an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

A public inquiry is needed into England’s music schools

Ten years ago, Nigel Kennedy told me in a BBC radio interview about the sexual abuse that went on while he was a student at the Yehudi Menuhin School. Others later told me of appalling incidents at other schools, but the music establishment called in its lawyers and it was difficult to arouse editorial or public attention into something as esoteric as classical music schools.

frances andrade

Now the world knows a fraction of what went on at Chetham’s. We owe it to the memory of Frances Andrade to ensure that these matters are fully investigated in a public forum, and that parents can sleep at night knowing that their gifted children are safe from predators.

The pianist,musicologist and teacher Ian Pace, himself a Chetams graduate, is leading the call for a public inquiry. We post his appeal below:

It is well-known within the music world that there are many other such stories from the 1970s and 1980s, involving a variety of individuals in positions of power at various music schools. Many of these people are extremely afraid to come forward with their stories, in a close-knit world of classical music in which careers are dependent upon the whims of a few powerful individuals. The tragic news of Frances Andrade’s death may instil more fear, though some may be at least emboldened by the verdict. There is now a real need for a full independent inquiry into sexual and physical abuse in classical music education during this time, and the various schools and colleges involved should show good faith by cooperating with this. There is a whole trail of victims with damaged lives who deserve the opportunity to be heard without fear. My address is

Expect more horrors to be revealed in the week ahead.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Good that you are bringing this to the public attention again. Hopefully, the authorities and others in power will finally begin to do something about it. We’ve heard too much about similar events here in the States (whether with priests and child abuse, or the famous Penn State University case that is still the subject of mutual recrimination).

  2. Alberto Martinez says:

    Thanks Norman for writing this article.

  3. My highest respect to Norman Lebrecht and Ian Pace. Thank you for your remarkable integrity and courage.

  4. And not just the English ones.

  5. Thank you, Norman, for suggesting the urgent need to have an enquiry into our UK music schools after this dreadful tragedy.

    You may recall, that It wasn’t that long ago, the London based Purcell School was subject to horrific alleged verbal child abuse, by the then Head Master, Mr Peter Crook, who verbally abused sixth form boys and girls, taking an unhealthy interest in their private sexual development, and who dramatically departed without any reason given publically in October 2011, despite two investigations by Herts Police and Social Services.

    However, any enquiry into those appointed to work in such schools, should really examine in great detail, who the Governors of these specialist music schools actually are, as they are ultimately responsible for making the appointments of teaching staff, including Directors of Music and Head Masters in the first place.

    It is alarming to learn of late that Mr Crook is now still in contact with young children, currently teaching them at Repton School, Dubai, despite his investigations by Police and Social Services, and his sudden departure from The Purcell School.

    It now appears, the Governors of Chethams School, Manchester, knowing of Mr Brewer’s unacceptable behaviour with those who were identified during the trial, chose to ‘tell lies’ to the parents and pupils at the School, by claiming they were letting Mr Brewer ‘leave on the grounds of ill health’,rather than admit the actual truth of his departure, presumably in order to save the reputation of the school?

    Was Mr Brewer’s alleged paedophilic behaviour told to The National Youth Choir, when he ‘left’ Chets to become their musical director?

    School Governors have a lot to answer for, are partly responsible for this shocking outcome this week, and should be held to account for their actions which have contributed towards this, ( and heaven forbid) any more abuse in music schools.

    Similarly,15 months on, the staff, parents and pupils at The Purcell School still have not been told by the governors why Mr Crook left the school (the big question, you yourself, Mr Lebrecht asked on this very blog (type Purcell School into Search this website – top right, for full details).

    A similar question was asked in an article in The Times Newspaper in November 2011. (still available to read on line)

    At the time of Mr Crook’s departure from The Purcell School, the Chairman of the Governors, Mr Roy Cervenka, gave no reason for The Head Masters hasty departure, other than try to blame those professional members of staff who spoke out against such unacceptable verbal abuse and behaviour and had challenged the governors about this.

    It is about time the Purcell School Governors were asked the reason for Mr Crooks sudden departure, and named and shamed for their decision to allow a potential paedophile to remain as Head of the school for two further years after the investigations, in which it is understood Mr Crook told the authorities that those pupils who were verbally abused, were ‘fantasists and liars’, in exactly the same way (same words!) Mr Brewer’s QC told brave Fran Andrade when she bravely tried to explain her physical abuse in front of the full court.

    It is also common knowledge in the music profession, that both verbal and physical abuse has been rife in all the other three music schools in the uk, by some teachers preying on young musicians they teach.

    It is high time this appalling behaviour was stopped once and for all, and certainly before another valuable life is taken as a result of those wicked teachers who should know better than to cross the line between pupil and teacher.

    • I presume you have seen the following:
      The case is slightly different because the girls in this case were of age, but it is the same idea-cover up of the actions of a sexual predator, and really appalling lack of concern for his students. Layfield fits the pattern of a certain type of sexual predator whose actions are finally being exposed The idea that RNCM could not find an equally qualified head of Strings who was not a predator is especially ridiculous and absurd.

    • Nothing has changed in Purcell other than changing heads! Appalling pastoral care, low standard music education and all the activities are just for the sake of doing things! The school is not different from an average state funded academy with some posh facilities and instruments.

      At its current state it is a waste of tax payers money!

      • Have you actually been to the school lately? All the boarders have new, refurbished rooms, the houseparents care about us, the teachers notice when something is wrong AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I can think of many schools with worse musical education facilities than Purcell, and what exactly do you recommend as an activity that is not ‘just for the sake of doing things’ – isn’t ‘having things to do’ the whole point of activities?
        Best of all, the school has stopped letting in mediocre, attractive young players because of the intervention of a certain Headmaster.

        • Dick Rodgers says:

          I am shocked that someone who claims to be a student (shouldn’t that be pupil?) at The Purcell School, can claim to see things through rose tinted specs?!

          The boarders do have refurbished rooms, many of those in the boys boarding house are vandalised in demonstration of the unhappiness by the bullying regime of the Housemaster.
          Sinks pulled off walls, and excrement smeared over them does not show a happy boarding set up.

          Alcohol and drug fuelled late night boys house parties last term, does not paint a good picture.

          Also, when teachers at the school try to do something about matters regarding lack of discipline in the school, their complaints and exposure of child protection issues are ridiculed by the Head master and senior governors, the majority of which are old farts who don’t understand (or want to) musical children, and their care and welfare.

          How can this pupil think of ‘worst musical eduction’ facilities than Purcell?
          Was he or she at Menuhin, Chets, Wells, or St Mary’s before Purcell to make comparisons?

          The majority of Purcell school staff, are first class, and the musical eduction and standards second to none.
          However, all is still not well at the school following the dismissal of disgraced Head, Peter Crook in 2011, for reasons never given – and who is incredibly now still allowed to teach in Dubai after all the disgrace and shame he brought to the school with allegations of sexual abuse with mainly sixth form boys and mismanagement of the school.

          Current staff and pupils are still very aware of the damage he did, and are currently suffering the aftermath of his regime.

          It won’t go away, until the new Headmaster, John Thomas and chair of Governors, Sir Peter Jackling face up to the damaging past, and attempt to address the issues staring them in the face, rather than the usual governors policy (as also demonstrated at Chets, menhuin and St Mary’s Edinburgh, and hope it will all be forgotten as they adopt the cowardly policy of ignorance and lack of responsibility.

          Get real, Student, The Purcell school is a long way from being the perfect place you claim to study at!

          • I think it is important that somebody points out that a new Headmaster, David Thomas, took over at The Purcell School in September last year. I have no personal knowledge of the situation at The Purcell School but I can say that David Thomas was previously Headmaster of Reigate Grammar School for ten years, a place where he was held in extremely high regard. He should be given a chance to get to grips with issues and not tarred with the brush of past deficiencies.

          • His job would be made much easier if the Governors would face up to past cover-ups.

          • I am the parent of a boy at Purcell and I do not recognise the picture drawn by Dick Rodgers. David Thomas has a great deal of experience and commands high praise and respect from my son and his friends, as do the boarding house staff. My son is very happy at Purcell and believe me I would not send him there if I had any doubts.
            The school asked the police and social services to investigate the allegations (can this be described as a ‘cover up’?) who concluded that there was no case to answer. This is no guarantee of anything, as the Chetham’s scandal has shown.
            This is shocking and murky stuff but be careful about the picture you paint of Purcell TODAY.

          • Dick Rodgers says:

            yes, new Head John Thomas arrived in September 2012, and has since refused to acknowledge or refer to any issues that occurred before his arrival.

            Similarly, the new Chair of Governors, has also foolishly adopted the same irresponsible tactic, in the misguided hope, that by not referring and addressing serious issues which has damaged staff, pupils and parents (many of whom remain traumatised and angry by Crookgate) everything with suddenly get back to normal.

            Combined with the disgraceful ‘cover up’ by Governors ( began by Graham Smallbone Former Head of Music at Eton, and Head of Oakham School, and Board member of The NYO, who appointed Crook) and continued by the incompetent Roy Cervenka, (a former parent Governor, who has been shamefully allowed to remain on the Governing body for over 25 years and who stupidly supported Crook, despite the two investigations by Police and Social Services following several allegations about alleged sexual verbal abuse) , the unhappiness and discontent felt within the school is still paramount, to which Thomas has in his first 6 months as Head, done nothing to address and pacify, to the dismay of staff and parents at the school.

            Don’t these people realise that you can not simply ignore the damage created in the past , in order to move forward. There were far too many casualties, (former pupils, ex and current staff, and angry parents) who remain ignored, and punished for speaking up, for this issue to disappear so easily- and those Governors who know all about allegations at the time, decided to pay off the disgraced Head, rather than honestly stand up and face the music.

            Now the school are facing possible redundancies, due in main to the bungling of the ongoing incompetencies of the Bursar, and Senior Governors responsible for out of control spending,
            mismanagement ,and having to pay off a Head of Boarding who bullied pupils, staff and parents, and a headmaster with an unhealthy interest in the sexual development of some of his male pupils) plus legal costs over the last 2 years.

  6. Norman, the service you’re doing by getting the news out there is invaluable.

    I’m certain that as we start to have what is going to be a truly national conversation about the state of England’s music schools, we need to see that these disgusting episodes and cover-ups reflect on a much bigger problem in conservatoire and music school culture.

    There is an old boys’ network of teachers and musicians in the conservatoires who basically protect each others’ behaviour and keep each other in jobs even when it is abundantly clear that many of them are morally and even musically unqualified to hold these jobs. I am convinced that the logical thread from figures such as Layfield or Brewer being protected by their superiors all the way to the way conservatoire appointments are ”fixed” and ”inside jobs” is not so preposterous.

    I myself have witnessed this first hand, having applied for a teaching position at the RNCM in the recent past and, knowing the other applicants involved, having held qualifications and a CV far beyond the rest of the pool of applicants. At the end, the least qualified person was appointed (a few months late, incidentally – as it had become clear that the entrance of quite a few people into the mix had ruined the committee’s plan to decide on the matter quickly), and it was clear from various sources within the conservatoire that he/she was intended to take the job from the outset. Even though I was promised an explanation from the committee for why my own application was not successful, after repeated enquiries I received no response whatsoever.

    The point here is that these people are in the profession of really scratching each others’ backs. The question is: why? What benefit did a certain headmaster of principal gain from protecting a certain teacher? What benefit does a school or college gain from appointing the least qualified person out of a fairly large pool of applicants? Is there transparency in such things? If we’re going to ask for transparency for the emotional and psychological well-being of students in these institutions, we’ve got to ask the larger questions. Just my two pence!

    • “An old boys network” is a gentle way of describing it. When I was an undergrad during that period at the RNCM, it was common knowledge that from the Principal down through senior management Freemasonry had a healthy (or should I say unhealthy) representation. The board of Governors too. To what extent is that still the case? There needs to be a root and branch enquiry into how our society, values, institutions, laws, and democratic integrity can possibly function when those who “look out for each other” at the highest levels (including the Judiciary, Police and Government) perhaps consider loyalty to each other trumps any public interest.

      • As president of the Students’ Union at the RNCM during one year of the 90′s the role of freemasonary amongst senior management interested me too. In my time I can recall several incidents of staff being caught (including one very serious case of theft and deception) but let off because they were apparently ‘in the club’.

        I personally didn’t come across any specific allegations of abuse but rumours were always rife. And there were many teachers who looking back, overstepped the mark. I can name a handful of ‘well respected’ teachers who seemed to only socialise with 18-year-old students rather than their peers.

        I also recall that the union spent a large part of our time complaining about the brutal teaching methods of many tutors that left in its trail a huge drop out rate, particularly amongst first years. We were always told ‘if students can’t handle the heat, then they don’t deserve to be professional musicians’.

        • Yes I was there at the RNCM the same time as you two by the sounds of it. I know what you are talking about.

          However we have to be careful here. While it seems to be that the principal and governors “closed ranks” re the Layfield appointment (at least according to the letters published in the Guardian), we can’t just say that X was a bit creepy or that Y preferred the company of students to his fellow teachers. I quite often preferred the company of at least 4 of the teachers I can think of to many of my fellow students! You can destroy a reputation like that, on the basis of nothing more than what you think you heard someone say 20 years ago, or the funny way someone looked at you, or your prejudices about freemasons.

          On the other hand of course if someone has a specific complaint against a specific person then they should go to the organisations that are there to help, rather than make innuendos on the internet. Believe me the police are taking this kind of thing extremely seriously in the wake of Saville! I know, I have friends who are working on exactly this.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        In France, freemasons are heavily involved in government posts. Every teaching post at a French conservatory (except for a few private schools like Ecole Normale) is a government appointment. The “old boys’ network” is alive and well here. Legend has it that the orchestra of the Paris Opera hired only freemasons until recently. The Director of the Paris Conservatory was always expected to be a freemason. I know someone (not a freemason) who, upon assuming an important post in France, received a visit from a local authority offering him the “opportunity” to join “the club.” This person declined and nevertheless survived 9 years (3 three-year terms) as a highly placed music administrator.

        Someone once said to me after the demise of Pascal Dumay in 2010 that the first prerequisite for the job was to be a freemason. Your comment about the role of freemasonry in coverups at UK music schools is worthy of further discussion, IMHO.

  7. Dear Norman, thank you for exposing yet another absurd coming from the Menuhin School, in the words of Nigel Kennedy. Although I am disgusted and appalled by this horrific scandal, which incidentally was way overdue, I actually wish that those institutions “sink in their own excrement”. Apologies for the usage of such terms. I have spent years of my life in the UK trying to gear my career into the teaching of my instrument (viola) and music education, which have always been a passion to me, to only be greeted by comments such as “we are sorry, but your profile does not fit our institution” and thing of the sort. Those kind of comments to my unsuccessful applications for jobs in UK music schools have always caused amusement, because I have always known not only about the appalling conduct of many people in senior positions, but also about their ridiculous ineptitude and incompetence as musicians and music educators. At least now I know the real reason why my applications for some of those institutions were unsuccessful, I am not a rapist, or a paedophiliac..

    • @Ricardo – so you really wish that several leading music schools should sink “in their own excrement” for misdemeanours committed many years ago – you wish that current pupils and staff should suffer, because, because… they wouldn’t give you a job??! Really?

  8. It is not only in the national music schools that this has happened. I was a victim of my violin teacher in South Wales in the 1960s when I was 14. He is now a well respected violin/ clarinet teacher/performer in Canada and so out of my reach. He has had many accolades for his work but I worry about the many children who may have been victims since me.

  9. Thanks for this piece Norman and for posting Ian Pace’s appeal for a public inquiry, the abuse of private study in the London music colleges during the 1970s and 1980s is years overdue.

    One difficulty facing victims is fear of the unknown (possibly legal) personal consequences of outing their abuser by name, particularly public figures; not being able to guage how isolated or commonplace personal experience was. It would be a great service if a central register of reports could be created (or be more widely advertised should such exist), so that weight of numbers might indicate where follow-up enquiries might yield strong testimonies and support successful outcomes, possibly prosecution. Ideally perhaps, a law firm might consider this(?)

    Another hidden cost is the drop-out rate of talented pupils who were either unwilling to tolerate further advances or were told effectively ‘if you can’t stand the heat then..’ – made to feel diminished, that they clearly hadn’t got what it took.

    A further cost is I think the lifelong bitterness of seeing the abuser somehow maintaining a high public standing, often remaining in-post for pretty much perpetuity, The social disgrace of them being outed is probably the only recompense many could hope for. Unlikely legal redress is a further burden to anyone abused at an older age, 18 perhaps. One is technically able to refuse consent to molestation, but one’s lifetime aspiration is at stake and commonly parental hopes too. Non-given consent (endurance) appears to make one complicit. Once ‘of-age’ one has responsibility without power in these awful circumstances.

    • If you have information about individuals at the London music colleges, please contact me privately. Let’s expunge this once and for all.

      • I think if you actually have information and not just rumours then there are any number of organisations you can go to in complete confidence (in both senses of the word), e.g. Childline or the police for starters. With the best will in the world Norman isn’t the first person you should be going to with any evidence or complaint you might have!

  10. Andy Turner says:

    Just to say that I was a student at Chethams from 2001-2009 and NOTHING ever happened between students and staff. Whatever happened in the 70s and 80s at the school is well and truly dead and the child protection policies which are now in place are 100% fine. An enquiry is maybe necessary to find out what happened and to bring the guilty individuals to justice, but people must realise that this is a very different school now. Almost all of the staff are different and it is vital that the current school is not damaged in any way by what happened 30 years ago! They have great staff and I was very privileged to live and study there. For the other music schools I don’t know but in terms of child protection, there is nothing wrong with this school. I grew up there. I know!

  11. Dick Rodgers says:

    if you have a boy at the school at the moment, it is highly unlikely (unless you are a member of staff or Governor ) that you will know all of the background and detail surrounding the allegations about former Head, Mr Crook to make an informed opinion- very few of us who work here still do, as we have never been given an explanation for his sudden departure, leaving rumours rife.

    I am pleased to hear your boy is happy – he must either still be very young, or one of a tiny minority who do not misbehave to protest to the unreasonable bullying of current Housemaster, ex Policeman, Andrew Hutchings who was appointed by Mr Thomas to sort the ‘out of control ‘legacy left by Crook when he mysteriously left the school in October 2011.

    Almost every week, there still continues to be a major incident in the boys boarding house, which seems to be ignored. House staff and the boys do not like or respect the current house master, his aggressive and unreasonable style of looking after them. I am surprised all of this has not been experienced by your boy in this close community?

    For the record, the school did not call the authorities to investigate allegations – quite the opposite, as the Governors kept the news from staff , pupils and parents that the Head and Head of Boarding was being investigated for inappropriate verbal abuse with some pupils, until the Watford Observer printed a revised censored version of what really happened after the investigations and the outcome was known.

    Both Mr Crook and Mr Smith, (the dismissed housemaster) were not completely exonerated, but foolish Governors wrongly decided that those members of staff who had correctly gone through the proper channels and complained to the school governors about Child Protection issues of concern, were liars they they were and chastised for making mischief for Mr Crook instead.

    More alarmingly, Mr Crook claimed the allegations made by several pupils were nothing but fantastical lies.and the investigators believed him rather than the pupils. The case may have been dropped, but they were still watching him.

    John Thomas commanding high praise and respect may appear to be the case from some pupils, but not from the majority of his disgruntled staff he has failed to pacify and support over inherited issues in his first six months of taking over.

    • Former pupil says:

      Dear ‘Dick Rodgers’

      You obviously have deep concerns about Purcell… Can you enlighten us to what role you have at the school to have such informed knowledge of the current problems that you say are not being addressed?
      As a former pupil who enjoyed 9 years at the school I hate to see it slandered in such a way

      • Former pupil,

        If you enjoyed 9 years at the school, you will, no doubt, still be in touch with your peers.
        You will indeed therefore be aware of the last 5 years under Headmaster Peter Crook, and how he has brought the school into disrepute. It has been talk of the music profession and ex Purcellians for years.

        I am sorry you hate to see the school ‘slandered’ as you put it, but the truth hurts.

        I am one of a huge majority of staff, parents and pupils (current and former) who care deeply about the pupils well being, safety and welfare – serious issues that were shamefully ignored under Mr Crook’s Headship, and lack of leadership, and kept under wraps by the Governors who wrongfully appointed this inexperienced man.

        You are out of touch with your old alma mater if you don’t know what has been happening at the school of late.
        Read my comments above to catch up with the horrific truth during this long overdue perge on sexual abuse in music schools, including, I am sad to say, your former school.

    • I note that you have chosen to call yourself ‘Dick Rodgers’ and persist in calling the current Head ‘John Thomas’ when his name is David. What are we to conclude about your motives and credibility, given the subject of this thread?

  12. Gosh, Parent – that’s rich coming from someone who also wishes to remain anonymous.
    Why is my ID so important to you I wonder?

    The reason of using a pseudonym, is the fear of potential harassment, bullying and being disciplined for questioning school management in the ongoing culture of management bullying that dominated the Crook regime, and has still not been addressed since by John Thomas and the new Chair of Governors.

    Let us not forget the casualties of those who were brave and professionally right to question the Bursar, and Governors over the mishandling of the removal of the Head of Boarding and Headmaster of late.

    Do you not recall what happened to the likes of those brave colleagues, including the former Head of Geography, Director of Music’s partner, and Head of PE when they voiced their concerns on behalf of frightened pupils, parents, and staff who feared for their jobs the minute they criticised the status quo?

    Such motive on exercising freedom of speech and giving my opinion on this admirable blog at this particular time following the death of one poor suicide victim, is to call for an end to sexual abuse in music schools, and the Purcell School should not think themselves exempt from being included in the current exposure in the national media and press and above the law, as they have in some issues at the school in the past.

    It is also exactly the correct time to expose the whitewash that the Governors created, (like those at other music schools) regarding the sudden departure of certain members of staff without explanation, and try to return the school to the happy, working stable atmosphere it once enjoyed before the Governors appointed a bad Head who has made The Purcell School an unhappy miserable place in which to work, and bringing the school into disrepute in the process.

an ArtsJournal blog