Have English music schools learned a lesson?

Have English music schools learned a lesson?


norman lebrecht

February 20, 2015

A Telegraph commentary by anti-abuse campaigner Ian Pace in response to the rape conviction of Philip Pickett ought to provoke a bout of soul-searching at England’s ‘elite’ music schools and conservatories.



Ought to, but probably won’t. The response to past crimes at Chetham’s and the RNCM in Manchester, resulting in the conviction of Mike Brewer and several further arrests, resulted in a battening down of hatches. Nobody in the governance of those schools at the time was called to account for turning a blind eye to what many students described as a predatory culture. Simmering trouble at the Purcell School, where a head was dismissed for improper activities, were swept similarly under the carpet. A over-up persists.

purcell school

The Guildhall, where Pickett taught, has expressed regrets and cooperated with police without offering substantive proof that student safety is now paramount to its current practice.


At Juilliard in New York last month, one student’s complaint against a piano professor, resulted (as we reported) in his immediate suspension That has yet to happen in an English music school. Until it does, we cannot believe that the culture has changed.



  • Hilary says:

    Ian Pace has been nothing short of heroic in his tireless work in this area. A remarkable person.

  • X Factor@Purcell says:

    This is indeed a victory of justice for all those of us, (inspired by Ian Pace and his tireless campaigning), who have blown whistles on the countless sexual crimes and cover ups at our musical training establishments of recent years.

    However,from the ongoing cover up by shameless Governors and last two Headteachers at the Purcell School, (who, unbelievably still remain tacet about the numerous sex scandals (some very recent) which resulted in the school having to pay out vast sums to gag those dozen of us who used to work in this hapless place), one can only think this is another expose of many more cover ups…….

    Such training establishments should be very worried, as historic cases of sexual abuse come to light and catch them up….. as it appears the timescale since the abuse is not an issue.

    Maybe this is why axeman, Head, David Thomas has jumped ship after a mere two years tenure, and is leaving the Purcell School for the pastures and musicality of Winchester School, leaving the Governors with the dilemma of what to do next?

    These same bullish Guvs have learned nothing from the school’s past Child Protection Issues, as only last month, a recent Inspectorate, STILL found the school lacking in essential child protection issues, and heavily criticised them accordingly.
    This is after an incredible 5 years of serious CP issues, which were mostly conveniently hidden away for the sake of the diminishing reputation this music school desperately still clings to.

    A long overdue replacement of their octagenarian Governor responsible for this mishap – one, Lady Jean MacGregor, who, despite failing her duties and enormous responsibilities as Governor responsible for Child protection, remains on the Board. Why?
    So does ‘Midwife’ actress, Jennie Agutter, who has been a patron of Childline during the whole Purcell School Sex Scandals of the last 5 years……

    Will these do – gooders ever learn from their mistakes, and do they actually really care about the welfare and safety of vunerable young musicians?…….

  • Will moseng says:

    American conservatories were no different during this time. The largest in America allowed an noted violin teacher to “date” a 16 year old pianist enrolled in the school, a Leventritt winner to sexually assault his male students then drive them out if they complained. The Dean was notorious in his affairs with undergrad males, the running joke was to not bend over to pick up the ” scholarship pencils” he had. While I’m grateful to see Pickett jailed for his crimes, sexual abuse was endemic during this time. This culture has gratefully receded somewhat as the cultures have changed. But still going on!