Dickensian persecution at an English music school

Dickensian persecution at an English music school


norman lebrecht

October 16, 2019

The independent testomonies are piling up at Ian Pace’s log of multiple abuses of children at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester. This is one of the worst yet:

My Mother told me that after my first half term, I came home with a suitcase full of diarrhoea covered clothes and everything fastened with safety pins. I fainted in church one Sunday morning because I was starving, I used to go to the 9 o’clock service as well as the other one we had to go to. I would go because we got tea and toast with butter afterwards. I had dry bread at school for 5 years as the ‘axle grease’ made me violently sick.  Nobody looked after me at all that first year …

Boss pulled down my pants, over his knee and smacked me. After that incident Boss ordered all the doors to be taken of our dorms. He would come down our corridor unannounced quite often.

I also ran away with another girl , very unsuccessfully, we laugh about it now but I was told by boss if I did it again I’d be expelled. I was deeply depressed for the rest of my time there.  My form teacher in my first year in the senior school , William Clarke, otherwise known as WC or bog face, gave a report that said ‘[Redacted]’s attitude to school and life is deplorable’. I have had a complete block to do with maths and French since then because of him….

I gave up playing finally a few years ago after a pretty successful orchestral career but complete burn out in the end.  I had been playing professionally since the age of 15. When I gave up I heaved a huge sigh of relief, I realised that I’d always done it for someone else.


  • Greg Bottini says:

    I love it….
    Thanks for the laugh, NL!

  • Survivor of Chetham's says:

    Yes, the testimonies are enlightening and moving. I went to that godforsaken place and a lot of it rings bells. So many lost childhoods and damaged people in the name of the Chetham’s brand. What a disgusting racket. Hope all these places get closed down. Certainly shouldn’t be private enterprises. Pure child exploitation.

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    From my own experience these places are full of people who think they were destined to win the Tchaikovsky piano or violin competition, sing at Covent Garden, conduct the LSO etc etc…, instead of which they end up teaching in some of these so-called places of learning.
    The result is a lot of negative energy and a lot of frustrated people
    who take out their own resentment on their pupils or use other students to settle their own petty ego-related problems with other faculty members come the end-of-year exams.
    Another problem IMO is that performing musicians are recreators as opposed to creators.
    Their raison d’être, therefore, is that “their” Beethoven, Schumann, Bach etc.. is better than the next persons’.
    “Their” Schubert, Mozart etc .. is the only way.
    (I remember asking a second-tier pianist who had recently recorded some Schubert sonatas what he had thought of an all-Schubert recital he had attended given by Sviatoslav Richter at the Royal Festival Hall.
    His answer: “I booed”.)
    Add to all of the above the possibilities for sexual exploitation and the end result is a potentially very toxic environment.
    (In the interests of balance it has to be said that I crossed paths with some very level-headed and well-adjusted teachers during my time at college. Unfortunately they were few and far between).
    Ps: it seemed to me that the organists were by far the most down-to-earth and egoless people on the faculty.
    Could it be because their career expectations were somewhat different to begin with?