Music school chief calls for immediate action on sexual abuse

Music school chief calls for immediate action on sexual abuse


norman lebrecht

March 18, 2015

Peter Tregear, head of the School of Music at the Australian National University in Canberra, has called for collective action by music colleges to address past incidents of sexual abuse and prevent their recurrence. Read the full article here, on an academic chat-site.

Ultimately, root and branch cultural change is what is required, not just a new, and enforceable, “code of conduct”. This will require strong, principled, leadership, not just strong legislation. It will also need to recognise that abusive behaviours in music schools come in many forms; these can be pedagogical, financial, and psychological in nature, as well as sexual.

As I have argued elsewhere, one broad (but I think powerful) cultural change we could institute right now is to recalibrate what we mean by “musical excellence”, as both a pedagogical goal and a standard of behaviour. What’s the point of being a great musician if it comes at the cost of a life well lived, or supports a society not worth living in?

Peter is right. Sadly, it’s in England where the worst abuses continue to be exposed that heads are being dug deeper into the ground. Many of the music schools – including those like Chetham’s which have introduced commendable preventive measures – are in denial about the past, still protecting those who protected the abusers.

Reflect. Discuss.




  • X Teach says:

    Bravo Peter Tregear in Oz, and thank you Norman Lebrecht in highlighting once again, the disgraceful cover ups still pervading our British music schools……

    The Purcell School, four years on, are still in denial about their covered up history of sexual abuse by their previous Headmaster who is teaching music to vunerable children in Dubai.

    Maybe this why current Head, David Thomas, after a mere two years in his role, is jumping ship to Winchester, having axed the school’s most successful Director of Music and Head of Academic Music along the way, for trying to expose the Governors disgraceful cover up of late?

    Maybe Mr Thomas can see there is more exposure to come, as more and more unacceptable cover ups by British specialist music schools come to light?…..

  • Peter Lovett says:

    Australia is currently in the throws of a Royal Commission into sexual abuse of children by institutions. The churches have been hauled through the wringer, schools are now having their turn in the spotlight and I have no doubt tertiary institutions will also be in the spotlight although the Royal Commission is meant to cover minors only.

    However, it has been near daily news now for some months and I am sure that Mr Tregear is trying to set a standard before it does become an issue. I have no doubt that sexual abuse has and does take place in tertiary institutions. Students are just as vulnerable to pressure from staff given the desire to achieve academically. It is something we can well do without.