Response to Stella Duffy on the arts, elitism, and communities

An article published in The Guardian last week by Stella Duffy (‘Excellence in the arts should not be defined by the metropolitan elite’, June 30, 2017) has generated a considerable amount of response on social media from musicians and academics I know. Rather than keep this debate within that social media bubble, I wanted to make public some responses to the thorny issues involved, so am printing these below. Personally, I can see how Duffy’s aims are well-intended and sincere, but the suggestions would create more problems than they solve (see my response below).

I am happy to print other responses, so long as they focus on the issues and do not entail any personal attacks – if people have some considered thoughts, please do post them below or e-mail me at ian at ianpace dot com , and I will have a look and may add them to these.

[ADDENDUM: Anna Bull has written a response to some of the posts below, which can be found here. Further responses to this blog post can be found here.]

 

Jim Aitchison, composer

It is disturbing that both the left (I assume here in this article) and the right seem to be marching together towards delegitimising aspects of education, specialisation, depth, command of material detail, dexterity, high levels of understanding and attainment and more challenging cultural substance. It seems to me naive to suppose that “genuine culture for all….and community-led culture” will see the demise of gates, shibboleths, exclusions, hierarchies, cronyism. It will simply be replaced by a different forms of ‘elitism’ (a new ‘elite’ of the rigorously and equally de-skilled and/or right-skilled, cleansed of supposed past forms of privilege, untainted by previous apparently bankrupt expert knowledge). I’m surprised to see what comes across as a very much left-leaning sensibility re-articulating sentiments that came out of the mouths of various well known right wing voices.

The kind of cultural practice I think she is referring to is already well in the ascendant – anyone who has to fill in an Arts Council GFA form will be aware of the necessity of the right kind of wider community engagement and that this has been a part of the application process for many years, and the rise of ‘collectivist’ community style work in visual art is definitely already present, ref Assemble winning the Turner Prize, and the activities of Open School East. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these kinds of community artistic practices and approaches which can be valuable and fascinating. However, they are also open to being as flawed as any other approach to making art, and it becomes a serious problem if their ideologies ever become mobilised as part of a process of cleansing out other approaches deemed unsound and wrong by some unaccountable panel of unchallenged ‘new elite’ arbiters spread out in the ether…. Hopefully the latter are as much a misleading generalisation as so-called ‘metropolitan-based thinking’.

 

Bill Bamberger, unaffiliated writer and translator.

This question, this conflation, is a major element in what makes the article’s arguments blurry and (in the long run, I think) subject to being abused for anti-intellectual and economic ends. “Culture” might best be considered anything that wouldn’t exist without people–be it material, intellectual, et al. “Creativity,” as she is using it, seems to mean simply making something, anything. lf so, in that sense, everyone can of course tap into their “creativity.” This is why so many who want to “work in the arts” (that is, get paid for doing so) are constantly having to drum up ideas that involve “outreach,” usually going into a school or a community and having a group “create” while they direct in some way. “The arts” then become both a commodity, and a profession like any other. Something else that’s conflated: “artist” with “someone who works in the arts.” They are not the same, in my mind. The underlying resentment beneath much of what is asserted/included in the article is, for many, economic more than aesthetic– 1) “Why should so and so get money for making music/paintings/etc. when I don’t?” & 2) The all-too familiar “Why does the government give some of my money to music/paintings/ etc. that nobody I know likes?” Such underpinnings do not “create inclusion” as much as they give everyone more justification to feel noble when they belittle or dismiss another’s efforts and achievements, and encourage the pushing aside of work that’s out of the ordinary. Obviously these are just a few facets of this big question, but, again, I think that yes, clearer terms would help immensely.

 

Geoffrey Chew, Professor Emeritus of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London

The Stalinist diktat of 1950 in Czechoslovakia: “Composers go with the people”, delegitimizing various types of compositional activity and announcing that they were henceforth invalid, including some activities that had been undertaken before the war by leftists anxious to bring culture to the workers. Peer review was now required (another of the pamphlets in the same series put it succinctly by saying that “Party criticism is a co-creator of culture”).

The pamphlet in question was a speech by Miroslav Barvík at the first plenary meeting of the Union of Czechoslovak Composers.There is an article online about it by Tom Svatos  though I think it is not very plausible that Barvík was primarily responsible for its contents – I guess he was jumping to orders.

 

Franklin Cox, Associate Professor of Theory, Cello, and Composition, Wright State University

I find the report painfully timely: “In the context of the deep and widespread political division expressed through the 2016 EU referendum campaign and vote, it is increasingly clear that new approaches to many of the UK’s political processes require urgent and radical attention. This includes how cultural policy operates – and who and what cultural policy is for.

I find this passage painfully obvious: the Brexit issue is going to be used as a wedge to push this person’s ideology. How is her ideology going to end the controversy over Brexit? Isn’t the issue controversial because people have radically different views on it? How will amateur art-making change that? How will it prevent Nigel Farage from lying to the public?

Culture shows us who we are; it reflects who we are now and supports us to become who we might be. …. then the culture we are sharing and consuming is not that of our whole society. It therefore not only fails to represent us, it risks contributing to the divisions we are now experiencing.

So according to this author, Shakespeare isn’t really culture, because it doesn’t reflect who we are “now” or support us in becoming “who we might be” (what a nonsense phrase!). This is a pretty obvious consequence of the thin notion of culture as “whatever people do”. So eating at McDonald’s is culture, too, as is shopping for designer handbags. I guess all we need now is to hold up a big mirror to reality and call it “culture”.

Why does this mirror need support? Culture is already going on all around us, and it doesn’t need any subsidies.

But this novelist – isn’t that an elite activity that doesn’t reflect culture as a whole? – wants funding for activities that she supports. Those evil old elite artists whose artwork evidently had something to do with Nigel Farage have to get out. Once we’re rid of them, there won’t be any more division in the arts community.

And let’s make sure to put up a big fence, too, so that can’t sneak back in.

 

Björn Heile, Professor of Music, Glasgow University

Those of us working in culture talk a lot about the arts ecology, but in any ecology some parts must die for new ones to thrive. It might be time to let go of some of our outdated practices. Our commitment to “excellence and quality” as defined by mainstream, metropolitan-based thinking many decades ago, might need to shift to a new version of “excellence and quality”, one defined by a new generation of makers and creators – and this time from every part of society.

It’s hard to say what Duffy has in mind (the whole article never mentions what kinds of art and culture she does and doesn’t approve of), but doesn’t that sound a tad Stalinist? The various dichotomies between ‘elites’ and ‘people/communities/everyone’; metropolitan/old and makers and creators etc. are really troubling.

Because the pool we’re drawing from is wider, we’ll get better art and better artists – and because science is culture too, better science and better scientists. 

We all want more people to engage with the arts, actively and passively, and this would have all sorts of positive consequences, but it isn’t quite so simple, and the reason for that isn’t that metropolitan-based thinking or elitism deliberately prevent this from happening.

The question is how quality is defined. There is silence on this here, but I guess what is implied in the text is: ‘that which involves or pleases the greatest number of people.’

 

Stuart MacRae, composer

Regarding the use of the terms ‘culture’, ‘creativity’ and ‘the arts’: surely there are clear distinctions? I think it’s partly the treatment of such terms as synonymous that leads to an either/or mentality in discussions about the arts and particularly their funding.

 

Michael Morris, Professor of Philosophy, University of Sussex

The argument for democracy in politics is not that it leads to things being done better, but that it’s part of the goal of politics that everyone should be a part of it. Similarly, there’s no reason to think democracy in art will lead to better art; and it’s not obviously a goal of art itself that everyone should be a part of it – even if that’s something we all might want for other (most obviously political) reasons. What this piece presents is a political goal presented as an artistic goal. The problem is that that then begins to look like a rather sinister politics, even, since it drills art, of all things, into conformity with politics.

 

Eva Moreda Rodriguez, Lecturer in Music, University of Glasgow

The work we are talking about – grassroots, created by professionals and non-professionals together, often in communities rather than on main stages and in recognised venues – largely takes place outside the funded mainstream. Allowing everyone to join in, not simply as audiences and consumers, but as active participants, as creators, will result in a far greater array of work to engage with.

How is this non-mainstream, I wonder? Every orchestra, opera, museum, writers’ centre etc. etc. in the country has a thousand outreach programmes where children and adults can “do” things for themselves.

 

Ian Pace, pianist and musicologist

Our commitment to “excellence and quality” as defined by mainstream, metropolitan-based thinking many decades ago, might need to shift to a new version of “excellence and quality”, one defined by a new generation of makers and creators – and this time from every part of society.

If Duffy was saying that arts funding and decision making are too centralised, and more of this needs to be devolved to the regions, I could absolutely agree. But it doesn’t sound like this is what is at stake? 

If we want cultural democracy, genuine culture for all, elitism must make way for creativity and community-led culture. We need to offer everyone not only access to the products of creativity, but access to the means and processes of creativity – only then will we have an inclusive culture for, by and with all.

This is uncomfortably close to the view associated with advocates of Hausmusik, the Jugendbewegung, and so on – and their disdain for educated or professionalised cultural activity. In that context it was linked to a virulent anti-semitism, with education and professionalisation in the arts associated with Jewish people. There is no sign of any such racial ideology here, but one should be wary of viewing ‘community’ as necessarily a wholly benevolent or benign thing. Communities are frequently defined as much by who they exclude as who they include; appeals to ‘community’ and rejection of ‘experts’ are the bread-and-butter of populist politics. The debate about competing forces of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft never gained the same traction in the English-speaking world, to my knowledge, as it did amongst Germans ever since Ferdinand Tönnies framed the dichotomy in his 1887 book (even though it was taken up by US sociologist Talcott Parsons). For obvious reasons, this debate became more urgent in Germany in the twentieth century, but I believe it is relevant more widely.

I certainly believe art has, and should have, a social dimension, but this is by no means necessarily synonymous with its simply attempting to satisfy and second-guess the supposed desires of particular ‘communities’. On the contrary, I believe it is vital that there can also be a critical art, which can deal with uncomfortable and unsettling phenomena, represent non-populist and minority perspectives, and look beyond the existing world (and existing societies) towards what might be, not just what has been. A space needs to be made for this in ways which are unlikely through the vagaries of the market, or for that matter through some types of community art projects.

The principle of facilitating art, especially the type of art I describe above, through money garnered through taxation and redistributed through public spending – via arts organisations administered by those with a regular day-to-day engagement with artistic activity, with politicians keeping some distance, is a good one, I believe, certainly better than relying on wholly undemocratic sources of private capital. Imposing narrow communitarian ends upon it is very limiting; art is not just a means for producing social harmony. The question of who gets to do the administering is a difficult one, and certainly it can lead to entrenched power, favoritism, and the like. Some mechanisms for periodic democratic review of funding decisions is necessary, and that does entail some oversight by politicians, who are at least subject to a democratic vote. But I believe this can be managed so as to be as fair and equitable as any rival systems.

Already there are many stipulations on arts funding, to do with access, outreach, education projects, demonstrating community benefit, and the like. I worry very much that decisions are being made on anything but the nature of the art being produced. Duffy’s proposals are very vague – for example, who selects which ‘makers and creators’ get to be the new aesthetic arbitrators? – if well-meaning. But I fear they would make this situation even worse. Placing populist stipulations upon artistic activity, as a condition of its being funded or otherwise supported, has a poor history associated with despotic regimes, mostly in order to marginalise and silence minority voices.

 

Camden Reeves, composer, Professor of Music, University of Manchester

‘I think people should create whatever they want to create. I think people should listen to, or go to, whatever they want to listen to or go to. I think people should read whatever they want to read. We don’t have to like what they all do. But I don’t really want any of us to tell artists what to do. That’s the fun of it: freedom.

Anyway, the only way to influence art is through art. If she wants to change culture, she needs to do that through her work. From what I know of Duffy’s work, she has every reason to have faith that it can do that.

 

Frances Wilson, who blogs as The Cross-Eyed Pianist

Today it seems to me that “excellence”, “achievement” and “inclusivity” are equated with commercial returns. It’s no longer “art for art’s sake” but whether the art (which has become “the product” is commercially viable. Will it create revenue, bums on seats, income. As I see it, this is the primary reason why arts subjects are being sidelined in education – they are not sufficiently “commercial” and do not bring obvious “returns”. Creativity is regarded as a dilettante activity because it does not necessarily produce visible, concrete commercial returns.

To be perfectly frank I want to stop having to read articles like this written by people who exist in a precious Uber middle class intellectually elite bubble and who exert their own view of what constitutes “culture” on the rest of us. In my romantic cultural utopia art galleries, theatres and concert halls are welcoming and open to all, not places that are guarded by the “educated” or intellectually elite (and I know plenty of people who’d like to keep them like that = exclusive). Many “ordinary people” do not engage with “culture” because they feel people like the author of the article do not think they are sufficiently “qualified” to engage with that culture.

 

Marc Yeats, composer

Choice. Everyone needs to have the widest possible choice when making decisions about what art and culture they enjoy and appreciate. Choice enables people’s participation in, and creation of art to develop across a lifetime.

For many, cultural choices are increasingly defined by what they are given. More precisely, what they are exposed to from an early age and throughout their lives through advertising, the media, fashion, block-buster films and various forms of music, for example. All too often, these experiences are guided by commercial considerations. In the case of music (and many other cultural outputs), there is a strong financial value backing the saturation of these perceived iconic forms of culture – it is all around us and product-placed in exactly the same way as a washing powder, new car or ‘can’t live without’ gadget. We are brainwashed into believing these products make our lives better, enhance our kudos or sexiness and most of all, represent our ‘relevance’ in modern society to the degree that the products ‘speak’ of whom we are and what we aspire to be. This is easiest to see where music is placed with products to enhance their value and where ultimately, the music having become recognisable through repeated exposure in advertising (or appropriation from elsewhere because of its recognisable qualities) can call to mind the product even when the product is no longer present – the music has taken on the marketed values that the product was deemed to possess. So it is with various strains of culture we are exposed to. It is easy to believe that in experiencing these cultural products and deciding which ones we need, we are exercising some kind of choice. It is true we are exercising a choice, but it is extremely limited and often belies a corporate ideology that is driven by profit. By its very nature of ‘flooding’ the market, this ‘profit motive’ drives out everything else. We end up having no choice at all, or rather, only the choices those who manipulate the cultural markets allow us to take through their forms of familiarisation.

It is easy for those who consume such culture to place a strong value on it, to invest in it, and of course, the marketing that envelops such cultural outputs easily becomes a self fulfilling prophecy inasmuch as the more people invest, the more they believe the product to be of a good quality, as we all get pulled into the market value system. And these cultures amass huge numbers of devotees, too, bringing further strength to the argument that it must be a good product because so many have invested in it. We end up with the scenario that we know what we like and we like what we know. When this reasoning becomes the new ideology to rationalise and give quality to a product, or in the case of this article, arts and culture, we are in a very dangerous position, not least because all objectivity is lost, replaced solely by the weight of financial investment, numbers and populism.

I’m not for one moment saying that all popular culture is not of quality, as that is blatantly untrue; but to assume, as in this article, that a new definition of quality needs to be established purely around many people having had a good time with an art experience, sets my alarm bells start ringing. And they ring even louder when this new definition of quality is accompanied by the rhetoric around ‘elitist art’ and ‘metropolitan based thinking’ which (exclusively) supports this ‘other’ non-popular art, being taken out of the picture completely, their perceived power base and value system destroyed and their work shown for the hollow, self indulgent sham it obviously is.

At the back of all this there is something fascist emerging – a compulsion to dictate, justified through mass appeal, what good art is, and how appallingly irrelevant elite art (whatever that is), has become, that it should be reappraised, downcast and even (as a sub text) seen as something filthy that represents everything that’s wrong with society’s pernicious divisions. It most certainly shouldn’t be supported with public money, as it doesn’t represent the people! Let’s put elite artists in the bin along with ‘experts’, but hang on to our beloved elite athletes, as they are loved by millions.

Change ‘elite’ for ‘minority’, and you can see where I’m heading.

Access, learning and participation in the arts are, I believe, an essential, life-enriching entitlement for everyone that should be accessible across a lifetime. Such opportunities are not just about fun (although it is a great starting point), but also about stimulating further interest, inquisitiveness, understanding, reaching out, challenging, gaining a context of your own culture set among others, development and aspiration. Most of all, participation and access, not least arts education in schools, is about exposing students to an informed and supported wide-ranging variety of cultural outputs that following explanation and discussion, ultimately equip individuals with the discernment and tools to make up their own minds about what holds value for them. Being able to contrast and compare empowers people to make the very choices I’m so keen on; choices that fewer children and adults are able to exercise with each passing year.

Yes, let’s absolutely acknowledge the areas of exclusion that exist across the arts and do everything we can to make them inclusive. However, you cannot achieve true inclusion or true choice through a pro-active agenda to exclude minority (non-populist) arts.

All people are capable of being creative, but not all creativity will lead to great art unless all criteria, discernment and objectivity is lost and ALL creativity equals great art. This article appears to suggest that a ‘democratic’, popular realignment of values will ultimately lead to everything becoming great because everyone enjoys it and says it is such.

Consequently, nothing will have any value at all.

 

Here are some further responses since the blog was originally posted:

Rose Dodd, composer

Stella Duffy writes a considered article on the current cultural landscape in the UK, as she sees it, from her area of activity. From my perspective ‘creativity and community-led culture’ has already made great inroads into places where elitism used to preside like an archaic old great uncle presiding like a boring, overbearing and outmoded oaf at the dinner table. Things have moved on. The UK is increasingly diverse and represented increasingly well in all areas of community arts practice to more specialist, niche artistic endeavour, including music. It is perhaps utopian to dream of a world where ‘all ages’ are engaged in further developing our cultural landscape. With inflationary pressures many are scraping just enough money to put bread on the proverbial table, while the few busy themselves in creative endeavour. Stella Duffy’s article outlines just one view of utopia; utopia being sought should surely be applauded by us all, in this dismal political climate. The Guardian could commission a series following on from this, expressing many views drawn from our contemporary cultural landscape, opening a proper conversation on the arts, shining as a hopeful beacon into the future. I for one, would advocate an overhaul of GCSE Music curricula, as these lessons are where music is first encountered in any formal sense to so many children. If the Music curriculum at this level were more relevant at this tantalising moment in a child’s life, there would be greater potential impact. There is so much to talk about in this vast sea of cultural exchange, (as is evidenced by the brilliant and strong opinions as initial replies/comments), Stella Duffy’s article is a solid beginning.

 

Max Erwin, PhD student, music, University of Leeds

If this article is dangerous, it’s not because it portends a sort of beer hall putsch of people who do pitch class set theory or whatever; it’s because it clothes itself in this particularly rarified language of condescension (although I believe this accusation has now been flung at the objections to it as well). Rephrased, the real threat of this article is not to the arts, but to the effectiveness of left-wing causes. There’s a sort of neoliberal hangover that media like The Guardian (and, in America, The New Yorker, the NYT, etc etc) have never really recovered from, this thinking that culture is at once popular, direct, monolithic, necessary, and emancipatory, that Stephen Fry and J. K. Rowling are important voices and thinkfluencers. Under this mode of thought, culture is not something that is participated in but rather hoisted upon the people, Adorno-and-Horkheimer-style. This is the thinking that allows liberals to chide Corbyn for quoting Shelley, as if a quip from Wonder Woman would somehow connect better: the idea that there’s one mass culture, that zeitgeist is a zero-sum game.

Frankly, I’m concerned that both the article and the responses to it are perhaps a bit wide of the mark. Brexit and Trump didn’t show that culture is elitist, they showed that there is no culture in the singular. Beyoncé’s support of Clinton was no less effective than Ferneyhough’s. The desire for “more people to engage with the arts” is itself the problem. It’s a blinkered transactional view: you read some Dickens, you gain x amount of empathy points; you binge Doctor Who, you’re plugged into the cultural mainframe. If arts and/or culture are truly worthwhile (and, you know, jury’s still out I guess), surely that worth is not best served by practitioners doing the sort of “outreach” done by knockoff-Rolex salesmen. If engagement is desired, it is served not through outreach, but economic reforms that restore the free time to the workweek of lower and middle class workers – artists and academics among them – that current deregulation and austerity has obliterated. Art and culture will always be there, the issue is creating a society where the enjoyment of life and all that comes with it is maintained to a degree that enables people to, as Camden put it, “listen to, or go to, whatever they want to listen to or go to.

 

Frances M. Lynch, singer and composer

It makes my heart sink to think of this – far from being a fashion, quality and skill are the backbone, the essence of arts going back through the mists of time – without it we face a future of mediocrity not of new and innovative ideas – as someone who rarely performs or writes these days for the so called elite I can see that everyone just knows and feels that quality when they experience it – regardless of background or education – without necessarily knowing why they know it (not always aligned with liking it…..)

 

Sasha Valeri Millwood, musician & musicologist; doctoral researcher, University of Glasgow

Arnold Schoenberg, in his essay ‘New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and Idea’, argues “if it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art.”. This chiasmus is an apposite corrective to those who claim that art could be an universal means of communication and engagement — even language cannot achieve that! There are as many interpretations of a work as there are interpreters; therefore, to speak, as Duffy does, of “culture by and for all”, is naïve at best and doctrinaire at worst (others have already commented eloquently on the political repression with which such paradigms have been associated). No society consists of a single, immutable “culture” (nor has any such society ever existed, notwithstanding the claims of some xenophobes), and a society which did consist thereof would not be a desirable outcome. Duffy’s rhetoric of “ecology”, and her argument that “some parts must die for new ones to thrive”, alludes to the natural environment. If one were to take that allusion further, one would observe that a thriving “ecology” in nature, rather than being a monoculture, consists of a variety of species (and indeed sub-species) which are, to various degrees, interdependent. Correspondingly, then, it would be the height of vanity and folly to require (whether through force or through funding pressures) all artistic endeavour to be conducted according to a fixed set of precepts and values, no matter how well intentioned.

Therefore, I find Duffy’s call for re-evaluating the criteria for “excellence and quality” to be suspect. Her conception appears (although does not claim explicitly) to be grounded in measuring the quantity of people directly engaged in the making of a work of art. Yet, it is possible for such direct engagement to be superficial; equally, it is possible for less direct forms of engagement to be profound, locupletative experiences. Leaving aside the issues of evaluating the quality of direct or indirect engagement, the fact remains that the impact of artistic endeavour is unamenable to quantitative measurements, and no amount of so-called “smart” technology, tracking, and surveillance will alter this fundamentally. Consequently, any attempt to implement a criterion such as, to quote Heile’s interpretation of Duffy’s article, “that which involves or pleases the greatest number of people” would end up becoming “that which can be measured by some objective, albeit potentially crude and unrepresentative, means as appearing to involve or appearing to please the greatest number of people in a demographic that matters, ostensibly at least, to policy-makers”. In reality, this latter criterion is already far too influential.

Whilst I dissent from Duffy’s conception of artistic excellence in terms of popular appeal, I am not against her suggestion that “We need to offer everyone not only access to the products of creativity, but access to the means and processes of creativity”. However, to suggest that only so-called “community-led culture” can achieve this would be myopic. One has to distinguish between socio-economic “elitism” and artistic rigour, the latter of which depends on elite training (which, inevitably and necessarily, is an expensive and time-consuming process). As Morris observes, Duffy has conflated political and artistic goals. So-called “accessibility” is often touted as a solution, yet what is really needed from creators and audiences alike is patience, a virtue which is all too scarce in a modern consumerist society which has moulded people to demand instant gratification and, as Yeats so eloquently explains, disenfranchised them from making meaningful choices. To create meaningful art (whether in an amateur or professional capacity) in most mediums or traditions depends on the protracted cultivation and development of intellectual and vocational faculties; similarly, connoisseurship of a given artistic tradition (or subset thereof) depends on a long-term education in the precepts, works, and contexts thereof. Thus, art can never be wholly “accessible”, for, to engage therewith (at any level, and from any perspective) requires some effort (however minimal or unconscious). That effort can be facilitated by others — for example, through research, teaching, and the mitigation of arbitrary impediments (determining which impediments are arbitrary may be a subjective matter in some cases) — but cannot be shirked. Ultimately, artistic endeavour is a process of striving, and one which rarely yields complete satisfaction. As the pianist Cyril Smith suggests in his autobiography, “even with eight hours’ practise [sic] a day, few pianists are able to achieve more than ten consecutive seconds of absolutely perfect playing a year

 

Michael Morse, musicologist

1. If we are not engaging everyone in the creation of culture .. then the culture we are sharing and consuming is not that of our whole society

Two mistaken assumptions for the price of one here. Who says that culture, never mind “the”culture, singular, should be for “our whole society” in the first place? It is ridiculous on its face to believe that adolescent dance music shouldn’t be different than Catholic church music and night club jazz and 19thc. Concert music. We are a diverse population, and diverse society; attempting to create a single culture for all of it all the time denies that truth at best, and forcibly and unjustly suppresses it at worst. Second, the division of labour between professional artists and audience members has been vital to culture of all kinds for centuries now. That professionalism has been seen to interfere with the cultivation of amateur, “do it yourself cultures,” and is usually just anti-intellectual snobbish masquerading as populism when it does. But the advent of computer tools has made this problem virtually disappear. If someone is really dissatisfied with the music of Mozart or Thelonious Monk, or feels their own genius somehow oppressed by the accomplishments of Titian or Paul Klee, there are dozens and hundreds of programs that offer a short circuit to self-expression, and offer a quick way around the years of dedication and hard work that go into great art; if that’s what we want. Again, even if it is, there is a perfectly adequate solution in place, and one that does not call for any state support whatsoever. Thus:

2. “a move away from culture by and for an elite, however well meaning, to culture by and for all” is dishonest and wrong. The contrast of “elite”and “by and for all” is a specious contrast that rests on deliberately misformulated opinion. Especially thanks to the internet, where the literature, art, architecture, music, film, and television of the entire world is available to us all, the notion that culture could be confined to an elite is preposterous. By now, “culture”is for anyone who cares to explore its possibilities in their own lives. Cultural gatekeeper is not a job with any security or fringe benefits!

3. “The work we are talking about – grassroots, created by professionals and non-professionals together, often in communities rather than on main stages and in recognised venues – largely takes place outside the funded mainstream. Allowing everyone to join in, not simply as audiences and consumers, but as active participants, as creators, will result in a far greater array of work to engage with.”
The obvious rejoinder to the first statement is to restore and expand arts education funding. The time for universal creative activity and expression is in childhood. Countless studies now show that artistic activity among the young sharpens their minds and enhances their performance even in the skills that matter, to this society, so much more than mere art, the playground of life. Science and math scores are raised when student learn art and music. The statement’s mandate could be further enhanced by expanding adult art education, too. The second statement is purely speculative. It does not tell us what “a far greater array” entails or looks like, or in particular what is missing from the presently available range of options. Would we all be better off with artworks from our neighbours than from professional artists? Even if we agree for the sake of argument that we might, there would have to be some kind of evidence for the claim. Unsurprisingly, this document offers none–because there is none.

4. “We desperately need to bring everyone into the cultural ecology, not for audience development (though that’s a happy by-product) but as artist development.” As above; the desperation here is pure fiction, based on misguided populist ideology, not on anyone’s artistic experience.

5. “If we want cultural democracy, genuine culture for all, elitism must make way for creativity and community-led culture. We need to offer everyone not only access to the products of creativity, but access to the means and processes of creativity – only then will we have an inclusive culture for, by and with all.” A final resounding statement of the author’s ill-informed prejudices, and one that at last reveals the problem, still unadmitted. Elitism” means the cultural products of the past, handed down to us from eras in which the artistic division of labour was indeed sharp. Even though most of Mozart’s patrons could have played his simpler pieces, and even his harder ones with a bit of practice, and even though Frederick the Great was a better than decent composer for his beloved flute, the classes of professional artist, of patrons, and of audiences were distinct. We no longer feel that way about ourselves and each other, nor do we live that way. To love the music of Haydn is not to embrace the feudal absolutism of his era, nor its gender roles or racism, either. Neither is it an admission that our own creativity is deficient. Haydn and Picasso and Sonia Delaunay and John Coltrane are not threats to our personal autonomy, they are role models and consolations. To demand they be replaced by my shiftless brother-in-law (or yours) is mean-spirited and callous, not democratic. Matthew Arnold believed that the mission of culture was to become a beacon for all, that all of us must have access to and education for the richest possibilities of the human palette. Expanding that palette does not mean a new exclusivity based on destroying our history.

 

Nigel Simeone, writer, musicologist, author, teacher

The author of this article ends by saying: “We need to offer everyone not only access to the products of creativity, but access to the means and processes of creativity – only then will we have an inclusive culture for, by and with all.” In terms of music, at least, I’d like to know what she thinks the “access to the means” is if it isn’t the acquisition of the relevant and necessary skills to perform/create music. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the “metropolitan-based thinking” or “elitism” who have become a handy scapegoat for more or less anybody encouraging the pursuit of excellence wherever and whenever and however it is possible. As someone who taught in secondary state schools for 10 years, then in universities for 15 years, and now – very happily – in an inner-city state school in Leicester, my current teaching has nothing whatsoever to do with any metropolitan elite and everything to do with trying to blow young people’s minds with the wonders of music – and to give them as many ways as possible of participating in that. What does that mean on a practical level? Exposure to all sorts of music they don’t already know themselves. And we use everything from plainsong to Gamelan (we are very lucky to have a Gamelan on long-term loan to my school), from Dufay to Miles Davis, from Elgar to Earth, Wind and Fire, from Janacek to the Jackson 5. With a composing task for students in, especially, Years 7-9, the idea is to aim for a creative response that aspires to some kind of artistry, discrimination, even subtlety. And if you have expectations of that, and the students know this, then it is perfectly possible to have entire classes who can produce interesting, surprising and sometimes beautiful work. I’m talking here about mixed ability groups of 11-13 year-olds as well as A-level students. Any teacher is going to want to share some of the things they love themselves – that’s not elitist: quite the reverse as the aim is to inspire and excite as many young people as possible about something about which the teacher is passionate. And they respond brilliantly to something out of the ordinary. Last week we had a visit from a young opera singer at the RAM and three classes of 11-12 year-old went berserk with enthusiasm in response to arias by Handel, Mozart, Verdi and (especially) Puccini. Exposing them to this kind of thing has a lasting impact on a significant number of our students – as does participating in performances of a wide range of music. How do we make that accessible? Well, where necessary, by teaching enough basic notation for students to be able to perform what they want to perform. That can be done quickly, it can be done for all, and it gives them wonderful opportunities to explore music of all sorts. I hope Stella Duffy understands that this sort of thing is going on, on a daily basis, and that it enables young people from mostly working-class families and a wonderfully diverse ethnic background (at the last count we had 64 first languages in our student population – not a Tower of Babel, but something to celebrate.

 

Below is a follow-up comment by Eva Moreda Rodriguez relating to an earlier article on the Fun Palace (Stella Duffy, ‘Fun Palaces 2015: realising the excellence of local communities, The Guardian, February 19, 2015)

My response above was based on the Guardian article from 30th June. My main issue with it was that it lacked detail and clarity around such loaded concepts as “community”, “creativity” and “culture”, among others, and by contributing to Ian’s original post and the ensuing Twitter conversation I was hoping to get more clarification around such concepts. However, having done some online research on Fun Palaces (which I don’t have any doubt is a fantastic initiative from which thousands of people derive enjoyment and reward), I came across the following article, which I find more problematic rather than it simply being conceptually unclear. Some of my issues with this article echo some of the opinions of my colleagues above, so I won’t repeat them again. I’d just like to add the following two things:

The expert simply reinforces the idea that the artist is other. The local person, on the other hand – perhaps not well-known or known at all, but expertly and compellingly enthusiastic – is a role-model who says: “I am from here, I am like you and that means you can do this too.” The local enthusiast, rather than the flown-in expert, underlines the possibility that we can all be creative.

The paragraph above strongly implies that “the expert” and “the local person” exist in opposition. I fail to understand why we cannot have both. Having grown up in a relatively small town with few opportunities to access high culture, I felt enormously inspired when a professional performer, novelist or scholar visited the town and played a concert or gave a talk. They showed to me what sorts of things were possible in the realms of music/writing/scholarship beyond what I had access to through, say, local amateur music groups or the local weekly magazine. Of course the latter two were tremendously valuable as well in terms of encouraging me and others to engage in creative pursuits on a day-to-day basis.

We believe that there’s a serious problem with the concept of excellence as it is currently used in arts subsidy. The excellence of artistic quality can only ever be a subjective value.

There is no acknowledgement here that measurements of “the excellence of artistic quality” can go beyond “I like this, you like that”. This certainly tends to be the case in contexts such as funding decisions or academic training. In my own teaching of music history, discussions often start with an open dialogue along the lines of “I like this, you like that”, but this is normally an invitation to dig deeper: why do I like this? When I say that I like or dislike something, which criteria matter to me? And if someone disagrees with me – can I ascertain and understand which criteria matter to them, and maybe try to look at the work again from their point of view? If I learn more about the genesis of this piece of music, does this change my opinion of it? The aim is not just academic discussion for the sake of it, but hopefully to encourage students to engage with music and art they might not have considered before, and to have a genuinely open mind towards others who might have different opinions. If we want all sectors of society to engage in art, culture and creativity, we should not just should empower them to “do”, but also to “think”. To do the former but not the latter is, to me, reminiscent of irrationalism and anti-intellectualism.


Response to Charlotte C. Gill article on music and notation – full list of signatories

An article in The Guardian by Charlotte C. Gill (‘Music education is now only for the white and wealthy’, Monday March 27th, 2017), has generated a good deal of attention amongst a wide range of international musicians, music educators, academics, and others. Below is the letter compiled for publication in The Guardian in response to Gill’s article, and a full list of over 700 signatories to date. The letter was compiled by Joan Arnau Pàmies, Kevin Korsyn, Franklin Cox, Barbara Eichner and myself, while Jim Aitchison, Marc Yeats, Camden Reeves and others have been extremely helpfully with its dissemination. It is published on the Guardian website here, and appeared in the print edition for Thursday April 6th, 2017 (‘Risky romanticisation of musical illiteracy’, p. 32). Some replies are printed here.

Also recommended are the response to Gill’s article by Michelle James, and an earlier article on musical literacy by Peter Tregear. See also this excellent responses by Pamela Rose , this by Helen Sanderson,  this by George Bevan, this by George A. Smith, this by Christian Morris, and this by Frances Wilson. Also the coverage on Slipped Disc, in Limelight magazine, and on Arts Professionaland an article from the Latin Mass Society (of which James MacMillan, a signatory below, is a patron), focusing in particular on Gill’s comparison of reading music to learning Latin. Another recent blog article considers the article in the context of changing expectations in UK secondary education, while composer and teacher Des Oliver has made an important podcast with Tigran Arakelyan about the article, and I have also made an extended podcast with Arakelyan, considering the article and wider issues of musical education, notation, literacy, privilege, and more.

For an utterly contrasting view to that of Gill, strongly advocating reading (and sight reading), composition, and musical history, being available to all schoolchildren by right, see this 1945 pamphlet by the Workers’ Music Association (hardly the voice of the wealthy), especially pages 5-6. Speaking personally, I think many of the recommendations in this pamphlet are as relevant now as they were 72 years ago. I have also blogged an inspiring defence of the teaching of Western classical music and literacy by Estelle R. Jorgensen, which I believe to be highly relevant to this debate.

I will happily add other names to the list: if you wish to be added, please post underneath with your name and how you would like to be described.

[Earlier addendum material on related subjects is included at the bottom of this post – this and the above constitute my own thoughts, not those of the signatories]

 

Charlotte C. Gill (‘Music education is now only for the white and wealthy’) argues that ‘to enable more children to learn [music], we must stop teaching in such an academic way.’ While rightly noting the increasing chasm between state and private education in terms of music provision, her conclusions about musical notation and theoretical skills amount to simple anti-intellectualism.

Gill dismisses the study of music ‘theory’ and argues patronisingly that musical notation is ‘a cryptic, tricky language (…) that can only be read by a small number of people’. This claim flies in the face of countless initiatives over two centuries making musical literacy available to those of many backgrounds. As with written language, musical notation enables effective and accurate communication, as well as critical access to huge amounts of knowledge. In many musical fields, those without it will be at a deep disadvantage and dependent upon others.

Gill’s comments about ‘limited repertoires of old, mostly classical music’ are unfounded and presented without evidence: composing, listening, singing, and playing are embedded in much musical education, which also widely encompasses jazz, popular, and non-Western traditions. Claiming that classical music comprises a limited repertory is inaccurate: composers have been adding to its repertory for centuries and continue to do so. We agree with Gill that aural and other skills are equally important as those in notation. However, through her romanticisation of illiteracy, Gill’s position could serve to make literate musical education even more exclusive through being marginalised in state schools yet further.

Alex Abercrombie, pianist and mathematician
Louise Ableman, freelance pianist and piano teacher
Richard Abram, editor
Juliet Abrahamson, erstwhile music teacher, and festival director
Peter Adriaansz, Composer, composition teacher, Royal Conservatory, The Hague
Jean-Louis Agobet, composer, professor of composition at Bordeaux Conservatory (France)
James Aikman, Composer in Residence, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra
Jim Aitchison, composer and graphic score artist
Helen Alexander, freelance musician
Helen Alipaz, Piano teacher and former music tutor at Ruskin Mill College, Nailsworth
Timothy Allan, singer, academic
Ralph Allwood, music teacher
Claire Alsop, Musician
Dr Pedro Alvarez, composer, Adjunct Lecturer, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Peter Amsel, author and composer (of notated music); former Musical Director of the Espace Musique Concert Society. Ottawa, Canada
Paul Andrews, Anglican priest with PhD in music, former music librarian and choral conductor
Samuel Andreyev, composer and teacher
Leonie Anderson, viola player and teacher
Tigran Arakelyan, youth orchestra conductor, Off the Podium podcast
Genevieve Arkle, PhD candidate in Music, University of Surrey
Newton Armstrong, Senior Lecturer in Composition, City, University of London
Christophe Astier, Clarinetist, Ensemble Orchestral de Toulouse, France
Jessica Aszodi, vocalist, doctoral candidate, Queensland Conservatorium of Music
Man Bun Au, Classical guitarist, Adjunct Lecturer, Hong Kong Baptist University
John Aulich, composer, freelance tutor in composition and theory, and recording artist.
Patrick Ayrton, conductor and harpsichordist, Professor at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague
Emily Baines: State school educated performer, lecturer, musical director and DMus candidate (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)
Brendan Ball, trumpeter and educator
Joshua Ballance, Music student
Simon Ballard, Concert Pianist and Composer
Nicholas Bannan, Associate Professor of Music, University of Western Australia
Richard Bannan, singer, conductor and Head of Singing, King’s College School, Wimbledon
Stephen Barber, Retired music teacher
Alejandro Barceló, musicologist and music theorist
Daniel Barkley, composer and PhD candidate at Queen’s University, Belfast
Matthew Barley, cellist
Keith Barnard, composer
Lester Barnes, composer, producer, and former music teacher
Kristina Baron-Woods, Lecturer in Music Theatre, University of Western Ontario
Richard Barrett, composer, Institute of Sonology, The Hague
Bernardo Barros, composer, improviser, Ph.D. Candidate/Teaching Assistant at New York University
Pam Barrowman, clarinettist, singer, teacher
Stephen Barton, composer (Titanfall 1 & 2, Call of Duty)
Nicholas Bartulovic, freelance composer, student of Politics, Philosophy, and History, Ashland University
Jane Becktel B.Mus.(Hons) Dip. Ed., Choir director
Pierre-Michel Bédard, Organist, composer, teacher at Limoges Conservatory
Adam Bell, composer, doctoral student, Brunel University
Prof David J. Benson FRSE, author of Music: A Mathematical Offering (CUP 2006)
Margaret Bent CBE, FBA, Emeritus Fellow, All Souls College
Niels Berentsen, PhD (Royal Conservatoire of The Hague)
Peter van Bergen, director LOOS Foundation/Studio LOOS, The Hague
Rebecca Berkley, Lecturer in Music Education, University of Reading
Mark Berry, Senior Lecturer in Music, Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Steven Berryman, Director of Music City of London School for Girls
Noel Bertram, Retired Head of Cumbria County Music Service
Dr Christopher Best, freelance composer, fiction writer and university lecturer
George Bevan, Director of Music, Monkton School
Dr. C.M. Biggs, performer; Director of Piano Studies, Cambrian College
Sue Bint, Music teacher, violinist
Sylvia Bisset, private piano teacher
James Black, MSt. in Musicology, University of Oxford
Deborah Blackmore BSc ACA scientist, chartered accountant and trustee of a children’s music education charity
Kate Blackstone, freelance musician, PhD researcher, University of Leeds
Darren Bloom, composer, Lead Tutor for Composition and Musicianship, Junior Trinity
Yvonne Bloor, Master of music, teacher and composer
Andrew Bottrill, pianist
Mark Bowden, freelance composer; Reader in Composition, Royal Holloway, University of London
Geraint Bowen, director of music at Hereford Cathedral
Andrew Bowie, jazz musician, Professor of Philosophy and German, Royal Holloway, University of London
Laura Bowler, composer, vocalist, Lecturer in Composition at Royal Northern College of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Karen Boyce, pianist/accompanist and music teacher. New Zealand
Martyn Brabbins, ENO Music Director, RCM Visiting Professor, Huddersfield Choral Society music director
Susan Bradley, freelance tuba, ophicleide, serpent, cimbasso player
David Braid, composer
Heather Bradshaw, violinist in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Brewerton, Principal, Plymouth College of Art
Lewis Brito-Babapulle MA, MSt, FRCO. Head of Academic Music, Trinity School, Croydon
Per Broman, Professor of Music, Bowling Green State University
Anne Brown, primary school music teacher
Harvey Brown, secondary music teacher and musician
Janice Brown, piano teacher
Mariko Brown, teacher, pianist, and composer
Martha Watson Brown Oboist, Composer and teacher of Music Theory
Thomas Brown, composer
Robin Browning, conductor; Conducting Instructor, University of Southampton
Kevin Brunkhorst, Chair, Music Department, St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
John Bryan, performer and Professor of Music, University of Huddersfield
Jason Thorpe Buchanan, composer, PhD Candidate, Eastman School of Music; Artistic Director, the [Switch~ Ensemble]
Lisete Da Silva Bull, professional musician, teacher, educator
James Bunch, Lecturer in composition-theory, KM College of Music and Technology, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Sarah Burn, freelance music editor and typesetter; completing a PhD involving notation and critical editing
Steven Burnard Violist BBC Philharmonic , learnt to read music at state school aged 7
Martin Butler, composer, pianist, Professor, University of Sussex
Peter Byrom-Smith, composer
Thomas Caddick, Director of the Tobias Matthay Pianoforte School
Dr Edward Caine, Composer, pianist and researcher for Ex Cathedra
Sara Caine, singer & oboist, GP
Jacqui Cameron, Education Director, Opera North
William Cameron, musician
Rachel Campbell, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Jay Capperauld, composer, saxophonist
Christian Carey, composer and Associate Professor of Music, Westminster Choir College
Gerry Carleston, B Mus, retired violinist and teacher
Stephen Carleston, organist & choir-trainer, music examiner and arranger
Tim Carleston, lay clerk, St George’s chapel, Windsor Castle
Gary Carpenter FRNCM, HonRAM, FRSA. Composer, composition professor Royal Academy of Music and Royal Northern College of Music, BASCA Director
Dr Paul Carr, composer
Philip Cashian, Head of Composition, Royal Academy of Music
Alan Cassar, composer and arranger
Peter Castine, composer, managing editor Computer Music Journal
Sam Cave, BA(Hons) PGdip (RCM), guitarist and composer, tutor in guitar at Brunel University
Roland Chadwick, Composer, Guitarist, Teacher
Oliver Chandler, Visiting Tutor in Historical Musicology, Royal Holloway, University of London
Alexandros Charkiolakis, musicologist, MIAM – Istanbul Technical University
James Chater, musicologist and composer
Eugenia Cheng, mathematician, educator and pianist
Anthony Cheung, composer, pianist, teacher (University of Chicago), co-artistic director of the Talea Ensemble
Pablo Santiago Chin, Adjunct Instructor, Music Theory and Composition, Saint Xavier University
Unsuk Chin, composer
Ray Chinn, violin teacher
Peter Cigleris, clarinetist, BMus (Hons), PGDip, Royal College of Music
Artur Cimirro, composer and pianist from Brazil
Keith W Clancy, artist/composer/computer musician, Melbourne, Australia
Colin Stuart Clarke, Classical music journalist
Raymond Clarke, pianist
Nicholas Clapton, singer and singing teacher
James Clarke, composer, Researcher, University of Leeds
Julian Clayton, conductor
Robert Coates FRCO(CHM), ARCM. Composer, organist and teacher, Harøy, Norway
Jacques Cohen, Conductor & Composer
Jonathan Cohen, former presenter, Music Time for BBC TV School’s programmes
Chris Collins, Head of Music, Bangor University
Rob Collis, singer and composer
Sarah Connolly, opera singer and teacher
Saskia Constantinou, Media Consultant and arts festival director
Dr. David Conway, music historian, Honorary Research Fellow, University College London
James Cook, University Teacher in Music, University of Sheffield
Rachel Cook BA MA, Pianist, orchestral musician and educator
Imogen Cooper, pianist
Brian Cope, composer, music educator and PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh
Roger Coull, violinist leader of the Coull Quartet, and conductor
Tom Coult. Composer, Visiting Fellow in Creative Arts, Trinity College Cambridge
Emma Coulthard, flautist, author and head of Cardiff County and the Vale of Glamorgan Music Sevuce
Franklin Cox, Associate Professor of Theory, Cello, and Composition, Wright State University
Mairi Coyle. Participation & Outreach Manager, National Children’s Orchestras of GB
Stephen Coyle, composer and PhD candidate at Queen’s University, Belfast
Ruth Crouch, Assistant Leader at Scottish Chamber Orchestra & violin teacher at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland & St. Mary’s Music School
Francis Cummings, violinist and Director of Music at Sistema Scotland, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Simon Cummings, composer, writer, researcher, PhD candidate, Birmingham Conservatoire
Fiona Cunningham, CEO, Sistema England
Harriet Cunningham, music critic, writer and doctoral student at UTS, Australia
David Curran, freelance music educator, PhD Candidate, Royal Holloway, University of London
Caroline Curwen, PhD student Psychology of Music, Sheffield University
Dr. Mat Dalgleish, Senior Lecturer in Music Technology and Course Leader for MSc Audio Technology, University of Wolverhampton
Giovanni D’Aquila, composer, composition teacher
John Daszak, opera/concert singer
Steven Daverson, composer, Lecturer in Composition and Sonic Arts, Brunel University London
Colin Davey, Education Programmes Manager, Royal School of Church Music, teacher and conductor
Julian Davis, amateur pianist, Professor of Medicine, University of Manchester
Gavin Davies, freelance violinist
Edward Davies, Head of Music, St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, Bristol
Jill Davies MusB, classical music artist manager and concert promoter, passionate amateur musician
Tansy Davies, composer
Rebecca Dawson, General Manager, Music at Oxford
Rebecca Day, Visiting Lecturer, Royal Holloway, University of London; Tutor in Music Theory and Analysis, University of Oxford
Caroline D’Cruz, B.Mus, ARCM, LRAM pianist and choral conductor
Nathan James Dearden, Performance Manager and Visiting Tutor in Music Composition, Royal Holloway University of London
Cornelis de Bondt. Composer, teacher Royal Conservatoire, Den Haag, NL
Lonnie Decker, Musician and Educator
João Pedro Delgado, viola, PhD researcher, Universidade de Évora, ESART-IPCB
Caroline Delume, Guitarist, teacher
Simon Desbruslais, trumpet soloist and Director of Performance, University of Hull
Dr. Luis Dias, founder and project director of Child’s Play India Foundation (www.childsplayindia.org), a music charity working to bring music education to India’s disadvantaged children
Josephine Dickinson, former music teacher, composer, and poet
Joan Dillon, Director of The Academy of Sacred Music/Voice Teacher
Alison Dite, pianist and teacher from Cardiff
Sarah Dodds, piano teacher, Associate Lecturer in music, The Open University
Emily Doolittle, composer, Athenaeum Research Fellow, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Sean Dowgray, percussionist, D.M.A: UC San Diego
John Duggan, composer, singer, teacher
Andrew Eales, pianist, writer and teacher
Leslie East, Chair, The Association of British Choral Directors; former CEO, ABRSM
Christiana Eastwood, Head of Music at The Granville School, Sevenoaks
Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice Chancellor, University of Birmingham
Jason Eckardt, Professor, City University of New York
Dr Paul Max Edlin, composer, Director of Music Queen Mary University of London, Artistic Director Deal Festival of Music and the Arts
Katheryne Perri Edwards, music educator for 37 years
Malcolm V. Edwards, Professor Emeritus of Music, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Barbara Eichner, Senior Lecturer in Music, Oxford Brookes University
Aaron Einbond, composer, Lecturer in Music, City, University of London
Dr Graham Elliott; Executive Director American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras; Washington DC, USA
Lynne Ellis, Chief Executive Officer, Berkshire Maestros and lead of the Berkshire Music Hub
Daniel Elphick, Teaching Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London
Mark Elvin, Bass Guitarist, Double Bassist, Tubist, Composer/Arranger/Transcriber, Educator, Conductor
Nick Ereaut, jazz musician, singer-songwriter, music teacher
Nancy Evans, Director of Learning and Participation, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Tecwyn Evans, conductor
Nick Evans-Pughe, Performer and school instrumental teacher’ (PGDip in instrumental teaching in which l researched the learning by children of (western classical) notation.)
Mark Everist, Professor of Music, President of the Royal Musical Association (signing in a personal capacity)
Judith Exley. Flute teacher and composer. Wellington, New Zealand
Pauline Fairclough, University of Bristol
Daniel Fardon, PhD student in Composition and Teaching Associate at University of Birmingham
Miguel Farías. Composer, PHD(c) in Latin American Studies, associated Professor universidad academia de humanismo Cristiano , Chile
Tony Faulkner, Independent classical recording producer and engineer
Greta Fenney, therapist
Adam Fergler, composer, arranger, and conductor
Laetitia Federici, freelance pianist and peripatetic piano teacher
Anneke Feenstra, mother of a musician
Cal Fell BA Hons LRAM Freelance musician State Educated
Professor Brian Ferneyhough, Stanford University
Coia Ibàñez Ferrater, Director of Xilofon Elementary School of Music
Jeremy Filsell, Professor of Organ, Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore USA
Janet Fischer, Soprano, Teacher, Managing Director Fulham Opera
Jonathan Fischer, TV Composer, Songwriter
Chris Fisher-Lochhead, composer and violist
Dr Kevin Flanagan, Senior Lecturer in Music, Anglia Ruskin University
Dr Alexandra Fol, composer; conductor and organist at Missione Maria Ausiliatrice, Montréal, Canada
Miriam Forbes, Director of Music, Witham Hall School
Peter Foster. Music Teacher
Christopher Fox, composer, Professor of Music, Brunel University, editor of TEMPO
Cheryl Frances-Hoad, composer
Luke Fraser MMus, composer and Piano Teacher for Arts First
Brigid Frazer, Kodaly based Early Years Music Specialist
Judith Fromyhr, Senior Lecturer in Music, Australian Catholic University
Tor Frømyhr, Coordinator of Strings Australian National University
Hugh Fullarton, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, Wangaratta
Alvaro Gallegos, music scholar, journalist and record producer
Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway, flautists
Tom Gamble, MMus Guitarist
Brian Garbet, composer, PhD candidate, University of Calgary, Canada
Ash Gardner, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, music educator, New York, NY
James Gardner, composer, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Eloise Garland, Musician, Teacher, and Deaf Awareness Campaigner
Tim Garrard, Director of Music, Westminster School
Mark Gasser, pianist
Ben Gaunt, Senior Lecturer Leeds College of Music, Tutor Open College of the Arts
Andrew Georg, repetiteur, State Opera of South Australia, organist
Patricia Giannattasio, Professor of Music, Bergen College in New Jersey; PhD candidate at The Graduate Center
Sean K. Gilde, ‘cellist with Astaria String Quartet, Head of Strings Dragon School Oxford
Don Gillthorpe, Director of Music and Performing Arts, Ripley St. Thomas CE Academy
Hannah Gill, pianist, organist, choral conductor and music teacher
Karen Giudici (Turner) ex professional freelance clarinettist, current primary and secondary music teacher
Rob Godman, Composer, Reader in Music at the University of Hertfordshire
Nigel Goldberg, Artistic Director, Youth Music Centre
Miles Golding BMus, LTCL, LRSM, free-lance violinist, teacher of violin, viola, music theory
Richard Gonski, Conductor Torbay Symphony Orchestra
Howard Goodall CBE, Composer, Broadcaster, Music Historian
Liz Goodwin, teacher, founder/director Flutewise
Sumanth Gopinath, Associate Professor of Music Theory, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
Adam Gorb, Head of School of Composition, Royal Northern College of Music
Stephen Goss, Professor, University of Surrey
Mark Gotham, Affiliated Lecturer, University of Cambridge
Dr. Barbara Graham, Retired Professor, Ball State University and amateur violist
Dr Michael Graham, postgraduate researcher, Royal Holloway; tutor, Rhondda Cynon Taff music service
Penny Grant, Singing Teacher and Soprano
Simon Gravett dip.TCL, Head of Music the Elmgreen School
Coady Green, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.
Robert Green, pianist, accompanist, jazz musician
Gavin Greenaway, composer, conductor, pianist
Helen Grime, composer, Senior Lecturer of composition at Royal Holloway University of London
Nicole Grimes, Assistant Professor of Musicology, University of California, Irvine
Jennifer Guppy, British national, resident in France. Class music teacher, at a Primary school and private piano and flute teacher
Christine Gwynn, conductor, pianist, coach, music workshop leader
Kerry L Hagan, Composer, Lecturer, University of Limerick
Stefan Hagen, Dilettant
Iain Hallam, singer and musical director of a cappella choruses
Marc-André Hamelin, pianist
Benedict Hames, viola player, Symphonie Orchester des bayerischen Rundfunk
Ross Hamilton, Peripatetic Percussion Teacher, Cornwall Music Service Trust
Helen Hampton, Director, Popchoir
Radka Hanakova, pianist
J. P. E. Harper-Scott, Professor of Music History and Theory, Royal Holloway University of London
Patrick Harrex, composer and Musical Director of Brighton & Hove Arts Orchestra
Dr. John Mark Harris, music educator and pianist
Sadie Harrison, secondary school peripatetic teacher of piano and music theory; composer and lecturer
Tom Harrold, composer, Honorary Associate Artist of the Royal Northern College of Music
Edward-Rhys Harry, conductor, composer
Béla Hartmann, pianist
Andrea Hartenfeller, organist, singer, teacher, Hesse/Germany
Per Hartmann, music publisher, Edition HH Ltd
David Harvey, D.Phil music, composer, guitarist, technologist, ex-CTO Sibelius, Tido
Waka Hasegawa, pianist, piano duettist and piano teacher
Katie Hassell, Senior Spacecraft Engineer, pianist and cellist
Arngeir Hauksson, Guitarist, Lutenist and music teacher
Jeremy Hawker B.mus, M.Teach, L.mus, professional guitarist and instrumental tutor at Townsville Grammar School
Steve Hawker, Inclusion Manager, Cornwall Music Service Trust
Sam Hayden, composer and academic, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Morgan Hayes, Professor of Composition, Royal Academy of Music
Benjamin Hebbert, Director, Benjamin Hebbert Violins Limited
Piers Hellawell, composer and Professor of Composition, Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland
Andrew Henderson, singer, keyboard player, secondary school Director of Music, primary school governor, committee member, MMA – Music Teaching Professionals
Áine Heneghan, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, University of Michigan
James Heron, violinist and violist
Ken Hesketh, composer, Lecturer, Royal College of Music
Helen Heslop, piano student, concert promoter
Anne-Marie Hetherington, Music Director and Head of Creative Arts in a successful secondary school, singing teacher, conductor
Gavin Higgins, composer
Rolf Hind, pianist, composer and teacher (Guildhall School of Music and Trinity Laban)
Maggie Hinder, GRSM ARCM ARCO, freelance music teacher and chorister
Alistair Hinton, composer, curator, The Sorabji Archive
James Hockey, musician, teacher, conductor
Jason Hodgson BMus (composer, disabled, and now studying MMus)
Ros Hoffler ABRSM examiner
Alison Holford, cellist and lover of sight-reading
Klaas ten Holt, composer, writer, composition teacher at Prins Claus Conservatorium, Groningen, the Netherlands
Michael Hooper, Lecturer in Music, University of New South Wales, Australia
Julian Horton, Professor of Music, Durham University
Tim Horton, pianist
Janet Hoskyns, Professor Emerita, Birmingham City University
Stephen Hough, pianist
Yvonne Howard, Opera/ Concert Singer & Professor of Singing
Dr Jocelyn Howell
George Huber, singer and mathematician
Dr David Russell Hulme, Director of Music and Reader, Aberystwyth University, musicologist and conductor
Alexander Hunter, composer and performer, Australian National University
Derek Hurst, Associate Professor of Composition, Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory
David Hutchings, conductor
Anne Margaret Hyland, Lecturer in Music Analysis and Admissions tutor at the University of Manchester
Miika Hyytiäinen, composer, doctoral student, University of the Arts Helsinki
Michael Ibsen, Classical Guitarist Mmus, British Columbia Conservatory of Music
Grahame Gordon Innes, composer
Professor John Irving, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London
Steven Isserlis, cellist
Dr Jenny Jackson, composer & private piano teacher
Stephen Jackson, conductor, choral director, composer and arranger
Julian Jacobson, musician
Alison James, Head of Music, Kelvin Hall School, professional musician, performance moderator
Lara James, tutor of saxophone, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Senior Associate teacher, Bristol University
Willem Jansen, performer and teacher, The Netherlands
Joel Jarventausta, composer and conductor, masters student at the Royal College of Music
Kate Johnson, Promotion & Communications Director, Music Sales Limited
Stephen Johnson, writer, broadcaster & composer
Fergus Johnston, Composer
Allan Herbie Jones, composer, musician, teacher.
David Jones, Head of Accompaniment, Royal Northern College of Music; Deputy Head, Junior RNCM
Gordon Jones, singer, former member of The Hilliard Ensemble
Jeremy Peyton Jones, composer, Reader in music, Goldsmiths University of London
Julia Jones Teacher of Music, City of London School
Georgina Jordan, pianist and teacher
Susanna Jordan, tutti 1st violin, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Frauke Jurgensen, musician, Lecturer, University of Aberdeen
Jari Kallio, music journalist
Matthew Kaner, Professor of Composition Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Rob Keeley, composer and pianist, King’s College
Susan Keeling, music graduate, arts administrator, amateur musician, parent
N W Kenyon, retired teacher
Dorothy Ker, Composer, Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield
Dr Steve Kershaw, jazz musician, Oxford University Department for Continuing Education
Isla Keys MA (Hons) ATCL PGCE, music teacher, singing & piano teacher, committee member MMA-Music Teaching Professionals
Christopher Kimbell, Visiting Tutor in Historical Musicology, Royal Holloway, University of London; peripatetic teacher in music theory
Owen Kilfeather, composer and writer
Andrew King, Professor of English Literature – and avid reader of music
George King, Head and Senior Lecturer (retired), Department of Art History, Visual Arts and Musicology, University of South Africa
Helen Kingstone, Postdoctoral Researcher in History, Leeds Trinity University (and pianist and choral singer)
Professor Andrew Kirkman, Peyton and Barber Professor of Music, University of Birmingham
Patricia Kleinman, Musicóloga
Grahame Klippel, Guitarist, Kingston University
Ruth Knell,  violinist, English National Ballet. Learnt to read music initially at the age of 6/7 in recorder lessons at an infant school on a council estate in the 60s
Annabel Knight, head of recorder, Birmingham Conservatoire
Kathryn Knight, CEO Tido Music and a director/founder of Sing Up
Matthew Lee Knowles, composer + piano teacher
Allan Kolsky, Orchestra Musician, Syracuse, NY
Kevin Korsyn, Professor of Music Theory, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Toni J. Krein, President of the Association of Swiss Professional Orchestras
Uday Krishnakumar, Composer
Prof. Dennis Kuhn, Head of the percussion and timpani dept, University of Music and Performing Arts Mannheim, Germany
Henny Kupferstein, piano teacher
Yannis Kyriakides, Composer, teacher Royal Conservatory, The Hague
Dr David Lancaster, Director of Music at York St John University
Vanessa Lann, composer, teacher
Jerry Lanning, conductor and arranger
Thomas Larcher, musician
David Lawrence, conductor
Andrew C Leach, organist, choirman in four cathedral occasional choirs
Elizabeth Eva Leach, Professor of Music, University of Oxford
Yekaterina Lebedeva, concert pianist, professor of piano Trinity Laban Conservatoire, visiting lecturer City, University of London
Norman Lebrecht, writer and broadcaster
Kelvin Lee, PhD Candidate in Musicology at Durham University, Conductor
Christian Leitmeir, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Erik Levi, Visiting Professor in Music, Royal Holloway University of London
Sally Lewis, pianist and teacher
Rebecca Leyton-Smith, Cellist and Cello Teacher at Uppingham School
Mu-Xuan Lin, Composer, and Lecturer at California State University Long Beach
PerMagnus Lindborg, composer, Assistant Professor, School of Art, Design, and Media, Singapore
Dr Alexander Lingas, Reader in Music, City, University of London; Fellow, European Humanities Research Centre, University of Oxford; Music Director, Cappella Romana
Tomasz Lis, concert pianist, teacher
Maureen Lister, Euphonium player
Rodney Lister, faculty department of composition and theory, Boston University School of Music, faculty The New England Conservatory Preparatory School
Lore Lixenberg, Experimental voice artist, Mezzo, Composer
Daniel Lloyd, Musician and author of No Notes piano music (tablature) designed to help beginners make a start with learning how to read and to play piano music.
Rick Longden, Lecturer in Music, Musician etc
Dave Longman, drummer, percussionist, teacher and author of “Skins Drum Performance Method”
Nick Loveland, COO, Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall
Sonia Lovett, television director of opera and classical music concerts
Shay Loya, Lecturer in Music, City, University of London
Neil Luck, composer, performer, music educator
Karl Lutchmayer, Senior Lecturer, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Frances M Lynch, singer, director, composer, teacher
Graham Lynch, composer
Tracey Mair, freelance piano and vocal tutor
Joshua Banks Mailman, Instructor of Music Theory, University of Alabama
Charles MacDougall, founding member of VOCES8, currently Choral Specialist for The Voices Foundation
Nigel McBride, Composer, BMus (Hons), MSt. in Composition (Oxon.), DPhil in Music (Oxon.)
Rachel McCarthy, doctoral candidate and visiting tutor, Royal Holloway, University of London
Paul McCreesh, conductor, founder and artistic director, Gabrieli
Maggie McCoy, Choral Arts administrator and choral musician
Elizabeth Macdonald, violist and arts administratorGeraldine McElearney, GSM,singing and piano teacher
Simon McEnery, singer, musical director (Salisbury Chamber Chorus), Associate Lecturer at the University of Chichester
Neil McGowan, Production Staff, Stanislavsky-Muzykalny Opera/Ballet Theatre, Moscow
Andrew McGregor, Broadcaster, BBC Radio 3
Jennifer Mackerras, recorder player; Alexander Technique tutor at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
John McLeod, composer
Sir James MacMillan, composer, conductor
Peter McMullin, Printed Music Specialist, Blackwell’s Music Shop
Stuart McRae, Composer, Lecturer, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Jason Matthew Malli, composer, sound designer, performer, producer, educator, arts advocate
Martin Malmgren, pianist
Kevin Malone, Reader in Composition, University of Manchester
Julien Malaussena Composer
Jane Manning, singer
Marshall Marcus, CEO European Union Youth Orchestra, President Sistema Europe
Daniel Margolin QC, lawyer, amateur musician and parent
Kypros Markou, Professor of Music, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI (graduate from Royal College of Music, London and New England Conservatory, Boston)
Katherine Marriott, mezzo-soprano
Daniela Mars, Flutist
Les Marsden, Founding Music Director/Conductor: The Mariposa (CA) Symphony Orchestra, Composer, Lecturer, University of California and Instrumental Musician
Andy Marshall, Senior Lay Clerk, Bristol Cathedral
Chris Marshall, Head of Professional Development, Birmingham Conservatoire
Barnaby Martin, composer
Domingos de Mascarenhas (DPhil) musicologist
Sandy Matheson, Nordoff Robbins music therapist
Alison Mathews MMus BMus(hons)RCM ARCM, composer, private teacher, pianist
Colin Matthews, composer
David Matthews, composer
James Mayhew, artist and narrator
Gijs van der Meijden (The Netherlands). Microbiologist by profession, not a musician in any practical sense, but a deep lover thereof
Cecília Melo, Magistrate
Virgílio Melo, composer
Miguel Mera, head of Music, City, University of London
Chris Mercer, composer, Lecturer, Northwestern University
Nathan Mercieca, Teaching Associate, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University
Jonathan Midgley, lay clerk, Ely Cathedral
Max Midroit, pianist
Chloe Millar, violinist, freelance musician and teacher
Richard Miller, Composer, Arranger/Orchestrator, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Christopher Brooks Composition Prizewinner, Director of Music, St Michael’s Church, Camden
Sasha Valeri Millwood, MA (Cantab.) MMus (GSMD), musician, musicologist, & doctoral researcher, University of Glasgow
David Milsom, Head of Performance, University of Huddersfield
Ruth Milsom, freelance teacher of piano and music theory, and accompanist
William Alberto Penafiel Miranda, 
Composer/Pianist at Queens College (Aaron Copland School of Music
Madeleine Mitchell, state-school educated violinist, professor, Royal College of Music
Cara Ellen Modisett, pianist, Episcopal music director and essayist
Kerry A. Moffit, Master Sergeant (Retired), United States Air Force Bands and Music Career Field, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Orchestra Musician (lead and jazz trumpet), Grammy winner, and professional musician for 40+ years.
Alison Moncrieff-Kelly, cellist, music educator, and examiner
Josephine Montgomery, violinist, early years string teacher
Ivan Moody, composer, CESEM – Universidade Nova, Lisbon
Adrian Moore, composer, Reader in Music, University of Sheffield
Gillian Moore, Director of Music, South Bank Centre
Eva Moreda Rodriguez, Lecturer in Music, University of Glasgow
Dittany Morgan, former Sub principal Viola BBC symphony and teacher of Violin/ Viola
Huw Morgan, freelance choral director and organist
Kate Morgan, Director of Music, Harrogate Ladies’ College
Katie Morgan, flautist, music writer, and flute and music theory teacher
Michael Morse, composer, educator
Tim Motion, Photographer and musician
Catherine Motuz, trombonist
Thomas Mowrey, former producer for Deutsche Grammophon and Decca
Theresa Muir, Ph.D. Musicology, conductor and singer
John Mulroy chorister at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Gordon Munro, Director of Music, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Tommy Murtagh, cellist and educator
Rachel Musgrove, director, daytime choirs for retirees
Rachel Neiger, Pianist and teacher
Lisa Nelsen, Flute player, artist for Yamaha International, Tutor for Junior Guildhall School and former Specialist Flute Tutor at Wells Cathedral School, UK
Thi Nguyen , GSMD, IoE (MA in Music Education), violinist and teacher
Mike Nichols, Bassist. ACM lecturer, ABRSM consultant. Regularly work in orchestras and non reading bands
George Nicholson, composer, Professor in Composition, University of Sheffield
Marten Noorduin, Postdoctoral research assistant, University of Oxford
Kirk Noreen, Founder/Director, Ensemble Sospeso, New York, Composer
Mariko North, pianist
Dr Patrick Nunn, Lecturer in composition, Royal Academy of Music, London
Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE, double bassist, Founder, Artistic Director Chineke!
Richard Nye, BA (Hons) FLCM PGCE, teacher and composer
Michael Nyman, composer
Lady Anita O’Brien, Violinist/ Music Teacher
Dolors Olivé Vernet, music teacher, Headmaster, Teresa Miquel i Pàmies Elementary School
Des Oliver, composer
Philip Olleson, Emeritus Professor of Historical Musicology, University of Nottingham, and Immediate Past President, The Royal Musical Association
Nicholas Olsen, composer
Clare Orrell, primary school headteacher and music graduate
Jill Osborn BMus, private piano teacher
Richard Osmond, Director of Music, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School
Ursula O’Sullivan, music teacher and musician, CSN College of Further Education, Cork, Ireland
Rebecca Oswald, composer, pianist, former faculty at the University of Oregon School of Music
Luke Ottevanger, Director of Music, composer
Martijn Padding, head of composition department, Royal Conservatory, Den Haag
Ian Pace, pianist, Lecturer, Head of Performance, City, University of London
Professor Carrie Paechter, Head of .Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
Christopher Painter, composer, brass bandsman, lecturer, music publisher, trumpet player. Barry, South Wales
Joan Arnau Pàmies, composer, Aural Skills Instructor, Northwestern University
Dr Tom Pankhurst, Music Teacher and Author
Tom Parkinson, composer and sound designer, Royal Holloway, University of London
Ben Pateman, Flautist and retired music producer
Anthony Payne, composer
Jenny Pearson, freelance cellist, teacher at Severn Arts Worcester
Michael Pearson, professional violinist
Jane Peckham BMus, MA, School Governor, Double Bassist
Tim Pells, Head of Guitar and Lecturer, Colchester Institute and Centre for Young Musicians
Chris Pelly, Concerts Series Administrator, University of Leeds
Damian Penfold, conductor and primary school governor
Ian Penwarden-Allen, choral conductor and teacher of music
Selah Perez-Villar, pianist and music educator
Lola Perrin, piano teacher, composer
Dr. Jeffrey Peterson, Associate Professor of Vocal Coaching/ Opera Conductor
Baylor University, Waco, TX
Theodore R Peterson, Composer
Joe Pettitt BMus(hons), bassist, bandleader and teacher of jazz bass and electric guitar at Westminster School and Trinity School, Croydon
Stephen Pettitt, writer and critic
James Philips, Classical Guitarist and self taught music reader
John Pickard, composer and Head of Music, University of Bristol
David Pickett, Former Prof., Indiana University School of Music, conductor, musicologist, tonmeister
Oliver Pickup, composer
David Pickvance, film and TV composer, composer-in-residence to the BBC
Jenni Pinnock, composer and instrumental tutor
David Pinto, performer with the Jaye Consort and musicologist, contributing editor to two volumes of Musica Britannica
John Pitts, composer and music teacher
Stephen Plaice, librettist, Writer in Residence Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Tamasine Plowman MA
Lara Poe, composer and pianist, graduate student at RCM
Irini Urania Politi, artist, teacher, amateur musician
Rosie Pollock, BMus MA (learned notation aged 6/7)
Benjamin Pope, Conductor working with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestras
Francis Pott, Professor of Composition & Head of Research, London College of Music, University of West London
Caroline Potter, Reader in Music, Kingston University
Eleri Angharad Pound, freelance harpist and composer, amateur choir singer
Jonathan Powell, pianist
Mark Powell, Conducting Scholar / ALP Faculty, Eastman School of Music
Steph Power, composer, critic, writer on music
Gillian Poznansky, flute player and examiner
Scott Price, Director of Music, The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School
Dr Nicholas Stefano Prozzillo
Toby Purser, conductor
Peter Puskás, promoter and artist manager
Irene Quirmbach, violin instructor at the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, IL (USA), active freelance violinist
Giovanni Radivo, concertmaster, Orchestre national de Lyon (France)
Caroline Rae, Reader in Music and pianist, Cardiff University
Lorenda Ramou, pianist, musicologist
Sanna Raninen, Research Associate, University of Sheffield
Torsten Rasch, composer
Nadia Ratsimandresy, ondist and Professor of onde Martenot and ondéa, Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Boulogne-Billancourt
Manvinder Rattan, CEO and Head of Conductor Training, Sing for Pleasure
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor, principal conductor, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor-elect, London Symphony Orchestra
Robert Rawson, Reader in Music, School of Music and Performing Arts, Canterbury Christ Church University
Steven Reale, Associate Professor of Music Theory, Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH
Carla Rees, Music Programme Leader, Open College of the Arts
Camden Reeves, Professor and Head of Music, University of Manchester
John Reid, pianist and teacher
Chris Rice, Director, Altarus Records
Sally Richardson, Artist Manager; owner of Tashmina Artists
Christiaan Richter, composer
Dr Tim Ridley, Director of Music, Glenalmond Gollege
Judith Robinson, Creative Project Leader for Education, Sound and Music
Heather Roche, clarinettist, co-editor of TEMPO
Dr Marc Rochester, lecturer in music history and criticism, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore
Paul Rodmell, Head of Music, University of Birmingham
Carlos Rodriguez, pianist, conductor and MBA from ChileJames Roe, President & Executive Director, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York City
Martin Roscoe, pianist, Professor, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Pamela Rose, ABRSM Theory Examiner, Music Educator
Daniele Rosina, Director of Orchestral Studies University of Birmingham, Conducting Tutor, Birmingham Conservatoire
Luke Roskams, retired violinist
Tish Roskams, B.Mus retired music teacher
Toby Roundell, composer and educationist
Rebecca Rowe, composer and music educator
Cyrilla Rowsell, Kodály specialist, teacher at GSMD and for the British Kodály Academy, co-author of Jolly Music
Edward Rushton, composer and pianist
Julian Rushton, Emeritus Professor of Music, University of Leeds
Isabelle Ryder, private piano teacher
Leo Samama, composer, musicologist, educator and author (The Netherlands)
Abel Sanchez-Aguilera, pianist and biochemist, Madrid
Helen Sanderson, Winston Churchill Fellowship in guitar education, Artistic Director of National Youth Guitar Ensemble, CEO of Guitar Circus, guitar professor at RWCMD
Anthony Sandle, opera singer
James Savage-Hanford, freelance singer and Visiting Tutor in Theory & Analysis at Royal Holloway, University of London
Melinda Sawers, Director of Music, Wadhurst, Melbourne Grammar School (Australia)
Paul Scanling, Music Director, Marietta Symphony Orchestra
Brian Schembri, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
Jonathan Schranz, Choral Conductor, London
Thomas Schmidt, Professor of Music, University of Manchester
William James Schmidt, pianist & composer, MMusPerf (University of Melbourne), MA (MUK Vienna)
Christian Schruff, Journalist – Musikvermittler, Berlin
Annelies Scott ARAM, cello and music theory teacher
Fred Scott, founder, Soundpractice Music
Matthew Scott, Professor of Composition, University of Southampton; Head Of Music, National Theatre (retired)
Peter J D Scott, Teaching Fellow, University of Bristol
Robert Secret ARAM, conductor & viola player
Florian Scheding, University of Bristol
Jeffrey Siegfried, saxophonist, doctoral candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Linda Shaver-Gleason, PhD Musicology, University of California, Santa Barbara
Susan Sheppard, teacher of cello at RNCM and Trinity Laban and teacher of Latin
Daniel Sherer, professor of architecture, Columbia University and lifelong pianist and music lover
Rachel Shirley, Music teacher; PhD researcher in Music Education, Lancaster University
Andre Shlimon, musician and teacher
Robert Sholl, University of West London and The Royal Academy of Music
Martin Shorthose, Cantor and Choir Director, Antiochian Orthodox Church in the UK. Ex Layclerk at Coventry and Liverpool Cathedrals
Alexander Sigman, composer, researcher and educator
Angela Elizabeth Slater, Composer
Jeremy Silver, conductor, pianist, vocal coach
Nigel Simeone, music teacher, English Martyrs’ Catholic School
Mark Simpson, BBC Philharmonic Composer in Association and former BBC Young Musician of the year 2006
Wendy Skeen, BMus(Hons), Guildhall School of Music & Drama; Freelance pianist and piano teacher
M I Skinner, M.St. (Mus)(Oxon), PG Dip MTPP, ALCM, Dip ABCD. Musician, teacher, conductor, and musicologist
Shirley Smart, jazz cellist, musicianship and improvisation teacher, City, University of London, and Royal College of Music Junior Department
Ben Smith, pianist and composer, postgraduate student, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Charles J. Smith, Slee Chair of Music Theory, University at Buffalo
David J. Smith, Professor of Music, University of Aberdeen
George Smith, composer and freelance piano/voice teacher, University of Southampton graduate
Harriet Smith, music journalist
Steve Smith, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist
Tim Smith, Director of Music, St. Mary Harrow on the Hill/Arts Faculty Leader, Heathland School
John Snijders, pianist and Associate Professor of Music Performance, Durham University
Ernest So, concert pianist
Peter A. Soave, Concert Accordionist, Founder Peter Soave Music Academy, in Sauris Italy
Stephen Soderberg, Senior Specialist for Contemporary Music (retired), Music Division, Library of Congress
Zoë South, (state-educated) professional opera singer, singing teacher
Clare Southworth, Professor of Flute RAM
Shauna Spargo, amateur violinist, soprano in the local church choir (learned to read music at 6 when I had free violin lessons at a state primary school)
Jeroen Speak, freelance composer and teacher
Simon Speare, Head of Composition and Contemporary Music, Royal College of Music Junior Department
Mic Spencer, Associate Professor of Music, University of Leeds
Jane Spencer-Davis. Accountant specialising in musicians and violist
Mary Stagg, Primary Music specialist
Sarah Steinhardt, piano teacher, Greenwich Academy, CT USA
James Michael Stergiopoulos, retired electronics engineer
Adam Stern, conductor (Seattle Philharmonic, Sammamish Symphony), Seattle WA, USA
Clare Stevens, music journalist
Susanne Stanzeleit, violinist, tutor, Birmingham Conservatoire
Peter Stoller, songwriter, music writer, popular music archivist and historian at Leiber/Stoller Productions
Danny Stone, brass teacher, former classroom teacher (state sector U.K.)
Denise Stout, Choral Director
George Strickland, freelance oboist, postgrad at Royal Northern College of Music
Ashley Sutherland, music librarian, freelance clarinettist
Owain Sutton, private instrumental teacher
Professor Bill Sweeney, composer
Aleks Szram, Academic Lecturer and Piano Professorial Staff, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Caitriona Talbot BA Mod, freelance music tutor, Sefton
Diego Jiménez Tamame, composer
Gábor Tarján, composer, percussionist, Musical Director Het Filiaal
Christopher Tarrant, Lecturer in Music, Anglia Ruskin University
Mark Tatlow, conductor, educator, researcher Department of Culture & Aesthetics, University of Stockholm
Michelle Taylor-Cohen, Violinist, educator & arranger
Alun Thomas, professional violinist /Alexander Technique Coordinator Trinty Laban
Marisa Thornton-Wood, professor of piano, Royal Academy of Music
Paul Timms, music teacher, pianist, violinist & conductor
Phillip Tolley, Choral Music Advocate, British Choirs on the Net
Mikel Toms, conductor
Daniel Tong, pianist. Founder, Wye Valley Chamber Music. Head of Piano in Chamber Music, Birmingham Conservatoire
Julian Tovey, singer and lecturer, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Simon Toyne, Executive Director of Music, David Ross Education Trust
Peter Tregear, Professor, Royal Holloway, University of London
John Traill, Director of Music, St. Anne’s College, Oxford University; Director, Oxford Conducting Institute
Natalie Tsaldarikis, pianist, teacher, PhD student, City, University of London
Kathleen Tynan, Head of Vocal Studies and Opera, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin
Fredrik Ullén, pianist, professor of cognitive neuroscience
Luk Vaes, pianist, reseacher, teacher
Maura Valenti BM, The Juilliard School; MM, Yale School of Music; current MPhil student in musicology, University of Oxford
John Van der Slice, composer
Dr Edward Venn, Associate Professor of Music, University of Leeds
Massimiliano Viel, Composer and Professor at Conservatory of Milan, Italy
Simon Vincent, composer, performer, and former Visiting Lecturer at City University London, University of Bayreuth, University of Potsdam and University of Applied Sciences Potsdam
Matthew Vine, volunteer music teacher (Kampala, Uganda)
Andrea Vogle, Percussion Tutor RNCM, JRNCM, Chetham’s School of Music
Zerlina Vulliamy, prospective university music student and DfE Music Scholar RCMJD
Alison Wahl, soprano, singer-songwriter, and music teacher
Charlie Wakely, Physics teacher and amateur musician
Helen Wallace, Kings Place Music Foundation, Soundsense Music
Neil Wallace, Programme Director, Doelen Concert Hall, Rotterdam
Richard Wallace, violist Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, viola tutor Bangor University
David Warburton MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Select Committee on Music Education
John Warburton BMus Hons Tonmeister, Associate Lecturer, University of Surrey Department of Music and Media
Dr Michael Ward, concert pianist, conductor and composer
Philippa Ward, pianist, teacher, Wellington, New Zealand
Jenny Warren, maths teacher and classical soprano who learned to sight read at state school
Celia Waterhouse, Piano Teacher, Music Educator, Lead Editor for British Kodaly Academy Songbook
Ashley Wass, pianist
Huw Watkins, composer and pianist
Hannah Watson, secondary school music teacher, violinist
Rachel Watson, cellist, cello teacher with experience of secondary school teaching
Trevor Watt, former music student, now lawyer
Dr Richard Wattenbarger, musicologist, Adjunct Instructor, Music Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sarah Watts, Associate in Music Performance at Sheffield University, bass clarinet tutor RNCM, Clarinet tutor at Nottingham University
David Way, violinist/violist/teacher
Philip Wayne, Headmaster, Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, also Musician
James Webb, Director of Music, Hull Collegiate School
Gillian Webster , Opera Singer and teacher
James Weeks, composer, Associate Head of Composition, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Marcus Weeks, composer and jazz and reggae trombonist
Richard Whalley,  Senior Lecturer in Composition, University of Manchester
Mike Wheeler, music writer and adult education tutor, WEA
Simon Whiteley, BMus, Lay Clerk at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and founder member of The Queen’s Six, a cappella ensemble
Adam Whittaker, Post-doctoral researcher (Music and Music Education), Birmingham City University
Dr Anthony Whittaker, composer, piano teacher and examiner
Sally Whitwell, composer, pianist. BMus(Hons) ANU, Australia
Joanna Wicherek, pianist and teacher
Judith Wiemers, PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast
Charles Wiffen, Assistant Dean, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University
Louise Wiggins, PhD student, University of Bristol; harpist; and peripatetic music teacher
Emma Wild, Freelance Violist
Christopher Wiley, National Teaching Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Music, University of Surrey
John Willan, former EMI producer and Managing Director London Philharmonic
Ceri Williams, music teacher
David Carlston Williams, Organist and Music Teacher
Victoria Williams AmusTCL BA music theory teacher
James Williamson. Composer, PhD candidate at the University of York
Chesterton K. Whiteman, adjunct professor of composition, Oral Roberts University
Dr Alexandra Wilson, Reader in Music, Oxford Brookes University
Andrew Wilson, Freelance musician, and Head Teacher, Teesside High School
Jay Wilkinson, flute and theory teacher
Katherine Williams, Lecturer in Music and Head of Performance, Plymouth University
Frances Wilson LTCL (AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist); pianist, writer, and teacher
Jayne Lee Wilson, Music Lover & Reviewer, FoR3 Forum
Natalie Windsor, BaHons PgCert (Birmingham Conservatoire), Mezzo soprano, jazz singer and music teacher
Lorraine Womack-Banning, pianist, piano teacher, adjudicator
Jaye Wood, BA Hons, freelance classical piano and voice teacher
Toby Wood, Music recording engineer and producer
Liz Woodhouse, piano teacher
Ronald Woodley, Professor of Music, Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University
Catherine Woodman. Head of Keyboard Studies at Redmaids High School and examiner
Kenneth Woods, Artistic Director, English Symphony Orchestra
Christopher Woolmer, Organist, teacher, Director of Music, Oakwood School, Purley
David Wordsworth, conductor and agent
Dr Emily Worthington, freelance clarinettist/Lecturer, University of Huddersfield
Andrew Wright, School of Education, University of Buckingham
Elspeth Wyllie, Pianist, Teacher, member of the ISM
Catherine Wyn-Rogers, opera singer and teacher
Anna Wyse, B.Eng. M.Sc.(Eng), AIEMA
Joshua D. Xerri, Sub-Organist (St Alphege, Solihull), singer, composer
Amit Yahav, pianist, doctoral student, Royal College of Music
Paul Yarish, pianist, Registered Piano Technician, organ student
Marc Yeats, composer and visual artist
Nina C. Young, Assistant Professor of Music Composition & Multimedia Performance, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Toby Young, composer, Junior Research Fellow, University of Oxford
Jay Alan Yim, composer, Associate Professor of Music, Northwestern University
Alistair Zaldua, composer and conductor, visiting lecturer in Music, Canterbury Christ Church University
Mirjam Zegers, music consultant, teacher, amateur pianist
Nicolas Zekulin, Chief Executive & Artistic Director, National Youth Orchestras of Scotland
Patrick Zuk, Associate Professor in Music, Durham University
Julio Zúñiga, composer, graduate student, Harvard University
Rasmus Zwicki, composer

[ADDENDUM: Since first placing this letter online, I have been alerted to two relevant phenomena: the Department of Music at Harvard University have now removed a requirement to study theory, or Western art music history, from their core curriculum . Worse, Texan musicologist Kendra Leonard has created a ‘Privilege Walk’ for musicians, a way of publicly shaming those who, for example, were taught music theory (no. 12), care about notated music (no. 19), can read more than one clef (no. 36), or had advanced instruction in a foreign language (no. 39). It is not clear from Leonard’s biography if she teaches regularly at an institution, but certainly such ‘privilege walks’ exist elsewhere in the US; I will blog more about this on another occasion. In case anyone is unclear, as stated above this addendum does not form part of the letter to which signatories put their name and represents a personal view.]

 


Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture

I was privileged to chair an important paper by Dr Geoff Baker, Reader in Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Royal Holloway College, University of London, on Wednesday October 29th at my own institution, City University London. This was a penetrating and hard-hitting talk on the institution of El Sistema (Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, now renamed Fundacíon Musical Simón Bolívar), founded in 1975 in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu, purportedly to provide access to musical education for impoverished children, and now a global organisation operative in 60 countries, with major branches in the US, UK and Portugal. Baker’s research, based upon fieldwork in Venezuela (consisting of observations, interviews and archival work), is some of the first to take a critical view of the institution (most other writing has simply reiterated the institution’s own propaganda in relatively unmediated form, a peril for musicology about which I wrote last year); he looked first at the dominant narratives presented by the acolytes, and set this against information about the political activities and machinations of Abreu, the founder, the relationship of the institution to banks and other financial institutions, its total adherence to some of the most authoritarian and cruel ‘disciplinary’ approaches to musical education rooted in nineteenth century Europe, the issues involved in holding a middle class European musical model up as the root to salvation (little Venezuelan or other South American music is played by El Sistema), and the ultra hierarchical structures the organisation embodies and perpetuates. Furthermore, he questioned the basis upon which the organisation’s claims to be helping poor children, drawing attention instead to the predominantly middle-class make-up of the institution and its showcase ensemble, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, not to mention the rise of the leading conductor Gustavo Dudamel (b. 1981) at the behest of a socialist government, so that he could become the face of a Rolex watch advertising campaign.  Baker’s book El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) has just been released in the US and will be released in the UK in January; he has also maintained an extensive blog on El Sistema for a while.

Earlier this week, Baker published a short article in The Guardian arguing cogently some of the above points (Geoff Baker, ‘El Sistema: A Model of Tyranny?’, The Guardian, November 11th, 2014) which brought of his research and conclusions to a wider audience for the first time. This immediately brought a great many reactions, many of them – by those emotionally or otherwise wedded to El Sistema – quite negative, which have been collected in various places (see Hannah Ellis-Petersen, ‘Venezuela’s El Sistema music scheme is ‘model of tyranny’, UK academic says’, The Guardian, November 11th, 2014; Norman Lebrecht, ‘Exposing the Underside of El Sistema’s Musical Revolution’, Slipped Disc, November 12th, 2014; ‘”El Sistema”: un modèle de tyrannie?’ France Musique, November 13th, 2014; ‘Gustavo Dudamel: “Estoy en evolucíon permanente”‘, El Universal, November 13th, 2014 ; ‘El Sistema se defiende ante acusaciones’, Ultimas Noticias, November 13th, 2014 ‘Sistema de Orquestas prepara una generacion avasallante. El director Dietrich Paredes revela que viene un lote de orquestas’, El Universal, November 14th, 2014Phil Miller, ‘Academic makes a noise over tuition row’, Herald Scotland, November 15th, 2014 ). Baker has himself posted some other responses on the blog.

I am expecting to receive my own copy of Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth on Monday, so have not yet been able to read it in full. I write as one deeply sceptical about some branches of ethnomusicology, especially some of them involved with the study of institutions. Much research depending heavily upon results gathered through fieldwork, where sources remain anonymous, requires a good deal of faith on the part of the reader that the researcher is giving a fair representation, when it is difficult to test this against data. Having heard Baker’s paper and read his articles and blog, as well as having had quite extensive correspondence and exchanges with him over these subjects over an extended period, it is clear to me that this important research is poles apart from some of the hack work in this field of which I would be most critical (as with the lack of context, knowledge of or interest in the area of activity, or musical engagement, of Georgina Born’s study of IRCAM or Hettie Malcolmson’s study of the BMIC New Voices scheme, amongst the poorest examples of the genre, or the pedestrian work of Kay Kaufman Shelamay on the Boston Early Music Movement, spending a good deal of time only to discover very elementary results). Baker’s work appears not to be about proving a polemical point with respect to a singular methodology to the exclusion of all others, nor a self-aggrandising assertion of the domination and superiority of the author over their subject in the manner of Born, but a piece of work far from easy to have undertaken, resulting from a process of research which led the author to seriously rethink his earlier benevolent or at least benign assumptions. This is not to say that I am unlikely to have some criticisms of the final work – in the below, for example, the conclusions (which may be quite tautological, as some of the authors, wishing to deny the validity of any sexual dimension to power, would define a sexual encounter involving a power imbalance – true of the vast majority of all possible encounters – as exploitative) cited of Catherine Donovan, Liz Kelly and others could do with more critical treatment rather than simply the ‘We know, because of…..’ approach to argument.

Nonetheless, this work is naturally of great interest to me as one involved in research into the nineteenth-century symphony orchestra and all its associated structures and ideologies, the history of musical education, and above all the potential for abuse in the latter. Baker is acute on locating specifically sexual abuse within the wider culture of the institution, about which I will write more on a later date. With this in mind, I am able for the first time to give a preview of some of the material (not mentioned in the City presentation but alluded to in the Guardian article) by Baker on sexual abuse within El Sistema. This is disturbing material which requires extensive investigation immediately, and in which I hope some journalists will take a wider interest.

SEX AND EL SISTEMA

Many stories that circulated privately concerned sex. This is hardly surprising given El Sistema’s age profile and orchestras’ reputation. Seminarios, which see large numbers of teenagers and young adults sent off on long residential courses, are notorious, and the reports that emerge sit uneasily with Abreu’s austere, moralistic discourse.

Less predictable and more problematic than the frequent tales of promiscuity and infidelity was the relative normality of sexual relationships between teachers and pupils. On my first day in the Veracruz núcleo I had lunch with a teacher and his rather young-looking pupil/girlfriend; the next time I saw her she was wearing her school uniform. Rodolfo, a longtime Sistema musician, described a culture of permissiveness at all levels of the organization. He reported three cases of teachers being caught having sex with pupils in teaching rooms at a Sistema institution. He described this scenario as an institutional rather than individual problem, the result of a culture of turning a blind eye.

Eva, another Sistema musician, felt that there was a widespread problem around sex. She named five prominent Sistema teachers who were alleged to have a particular inclination toward their female pupils. One Veracruz teacher was renowned for working his way through female students during seminarios. Two núcleo directors had dated school-age members of their orchestras.

Relationships between teachers and pupils (some under eighteen) are conducted openly; they are not even viewed askance, much less the object of sanctions. This may be a consequence of blurring the line between youth and adult orchestras. Yet Eva was concerned that such relationships were clouded by institutionalized imbalances of power: students’ career prospects are often in the hands of their teachers and directors, putting pressure on students to accept invitations or advances. Eva spoke from experience, having dated a teacher herself while a student.

The age of consent in Venezuela is sixteen, making most such relationships legal, but they would be illegal in some of the countries where El Sistema has been lauded and copied, and would be banned, taboo, or at least contentious in most countries because of the institutional connection and power imbalance between the parties. Sexual relations between teachers and students aged under eighteen have been illegal in the United Kingdom since 2001. Some music education institutions prohibit sexual relationships between faculty and students of whatever age, and the composer Michael Berkeley proposed a blanket ban on such relationships within U.K. music institutions (Higgins 2013).

Eva also reported an incident of group sex at a seminario, involving both teachers and students. Those responsible were caught and thrown out of the seminario, but they went back to their núcleos and carried on playing in their local orchestra and giving lessons to children. There are no criminal record checks on teachers, she claimed, and most sexual misdemeanors are brushed under the carpet.

Most disturbingly, a number of allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in my interviews. Two former Sistema students claimed to have been victims themselves, while a number of prominent individuals—including three founders, a senior journalist, and an institutional head—stated that they knew victims or had strong suspicions of abuse. Two teachers and two former students made similar claims. Several older musicians had heard rumors of abuse involving figures of authority, though most claimed to be unsure about their accuracy. One prominent Venezuelan musician said about allegations of sexual abuse: “I know some very serious individuals who claim this with certainty.” He went on, however: “It is something so horrendous that I prefer to forget about it.”

One ex-Sistema musician described the program as “like a chain of secrets and favors—like a secret society.” She claimed that stories of sexual abuse were widespread and that other young musicians regarded the trading of sexual favors as an unremarkable, even humorous, subculture within the orchestra. She mentioned so-called niños bonitos (pretty boys) appearing with brand-new, expensive instruments: “you think, there’s something more going on there than just talent.”

One established musician with whom I discussed these issues emailed me a few days later: “Now that we are on this strange aspect of our subject matter, I am getting commentaries from almost everyone I talk to, with exactly the same script. Molesting attempts, then departed from Sistema, kept the secret for years.” Four current or former Sistema musicians made allegations about the covering up of cases of sexual abuse. “These kinds of issues have always been managed with impressive stealth,” confided a founder. “It’s really difficult to prove the things that have happened because the network of complicity is very extensive.” He named several of his contemporaries, now senior figures in El Sistema: “Among ourselves, when we were adolescents, I heard comments from them that suggest that some things happened that were at the very least incorrect.”

There is no concrete evidence that these allegations or suspicions are true, for all that many come from seemingly reliable sources. It was impossible for me, a foreign musicologist, to assess their veracity, particularly since many related to events that had allegedly taken place years or decades earlier; but the regularity with which they surfaced in interviews, conversations, and Internet forums was striking. Whatever the reality, stories of sexual abuse circulate in and around El Sistema and form part of its belief system.

Nevertheless, my informants were unaware of any significant action being taken as a result. Allsup and Shieh (2012, 48) write: “At the heart of teaching others is the moral imperative to care. It is the imperative to perceive and act, and not look away.” The starting point for social justice is noticing and responding to injustice, they argue. Such attitudes seem to have been somewhat thin on the ground in El Sistema. Yet they would appear to be vital to a project that claims to connect disadvantaged young people and classical music, since it could be argued that the kinds of practices and relationships commonly found in classical music education create the perfect conditions for sexual abuse—a point raised repeatedly during a scandal that erupted recently around U.K. music schools and colleges.

SEXUAL ABUSE AND CLASSICAL MUSIC SCHOOLS

In 2013 thirty-nine current and former teachers at Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) were investigated for alleged sexual abuse of pupils, with several other specialist music institutions also implicated (Pidd 2013). As former students began to speak out, it became increasingly clear that the problem had been endemic, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, though allegations spanned four decades. Former Chetham’s pupil Ian Pace (2013) was among those calling for a full public inquiry given the number of stories circulating in the music profession yet the reluctance of victims to come forward “in a close-knit world of classical music in which careers are dependent upon the whims of a few powerful individuals.”1

William Osborne, in a comment posted to Slipped Disc on February 17, 2013, pointed to the obstacles to uncovering this issue, helping to explain why decades may pass before such problems are properly investigated: “victims often do not find the understanding, confidence, and support to speak out until they are adults.” One obstacle is a lack of support structures; another is denial. In the words of Michal Kaznowski (2013), cellist of the Maggini Quartet and former pupil at the Yehudi Menuhin School: “if you had confronted me aged 15 and asked me about the school I would have told you it was a wonderful place with huge opportunity. [. . .] Almost nothing would have made me talk about the lessons and my humiliation and pain.” If many victims simply could not articulate their experiences, those few who did found their complaints were generally swept under the rug. Even when problems were common knowledge and reported, allegations were extremely hard to prove. It was thus very rare that anyone spelt out the problem in public or took significant action to confront it.

There is increasing recognition today not just that sexual abuse has been a widespread and longstanding problem within classical music educational insti- tutions, but also that there is a particular relationship between the abuse and the institutions. In other words, there is a systemic problem within classical music education, not simply a few rogue individuals or schools but a more generalized culture of abuse, manifested internationally. Tindall (2005) suggested that faculty-student sexual relations were part of the landscape of North American music schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Osborne provided a catalogue of more recent cases of sexual harassment and abuse from North American and European institutions and orchestras.2 Robert Fitzpatrick (2013), former dean of the Curtis Institute of Music, went much further, describing physical, psychological, and sexual abuse as endemic in European and North American conservatoires since the nineteenth century, yet, “[l]ike the Catholic Church, music schools tended to sweep their dirty little secrets under the rug. Students were never willing to discuss the improper actions of their instructors because of fear of reprisal that could sink their career as a performer.” Fitzpatrick’s own institution had been nicknamed the “Coitus Institute” in the 1930s. Among the soul searching, there were suggestions that abuse of one kind or another was an inherent feature of learning classical music.3

Several prominent musicians spoke out about the risks of intense, power- laden, one-to-one teacher-student relationships in hothouse musical environments. Vicci Wardman, a former teacher at the RNCM, described this relationship (Pidd, Ibbotson, and Carroll 2013): “Its very nature is intimate, detailed and precise, and most often conducted behind closed doors. [. . .] Tragically, that very structure can also be an invitation to the sort of predators who up to now have operated freely within musical institutions.” Martin Roscoe, another former RNCM teacher, identified classical music schools as high-risk places, pointing to the combination of one-on-one lessons, the idolization of top players, teenagers “with hormones going berserk,” and the music itself: “you are inevitably touching on the most passionate places of the soul with adolescents” (Higgins 2013b).

Researchers are beginning to respond to this issue and underline the need for serious examination. Gould (2009, 66) describes sexual harassment as “music education’s unspoken ‘dirty little secret,’” one that demands urgent attention. Bull (2012) confronts the “sexual economy” [that] shapes both the well-known phenomenon of sexual relationships between music teachers and students; and the now-emerging issue of child sexual exploitation and abuse that this relationship arguably facili- tates, with its privacy, intimacy and entrenched power imbalances. It is well established (e.g., by Catherine Donovan, Liz Kelly, and many others) that power imbalances (for example, age differences) between adults are a predictor for abusive or sexually exploitative relationships. I would argue that the combination in classical music pedagogy of intense musical experiences, intimate one-to-one lessons, and the authority of the teacher or conductor, is a perfect recipe in which sexual exploitation or abuse can occur, and so examining structures of power and authority in classical music institutions and practices is an urgent point of investigation.

Given the systemic nature of this problem, it is important to know what child protection measures El Sistema has in place. I could not make an official inquiry without jeopardizing my research, but Sistema musicians in Veracruz were unaware of any specific institutional measures. Many Sistema teachers receive little training of any kind, let alone child protection training targeted at preventing abuse. Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus that clear institutional strategies are essential to combating this problem, so establishing a rigorous and widely known child protection policy would surely be a wise move. Fitzpatrick (2013) gives a detailed list of suggestions for avoiding and dealing with cases of abuse, and in comments on his post, Osborne provides examples of programs and training that have been implemented in some European and North American institutions, such as clear sexual harassment policies, specifically assigned staff, and online reporting of complaints. Such developments reflect a shift in attitudes since the 1970s and 1980s—a shift that still seems to be waiting to happen in El Sistema.

The reports that I heard in Venezuela raised a number of fundamental issues. El Sistema’s disciplinary focus, production of power differences, male dominance, and opaque, autonomous institutional culture are ideologically problematic in themselves, but they also create the perfect conditions for abuse. The urgency of critiquing these dynamics is thus redoubled. As discussed in Chapter 3, progressive scholars of music education have been wary for some time about hallowed institutions such as specialist music schools, and their views have been borne out by recent events in the United Kingdom. Their argument that schools need to be put under the spotlight is irrefutable, and El Sistema is no exception, since reports of abuse (psychological as well as sexual) from Venezuela suggest that endemic, problematic features of classical music education are being reproduced rather than revolutionized in El Sistema.

The knottiest question of all, however, is whether intensive classical music education is the most suitable focus for a program centered on vulnerable children and youths. Power imbalances are at the core of sexual abuse, and they are as evident in El Sistema as in classical music institutions in other countries. Given the emerging evidence of an endemic culture of abuse in such institutions, putting vulnerable children in this situation looks like a high-risk strategy. Indeed, one ex-Sistema musician reported that his núcleo director tried to abuse him precisely when he, at that time a troubled adolescent with family and drug problems, went looking for help. Classical music education appears to be a problematic sphere, and adding at-risk youths may be creating a potentially volatile combination.

At present, the allegations and suspicions that circulate around El Sistema are no more than that. However, events in the United Kingdom illustrated that even world-renowned institutions had skeletons in their closets; that grave problems could take decades to become public knowledge; and that while these problems were discussed within musical circles, many students were nevertheless unaware of them. The fact that this problem has not emerged publicly in Venezuela does not therefore mean that it is insignificant there. Even stern, open critics of El Sistema told me that they would not touch the issue of sexual abuse, despite having heard about it, for the simple reason that conclusive evidence was too hard to come by. Also, the fear factor that Pace describes in the United Kingdom is even more pronounced in Venezuela: El Sistema’s dominance of the national classical music scene means that any public allegation would be tantamount to professional suicide. It may take careful research, then, to determine whether the silence hides personal troubles that ought to be turned into a public issue.


A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigning

The link above details a visit made by BBC Radio 4 reporter Becky Milligan to the office of Labour MP Simon Danczuk, together with his parliamentary aide Matt Baker. Here she encounters much correspondence concerning allegations of abuse by politicians, several about that at Elm Guest House. A solicitor got in touch, to mention a visit in the early 1980s to Barnes Police Station, representing a young boy who had been at EGH; had been interviewed, police got aggressive and pushy, she stepped in to say this was unpleasant for her client. The police took the solicitor to one side and showed her a statement from another boy, saying he had been raped at the house by politicians and judges, which left the solicitor utterly shocked. Danczuk and Baker are hoping to encourage the solicitor to go to the police about this now. Baker is sure there are police officers themselves in possession of dynamite information on this (one reason why an amnesty is needed to ensure they can come forward with details). If true, the alleged activities at Elm Guest House, and the cover-up entailed, beggar belief – I would recommend those not yet aware of this to read this account by an alleged survivor of the house, this terrible article from the Daily Star in 1982 alleging that ten-year old boys were made to act as sex slaves for 13 hours per day for adult men and women, and this series of articles reproduced on the Spotlight blog.

Baker speaks of an occasion recounted by a former police officer, in which a floor of a hotel was raided where a range of paedophiles were found, all with boys in their beds. Amongst those pulled in by the police was a very prominent individual; the officers were told not to say anything about this – if they did they would lose their pension and would never be promoted. Baker said that this former police officer was cynical about possibility of an amnesty, saying no Home Secretary would allow that. It is incumbent upon Theresa May to make provisions for this as soon as possible, and for Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, to make a pledge to make such an arrangement if Labour are returned to power next year.

Clearly since Danczuk’s Select Com appearance, his office has been inundated by phone calls with terrible stories of abuse, many involving very prominent figures. Milligan sits in on an interview with a former pupil of Knowl View Residential School, subject of a major investigation into sustained abuse and its cover-up. Upsetting interview in which the man intimates how he is seen as someone no-one wants to go near, because he was abused. And conveys the terror of the place, and how every detail stays with him on a daily basis, saying that ‘Knowl View School will stick in my mind like it’s happening now in this room’.

Danczuk and Baker talk about how personally upsetting all of this is, and their coping strategies. Whilst nothing like on the scale of that they have known, I have some experience of how this feels, from a time at the beginning of 2013 when in the space of a couple of weeks I received hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and messages on social media from survivors of widespread abuse in music schools and conservatoires, often with horrific detail, combined with information about callous or malicious cover-up and bullying on the part of others in a position to do something about it, but not prepared to do so, preferring to protect the reputation of their places. The effect of all of this is depressing and disspiriting beyond belief. It can fill you with a mixture of feelings of hopelessness, paranoia, massive anger, and a sense that most else in the world seems pretty trivial in comparison – also it can be very hard for your partner if they see you so preoccupied by all of this. Naturally I can only speak with any certainty about my own experience, though communicating with others has suggested this is far from atypical. Happily I see an excellent therapist on a weekly basis, who has helped a lot with dealing with everything that this involvement brings. Doing so has changed my life and I am quite sure it has changed that of Danczuk and Baker – and those other politicians and campaigners who are exposed to this sort of material on a daily basis.

Some of the blasé members of the Labour Party have been very aloof and stand-offish towards Danczuk (and Tom Watson, and I would guess others who have been very active campaigners such as John Mann), not least because he serialised his book on Cyril Smith in the Daily Mail (the North London Labourite paper of choice, The Guardian, probably wouldn’t have touched it, and has a somewhat murky history of its own in terms of giving a platform to paedophile Tom O’Carroll, and also presenting lesbian child abuse in a positive light, in an article I will post after this), and his investigations might implicate some senior Labour politicians as well. This is unfortunately a typical attitude of those who would put the reputations of their parties (or leading figures in their parties) before the interests of children, and exactly how cover-ups work. Danczuk and Watson and Mann (and equally Tories such as Zac Goldsmith and Tim Loughton, Liberal Democrats John Hemming and Tessa Munt, who has bravely spoken out about her own experiences of sexual abuse, Green politician Caroline Lucas, and various others, not least the over 140 MPs who signed the call for a full national inquiry well before the Home Secretary agreed to one) have on the contrary worked relentlessly on bringing these issues to public attention, for sure at no small personal cost to themselves, and my admiration for them could not be greater. All of them are a model for politicians of the future, in order to restore some confidence in the possibility of meaningful political action at Westminster.