Inside tip: Eminent composer resigns as patron of troubled music school

Inside tip: Eminent composer resigns as patron of troubled music school


norman lebrecht

November 15, 2013

We are informed by disaffected staff that the popular composer John Rutter has resigned as a Patron of the Purcell School over the decision to abolish the post of Head of Music and to dismiss Quentin Poole. Rutter’s name has been removed from the website.

Approaches have been made to Sir Simon Rattle to reconsider his presidency of the school.

Next Tuesday Poole’s partner, Ian Macmillan, will present his case for unfair dismissal to the Watford Employment Tribunal.

purcell schooljohn rutter


  • Michael Wood says:

    If true then that is sad. The musical world needs to support these instituions. Past examples of standing up to poor regimes ‘leading’ the country’s music has resulted in them continuing and dismissing their failure to protect and inspire our future musicians. Please would patrons, presidents and governors stand up and meet this challenge full on! Our young musicians need you.

  • Andy Carpenter says:

    Good for John Rutter.

    The school’s treatment of Quentin Poole was disgraceful, what ever the spin about his leaving the school by mutual agreement. A well-loved, distinguished musician was kicked out in a palace coup.

    The senior people don’t seem to realise their petty power-grabs will have serious consequences for musical children who are only now starting out. Why would any politician (the real, elected kind, not the bullies who fancy themselves as politicians at the Purcell school) keep on with the music and dance scheme for specialist schools at £33K a year when there are much more cost-effective junior departments available at less than a tenth of the cost? And that’s before we look at the payoffs to Peter Crook, Quentin Poole, Ian Macmillan…. Why should the British taxpayer pay for these endlessly stupid decisions?

    In the end, they won’t. And lots of children who might otherwise have discovered their talent and flourished will find that they can’t afford a full-time musical education.

    I hope the other patrons of this school consider whether lending their hard-earned credibility to this kind of awful behaviour is acceptable. I hope Sir Simon Rattle lifts his baton, pauses for a moment, then leads them out the door.

  • It is more appropriate to describe John Rutter as popular than eminent.

    • kindadukish says:

      “more popular tham eminent” you say. I think it says more about you that you have to insert PhD after your name!

      • Like many another anti-intellectual threatened by the possibility of a credible correspondent, you mistake the significance of an advanced degree, and since you are communicating through a pseudonym you have little room to make such a remark. Still, I would not assume your “dukishness” doesn’t exceed your ability to detect the irony in your own words, that discredits you.

  • Bragi S says:

    They need to speak out. Until musicians start to develop a moral backbone, bullies like these will always be in charge.

  • joining the queue of Music special colleges/ places with no Head of Music.

    When will headless chickens learn?

  • What is happening at Purcel is very sad and also discouraging to the music world. How can a music school operate without a “Head of Music” running it. Absolutely outragious and smacks of dirty politics.

  • Andy Carpenter says:

    the Purcell school is in a big financial mess because of its own incompetence. I can’t see why the DfE shouldn’t just take the money away and give it to the junior departments. Come on, we could educate 10 young musicians at a junior RCM or junior RAM for the same money as 1 at the Purcell. Do we need to pay these grubby little bullies their ridiculous salaries (and then obscene piss-off-and-stay-quiet fees when they turn out yet again to be hopeless) when there are excellent alternatives? The saved money could be used to **expand** youth music.

  • visiting teacher says:

    How utterly stupid have the Purcell school been to have such a distinguished international composer withdraw such valuable and generous patronage!

    One only hopes Mr Rutter’s brave and admirable decision, will now encourage other Purcell school Patrons, the school President Sir Simon Rattle, Vice President Baroness Mary Warnock, and Royal Patron, HRH Prince Charles, to reconsider being associated with a music school whose musical policy is now under a musically inexperienced headmaster,rather than a professional musician.

    What parent is going to sensibly choose the Purcell School for their child’s musical education now?

  • Yulan hsu says:

    I am shock and appalled at the comments relating to the whole situation that has transpired at Purcell since I left. I was at the school for 9 years as an international student with the last year being the move to bushey. I recently met another purcellian who informed me of the dismissal of Mr Poole. I felt compelled to find out about the situation and write back.

    I can not express how sad i feel to hear this news despite leaving the music business.I still feel the impact that Purcell had on me as an individual has been long lasting and positive. Mr Poole was a huge part of that experience (being the head of wind and I was an oboist). Having been at the school during such a formative period I received amazing support from Mr Poole not only musically but personally. Especially when I was going through personal conflicts regarding continuing music as a profession. My deep love of music has continued as a result of inspirational coaching and personal connection which is what music is all about.

    I am absolutely disgusted by some of the posts/comment. Please think of the students who are still in the school. Make this madness stop !Including the accusations and slander. This is the worse example we are giving to the students. Lets get back to business and being responsible educators/parents. Transcend the BS!

    Whatever happens next a music school cannot function properly without a director of music who is separate from the heads of departments and headmaster as the post needs to be an unifying force away from politics and power struggles. Especially in the light of the breach of trust that has happened in recent times.Transparency of the dismissals need be happen to regain trust in all the stake holders. Otherwise the school will loose even more credibility and hence financial/other endorsements from alumni/ not least the students and teachers the lifeblood

    I hope that Mr Poole will find a new fulfilling post to continue his inspirational work with musicians I want to thank him personally on how much he cared and helped.

    I want to urge the decision makers at Purcell to think long and hard about what impact they are having on the young minds and the legacy that they are leaving behind.The right thing to do is to come clean and restore the post with the students/parents and teachers still at the school hang in there you are ones that know what is needed to produce a balanced and fulfilling musical education. The school exist for that purposes only and it seems to be distracted from this goal you need to make this known in a mature evidence based manner and present the case to the decision makers.

    The beauty and sprit of music is the momentary transcendence of undesirable human constructs (money politics, power as demonstrated by this whole fiasco) and fundamental connection we feel when we participate. Don’t let all this poison that which is so precious.

    • Michael Wood says:

      Don’t be shocked and appalled Yuhan Hsu. The comments are a useful communication which allow an outlet of opinion. There is information which is to be considered about the Purcell situation, not least from the current Watford case which has an affect on many people. It could have an effect on the country’s music education, because many believe employing a non musician as a head in a specialist music school causes uneducated decisions to be made. Like removing the person at the helm and not replacing him. Rudderless the ship continues. Is it not fair for the crew and others to speak their minds and for their views to be heard?

      Music and it’s spirit, unfortunately, does not transcend blinkered politics. John Rutter accepted a post which involves responsibility for the institution and its young musicians. I feel he and others who have done so should speak out, not leave at a time they are most needed.

  • former pupil says:

    Speaking your mind in this school is forbidden – unless you want to be threatened and lose your job as has been the case with at least half a dozen members of staff who tried and got punished as a result.