The prominent British music teacher has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Internationally recognised early music specialist and professor at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Philip Pickett, will go to jail for 11 years after being found guilty of a number of sexual assault charges dating back as far as the 1970s.

The 64-year-old musician carried out the attacks on two school girls and a young woman in sound-proof practice rooms, while teaching at the Guildhall. Describing Pickett’s actions as a “gross abuse of trust,” Judge Charles Wide sentenced Pickett to the lengthy jail-term after he was found guilty of two rapes and two indecent assaults, which took place between 1978 and 1983.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama

The details of Pickett’s crimes showed that he took advantage of the music school’s sound-proofing, luring the vulnerable pupils into rooms where their screams could not be heard, before turning out the lights an assaulting them.

The first attack, which took place in 1978, involved a 16 year old recorder student of Pickett’s who was sexually assaulted after he asked the girl to remove her top under the guise of “working on her breathing.” The court was told that during a lesson the following week she was raped by Pickett.

Pickett’s arrest in August 2013 for this attack led to two more victims coming forward and resulted in additional charges: the rape of one woman who was aged 21 at the time of the attack, and the indecent assault of a 17-year-old, both dating back to the 1980s. Despite the severity of the charges and the length of the jail term, Pickett’s defence team attempted to delay the sentencing to allow him to fulfil his commitments curating three music festivals. However Judge Wide rejected the request, accusing Pickett of behaving as if nothing had happened and saying that he had his “head in the sand.”

Pickett’s case is the latest in a string of historical sexually motivated attacks within elite music institutions in the UK that have come to light in recent years. In January 2013, the Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the former Head of Music of the prestigious Chetham’s School of Music, Michael Brewer and his ex-wife Hilary were both convicted of sexually abusing Frances Andrade, who was 14-years-old at the time of the attack. During the trial, and less than a week after giving evidence and being cross examined by Brewer’s defence team, 48-year-old Mrs Andrade, who was a mother of four, was found dead at her home in Guildford, Surrey, after committing suicide. 

Chetham’s School of Music

Two further investigations of sexual attacks by teachers at Chetham’s School of Music have followed the Brewers conviction. In September 2014 conductor Nicholas Smith, aged 66-years-old, was sentenced to eight months in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old pupil, during the 1970s. The trial of Violin teacher Wen Zhou Li will take place later this year for the alleged rape and indecent assault of a 15-year-old pupil between March 1996 and May 1997. Both cases were uncovered as part of operation Kiso, a special police enquiry set up to investigate historical cases of sexual assault at the music school, which has students aged 8 to 18. The enquiry is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Head of Performance at London’s City University, Ian Pace, who is also an acclaimed interpreter of contemporary repertoire, is spearheading a campaign to extend the reach of police enquiries like operation Kiso to include multiple elite music institutions both in the UK and abroad. A petition hosted on his website includes a number of notable signatories including international pianists Imogen Cooper, Steven Osborne, Kathryn Stott, Andrei Gavrilov and Marc-André Hamelin, cellist Steven Isserlis and violinist Tasmin Little.

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