Why is it always music teachers?

Why is it always music teachers?


norman lebrecht

December 22, 2010

This one forced little girls to strip and held their heads under water while acting out some bizarre fetish. He’s a London choirmaster, 73 years old, and he was jailed yesterday for seven years at Snaresbrook Crown Court, the full details appearing in The Daily Telegraph (and why is it always the Telegraph that is first to the sleaze?).

Read it here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8216847/Music-teacher-jailed-for-holding-pupil-underwater-to-satisfy-fetish.html
And then ask why it always has to be music teachers, and why so often in Britain. Is it because music, like sport, has tactile teaching elements that attract perverts? Or does music grant a license to perverts to act out their fantasies?
I have no statistics to hand, but it’s Don Giovanni to a string quartet that there are ten times as many music teachers who are caught molesting pupils as chemistry or geography beaks. Now why is that? Does music, in some obscure way, attract sadists and corrupters?


  • I suspect that no country stands out as worse than others when it comes to sexual abuse of young people in music. It might be that some countries are just more honest about reporting the situation.
    In the German-speaking world, it is an almost openly accepted practice for male music professors to have sexual relationships with their women students. Most are decent enough not to get involved in that sort of thing, but those who do face few reprecussions. Prof. Dr. Freia Hoffmann recently published a book about this problem. See:
    The Neuen Musikzeitung hosted a panel discussion about the problems, which can be listened to here:
    And the FrauenMusikForum in Switzerland published an astounding study about the sexual exploitation of school age children studying music. (The title is “Sexuelle Belästigung im Musikunterricht.”) The percentage of young students affected was mind-boggling.
    This is a particular problem in music because:
    1. It is one of the few fields that requires one to one teaching, and usually behind closed doors.
    2. Many of the professors only have adjunct positions which makes administering their behavior more difficult.
    3. The music festivals are even worse, where teachers face almost no controls.
    4. The star status of musicians in top orchestras also increases the potential for the exploitation of students.
    One of the best chances we have for solving the problems is through honest, open reporting. Perhaps you can devote some time to this, though you’ll probably face a lot of intimidation.

  • Marie Lamb says:

    I notice that this person is a choirmaster. You mention that the tactile element of music teaching can attract pedophiles to the profession. This is certainly a possibility here, since voice teachers often have to touch students for various reasons. While I was never molested by a voice teacher, I recall being prodded in the abdomen; having my throat, back and shoulders touched; doing leg lifts and other exercises on the floor; and having to lie flat on my back or get into odd postures. This was all to make me more aware of breathing, posture and the sensations one feels when singing correctly; nothing improper went on. However, if a young singer has to do these things as a matter of course, it is not a far leap for some suggestible young person to submit when told to do far worse things by someone with evil intentions. Given the touch element and the whole power dynamic between a voice teacher and student, this can be a perverts’ playground for the wrong kind of teacher. Aside from what it does to the students subjected to such horrors, it also hurts the reputation of the profession, making it tough for the good, caring music teachers out there.

  • We have a music school and always invite parents and guardians to attend lessons. In addition, our contract actually states that no child should be left without the parent or guardian being within calling distance. However, many parents and guardians leave their children alone with us (we are not a baby-sitting service) and this leaves us, the teachers in a potentially uncomfortable position. All of us manage to teach instruments without touching our pupils, rather by example and explanation. When there is a lesson on breathing technique, we insist that a parent or guardian is present. We, the teachers, also need to be protected from children who have all too much understanding of their own power!
    I cannot see how music would particularly attract dubious people to the profession, due to the sheer number of years it takes to become a musician. Unfortunately, there are dubious people in every profession. Perhaps we need to look at classroom music teachers, who at times have insufficient training and may view music as a subject where one-on-one teaching is considered acceptable, as is the ‘prodding’ and ‘touching’ about which others have mentioned.

  • Rosanne makes an important point. Experienced teachers do not need to touch their students. There are countless options for demonstrating techniques of playing. Many universities now make this clear to their music faculty.

  • […] I have no statistics to hand, but it’s Don Giovanni to a string quartet that there are ten times as many music teachers who are caught molesting pupils as chemistry or geography beaks. Now why is that? Does music, in some obscure way, attract sadists and corrupters? ( Norman Lebrecht, ‘Why is it always music teachers’, Slipped Disc, 22/12/10). […]