Royal Academy of Music facing calls for investigation into 'casting couch' culture after 15 complaints of sexual harassment
The Royal Academy of Music is facing calls for a thorough investigation into claims by students that it tolerates a ‘casting couch’ mentality among some tutors and staff.
More than a dozen students are understood to have submitted a number of disturbing complaints of sexual harassment and impropriety by some teachers at the prestigious institution.
Among the complaints are claims that one student was told to “get used to the casting couch”, the colloquial suggestion used in the entertainment industry suggesting that parts or roles could be traded for sex.
Another student is understood to have complained that when she asked her tutor how she could please him she was told: “A blow job would be a good start.”
According to reports in the classical music website Slipped Disc, at least 15 students, male and female - and all in their early 20s - have submitted complaints of inappropriate behaviour by staff to their tutor Dr Sarah Callis.
Sources told Norman Lebrecht, the respected classical music commentator and writer who runs the website: “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.
“Students are frustrated at the blank wall they encountered when reporting sexual impropriety by their teachers.”
One of the complaints is said to involve a tasteless remark made by a member of staff to a student, advising them to “take a year out and go and work in a brothel”.
The complaints come at a sensitive time for the Royal Academy of Music, following the suspension last month of its head of Royal Academy Opera, Gareth Hancock.
The suspension came after Mr Hancock was sacked by Glyndebourne opera company following a complaint of inappropriate texting by a singer he was coaching.
In a statement issued in November, Glydebourne said: “In October 2019, an employee brought a complaint of inappropriate behaviour by Gareth Hancock to Glyndebourne’s HR department, who immediately alerted senior management and launched an internal investigation.
“During the investigation, clear evidence of inappropriate behaviour from Gareth Hancock came to light, and Glyndebourne took the decision to withdraw his 2020 contract. No further evidence of similar behaviour towards other employees has come to light.”
It added: “Glyndebourne regards as our highest priority the safety and right to dignity of all our staff and does not tolerate or condone any behaviour that contravenes our policies and standards.”
The Musicians Union said it expected the Royal Academy of Music to treat the reports of complaints by students “extremely seriously”.
Horace Trubridge,the union’s general secretary , said: “We abhor all forms of sexual harassment and we expect the senior management to take all reports of sexual harassment with the utmost seriousness.
“The MU aims to combat such behaviour in musicians’ workplaces and to assist in creating safe space for musicians, to ensure that everyone has an equal level of protection from sexual harassment wherever they work. We have set up an email account, safespace@theMU.org, for any musician to share instances of sexism, harassment and abuse experienced in the industry.”
The Royal Academy of Music, part of University College London, was founded in 1822 and has produced musicians of the ilk of Sir Henry Wood, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Lesley Garrett, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.
The academy refused to comment or confirm it was investigating the complaints.
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