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Abuse in music schools: widespread press coverage as GMP investigation continues

- 8 May 2013

Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester
Photo: David Dixon

Greater Manchester Police is appealing to anyone who has been a victim of an offence at Chetham’s School of Music, or who has further information on any offences committed, to contact them ‒ as a team of 22 officers prepares to report the findings of its investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Guardian reports that 39 current and former teachers of Chetham’s and the Royal Northern College of Music are under investigation, having been told by the officer leading the investigation that ‘there are 10 individuals who we are proactively conducting criminal investigations into, and many others who are also part of the inquiry’.

In addition, the paper reports that a further five teachers would have been likely to face prosecution had they not already died. The same allegations have been reported throughout the national press.

‘We are supporting each and every person who has come forward and made a complaint to us as best we can,’ said Jamie Daniels, detective chief inspector in charge of operation Kiso. ‘I must credit them all for having the courage to face demons that have been haunting them for many, many years.’

Channel 4 News last night broadcast a report saying that their investigations reveal ‘a scandal that implicates not just one, but all five of the UK’s specialist music schools’. The report goes on to report allegations of abuse at the Yehudi Menuhin School, specifically against the late Marcel Gazelle, the school’s founding music director.

The report claims to have heard allegations that Gazelle abused at least three girls at the school ‒ one of whom complained to school management and was told to ‘avoid being on her own with him’. His family disputes the allegations.

‘The Yehudi Menuhin School was shocked and saddened to learn of the allegations’ said a statement by the school. ‘We have checked the records which survive from 50 years ago and can find nothing about any concerns expressed at the time. In accordance with our policies, we have reported these serious allegations to Surrey Police. The school attaches the utmost importance to the safety and welfare of our students… as recent inspection reports show.’

An unidentified former pupil of another music school describes her relationship with her teacher when she was 17: ‘I think I felt in awe; I think I felt beholden; I think I felt completely wrapped up in, like, uncle, brother, lover, teacher, sort of every male figure that I could need, wrapped in one ‒ totally unhealthily.’ She said she ‘wished she could have done more to say no’ to the teacher’s sexual advances but was ‘too wrapped up in his power’ to do so. As the woman was over the age of 16, the abuse of trust was not an offence at the time it was committed, though the law on such abuses of trust has since changed. The teacher is said to have left the school but continue to teach ‘elsewhere’.

A teacher who worked at two of the schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s goes on to say that sexual relationships between teachers and pupils were common. ‘It felt to me completely wrong. As a team of teachers, enough people were doing it for it to be more of a norm than should ever be even contemplated,’ she says, going on to reference the idolised, guru-like status that certain teachers maintained. Having raised concerns, she says, there was a tendency ‘for you as a whistleblower to be seen as a troublemaker’.

Surrey Police said in a statement: The force is liaising with the school and would encourage anyone with concerns to contact us. Surrey Police treats any allegation of this nature seriously and have officers who are specially trained to support victims of sexual assault.’

‘It’s a disgrace that people’s trust has been abused in such a way’, Kennedy told Channel 4 News.

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