Further abuse claims at the Royal Academy of Music

Further abuse claims at the Royal Academy of Music


norman lebrecht

November 28, 2019

We’re hearing from former Royal Academy of Music students who are frustrated at the blank wall they encountered when reporting sexual impropriety by their teachers.

This week the head of Royal Academy Opera, Gareth Hancock, was suspended from his post after a singer at Glyndebourne (where he is on the music staff) complained of receiving inappropriate texts.

Our informants say that more than 15 complaints were made by students, male and female, to their RAM tutor Dr Sarah Callis. As far as the students are concerned no action was taken, though the matter was said to have been brought to the principal’s attention and the subject of the complaints was believed to have given an undertaking to behave better in future.

The complaints include:

– one student was told at Royal Academy Opera to ‘get used to the casting couch’;
– another was advised to take ‘a year out and go and work in a brothel’;
– a third, asking a teacher how she could please him, was told: ‘a blow job would be a good start’.
These students were in their early 20s or late teens, some fresh out of school. The complaints should be lodged in the Academy’s files.
The Academy has said it has no further comment at present.


  • Insider says:

    Plenty of other staff have been allowed to just disappear from the teaching lists too in recent years following student complaints, Mateja Marinkovic and Igor Petrushevski spring to mind although not the only ones. Safeguarding just involves students emailing their head of department to say that they are happy for their lessons to take place at their teachers’s house and then RAM brush their hands of anything that happens, as if a student will refuse to write that email. Unlike Chets/RNCM, RAM seems to get away with pushing things under the carpet without any media attention

    • Ntsaldaraki says:

      As parent of a violinist who had very few lessons with Marinkovic in the months prior to his leaving, I believe it’s an unqualified comment for a member of staff who was recruited in China. The context of his leaving to my knowledge is unrelated to accusations of abuse, so I would urge caution in lightly bringing up names. Just a thought.

      • Insider says:

        Unfortunately there were a number of complaints about him from RAM students over a very long period of time, not to mention that fact that he is being sued this year by a former student. But thanks for words of caution.

        • Ntsaldaraki says:

          If you mean this: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/03/27/world-class-violinist-sued-pupil-80000-instrument/amp/ that’s unrelated to sex abuse or harrassment or whatever the serious complaints listed above in Norman’s article are catalogued as legally speaking. Sexual harassment, assault, and rape within institutions are highly sensitive and personal in nature with strong potential to destroy people’s lives, so I wouldn’t refer to anyone as a proven or likely abuser because they are in court over alleged or even proven theft. As a musician I do understand that everything is personal and sensitive and can potentially derail a young student, but let’s be clear about making distinctions, as also reflected in the law. If Insider has specific knowledge I’d urge him to send information to Ian Pace (part of the inquiry into child sex abuse in U.K. music institutions) and of course the institution concerned. All very sad to be sure.

          • Insider says:

            Afraid the theft case is in addition to complaints of a sexual nature. Sadly when cases are he says vs she says it normally goes in favour of the distinguished professor. I’m glad your child obviously had a good experience of him, and many others speak highly of him but sadly not the case for all of his students.

        • Maria says:

          Yes, be careful naming names and heresay!

      • Hilary says:

        I’d query the use of the word “plenty” but “insider” isn’t marking spurious points re. Marinkovic.

        • Insider 2 says:

          Marinkovic certainly true; a member of the composition staff is quite a notorious case and still on staff despite numerous complaints. Sadly the McTier case back in 2013 didn’t result in the institutional reforms it perhaps should have. All, by the way, presided over by the current principal.

        • Insider says:

          Thanks Hilary, I can think of at least 6 to varying degree of certainty. When it comes to sexual misconduct that in my eyes is certainly “plenty” and 6 more than there should be.

  • Georgina says:

    As someone who is applying for a masters at some of these institutions, it sure is interesting to hear who wont be my first choice of conservatoire to study at! Yikes

    • Hilary says:

      a bit naive to think the other comparable institutions are less problematic based on what you are reading here.
      One thing common to many of them is poor soundproofing between rooms…at times creates the atmosphere of a madhouse. Not ideal, but don’t let it be a deterrent in making an application.

      • Harawi says:

        Think Hilary may have a vested interest. I don’t hear of this behaviour at the others – certainly not at the main two London ones. Is that you Jonathan?

  • Hilary says:

    More connection/collaboration between the various departments would offer a partial antidote to some of this.

  • Time to resign says:

    and the worst thing is management didn’t do anything. Every time these complaints were brought to them they brushed it under the carpet. It’s sick.

  • Rs says:

    These remarks are clearly jokes – albeit in poor taste – and taken out of context. This is just another PC witchunt. There is a world of difference between actual abuse and a crude sense of humour. Can people not see that?! Honestly..

  • Guest says:

    As an insider I know that this kind of behaviour has most definitely has happened at the other comparable institutions with present members of staff…

  • FormerStudent says:

    Students at RAM generally don’t complain about senior members of staff because it has historically ‘protected its own’ time and time again. Although the ‘process’ may seem inviting, it’s a mechanism designed to silence the complainant and protect staff. It’s also difficult to produce evidence of bullying and abuse unless you record your conversations.The resilient students (myself included) just put up with it and move on asap.

  • John Smith says:

    I went to the Royal Academy of Music for a few years. I won’t see what type of degree or department, but from what I remember, I have heard numerous stories of sexual harassment that was accepted as a cultural way of life there. I did experience some verbal abuse from staff, but of course they protect their own. I have since moved on from that traumatic experience and doing better that I longer attend the Royal Academy of Music, though ironically I am thankful for my education.