal activity (where the victim was between 16 and 18 prior to the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, or where psychological maltreatment is involved) or cannot be prosecuted because the perpetrator is now dead. Some police involved with criminal investigations such as Operation Kiso have made clear to the author that institutional culpability and the structural workings of institutions such as facilitate abuse are beyond their remit. And the institutions of musical education have not been subject to sustained investigation and scrutiny for a long time, despite being the recipient of state monies; wider issues of pedagogical approach and its relationship to child welfare in such contexts are greatly needed. It is for these reasons that it is believed that a public inquiry should be undertaken as soon as possible into musical education and the potential therein for abuse.
Appendix: Article by Ian Pace for Times Educational Supplement, published online 8/5/13
The culture of music education lends itself to abuse
Ian Pace studied piano, composition and percussion at Chetham’s School of Music from 1978 to 1986, followed by Oxford and Cardiff universities and the Juilliard School in New York. He has a dual career as concert pianist and historical musicologist, and is lecturer in music and head of performance at City University London. He writes here in a personal capacity.
My own formative years, between ages 10 and 18, were spent at Chetham’s – better known as Chet’s – from 1978 to 1986, always as a boarder.
I should make clear from the beginning that I do not consider myself to have been a victim of sustained abuse at the school. I received a good deal of valuable teaching that helped towards my professional career as a pianist and musicologist. However, the recent conviction of one teacher and the police investigation of many others have forced me to re-evaluate those times, the values I encountered and absorbed there, and their relationship to a wider classical music culture.
Many among the alumni have come together in recent months, often for the first time in several decades, and frequently with the help of social media. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the conviction of one teacher and allegations against others have been traumatic for many. They have led to varying degrees of disillusionment, regret, sometimes denial or disbelief. There have been attempts to recapture the most positive elements of the past as an antidote to these shocks.
Hardest of all to accept can be the idea that those who played an integral part in shaping one’s own musical identity and development – a deeply personal thing – may have themselves been deeply corrupted individuals responsible for sometimes heinous acts. An almost frantic piecing together of memories from the time can also give cause for sober reflection upon some aspects of the culture of the school.
In particular, there was the relatively common knowledge of affairs between (mostly male) teachers and (mostly female) students, the latter in most cases were over 16, but still students nonetheless. What sort of distorted values were at play when this was apparently not viewed as anything particularly unusual or untoward? From a youthful perspective, this seemed to bestow a certain status upon some of those involved (occasionally boys as well as girls) perceived as especially adult, sexually mature and sophisticated, despite still being children.
Many of the values and attitudes informing classical music today remain rooted in the 19th century. Among these is the idea that solo performance entails a highly intimate expression of the self, dealing with deeply intimate emotions. Or that it entails a seduction, captivation and bewitchment of one’s audience, which can objectify performer and listener alike. Both place the musician in a vulnerable situation that can be withstood from the vantage point of adult emotional and sexual maturity, but that is extremely testing and potentially dangerous for children.
And the focus of attention is not merely upon the sounds produced but also the visual appearance of the performer, their demeanour, gestures and facial expression. The outfits female musicians (and increasingly males as well) are expected to wear are often highly sexualised.
It would be disingenuous to deny that teenagers of all types, not just musicians, look to older, sexualised role models for inspiration, but when this becomes ingrained within their education itself, it can be ripe for exploitation. When music teachers take it upon themselves to mould not only the musician but the whole person of the young performer, that performer may be at risk of seriously damaging consequences if this is not handled with the utmost care. Most obviously alarming is the possibility of sexualised grooming, as is alleged to have happened in many cases at Chetham’s.
But wider patterns of psychological abuse can equally have devastating results upon students’ personal and emotional well-being, with severe consequences in later life. Behind the sometimes monstrous egos of successful solo musicians you frequently find common traits of narcissistic self-obsession, narrowness of outlook, ruthless competitiveness, vanity and the insatiable need for reassurance. They are all frequently conceived as aspects of “artistic temperament”. Their higher calling seems to exempt them from other laws of reasonable behaviour.
Historical examples of musical “great men” such as Beethoven, Liszt or Wagner serve to legitimise these attitudes and traits. Many conflict sharply with the empathy, humility and generosity of spirit that I believe to be vital for productive teaching.
Yet many musicians are engaged as teachers primarily on the basis of their achievements as performers, and the result can at worst be disastrous. It can lead to the cultivation of entourages of adoring young students to be moulded into quasi-clones of the great guru, as extensions of his or her ego. Sometimes, students who do not conform to these teachers’ expectations can be the subject of jealous resentment leading to callous cruelty through attempts to destroy their confidence. They dissect and amplify the student’s every fault while ignoring their strengths, sometimes in order to humiliate them in front of others.
In either case this constitutes psychological abuse in a way that would be completely unacceptable for a regular state school teacher. But institutions’ reputations are often founded on these “great musicians” and they have the power to make or break a student’s future career. Students’ desperation to please has for too long been allowed to mask a pattern of abusive behaviour.