Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brewer sentenced to 6 years

Michael Brewer, formerly conductor of the National Youth Choir and before that director music at Chetham's, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for a catalogue of abuse against a pupil at the school in the 1980s, the late Frances Andrade. His wife, Kay Brewer, was sentenced to 21 months.

There is more information in the Independent here and the story has been extensively covered on the TV news. Pianist Ian Pace has much more to say on the matter, plus further links, here, and he has organised a petition calling for an inquiry.

The judge's sentencing remarks are available to read in full here. Among many other things, he says this:
"Indeed, perhaps one of the few positive features to have emerged from this case is the resulting close scrutiny of the seemingly wider acceptance of this type of behaviour amongst those who should know better."
It is essential now that the institutions involved in these appalling events should be able to "bounce back" and clear their reputations in order to keep on educating the finest young musicians in the country. We need specialist music schools for gifted children; the entire edifice should not be demolished because of these events. Regulations have been changed, the modus operandi is different now and the whole climate is notably (and thankfully) more censorious today.

But psychological abuse by teachers as well as sexual abuse needs to be under scrutiny - something that the more outspoken of my interviewees have talked about over the years, incidentally, regarding advanced music colleges in mainland Europe and the US as well as here. Some very prominent figures have reminisced about their studies in a pretty dim light. I can think of one musician who left his home country because of such abuse, another whose experience in New York seems indefensible, and several who have said that after studying with x or y they had to find ways to put themselves back together in a musical or artistic sense...and heaven knows what else. Many of the teachers involved are now deceased, but the syndrome is, arguably, more difficult to guard against. Perhaps that is the next step.