Royal Academy of Music career advice condemned as “racist" and "sexist”

Royal Academy of Music (RAM) has come under widespread criticism after students shared professional development notes from a lecturer on social media that include "racist" and "sexist" suggestions.

 
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The notes from RAM Lecturer Francesca Carpos that she distributed to students, offer advice on how to progress through the music industry, including list of must know terms where violinists are referred to as “Gypos (short of gypsies)”, as well as the collective term for other musicians is “the boys”.

One of the strongest criticisms of the letter is that it implies that students should not report abuse, discrimination and harassment, with advice including "play your part, do your thing, head down, don’t complain and keep quiet", as well as “be discreet; what’s on tour stays on tour”.

This comes just days after RAM were in the headlines as former double bass teacher Duncan McTier had his teaching ban reaffirmed after pupil sex offences. Duncan McTier resigned from the RAM in 2014 after pleading guilty today to two counts of indecent assault and one of attempted indecent assault against young women.

In response, the RAM Students Union has released a letter condemning the article, listing numerous and severe criticisms of the career advice. They include that the advice is “racist” and sexist”, and that it promotes that “ageism is acceptable”, discourages “diversity in perspectives and attitudes”, and encourages “an environment of exploitation”.

The Students Union also state that it breaks RAM’s “Equality and Diversity Policy”. In addition, they have called for:

“the immediate establishment of a student-led Working Group on Equality and Diversity in order to devise both a both short-term and long-term response to both the letter and the broader climate to which it speaks”.

Upon a request for a comment, the Royal Academy released the following statement announcing that that Francesa Carpos had been dismissed with immediate effect:

“Earlier this week, a new member of staff circulated an unauthorised document and follow-up email to all students. It contained one individual’s observations on professional practice which do not represent the views of the Royal Academy of Music.”


The contents of these communications were unacceptable and the member of staff has been dismissed from post with immediate effect.

The Academy has a progressive professional development environment, but acknowledges that there is still much work to be done across the sector. While students and staff already collaborate within the existing Equality and Diversity Committee, suggestions from students in the wake of this incident have prompted us to set up two student-led groups to advise on equality and diversity, and professional development provision.

We anticipate that these steps will allow us to shape professional practice within our field rather than just respond to the outdated inequalities which we know still exist. The President of the Student Union and the Senior Management Team will be working, together, closely to monitor progress in this area in the coming weeks and months.”

Although RAM have distanced themselves from the offending article, Francesca Carpos’ notes are from the “Network Pathway” presentation that she delivered at the Academy when under employment as Lecturer in Professional Development.

When the Musicians’ Union were asked about the incident, Naomi Pohl, Assistant General Secretary, said:

“I think the students’ response to the guidance given by the Royal Academy shows that there is a real appetite for change.  I sense that’s true among professional musicians as well as students who are entering the industry.  The Musicians’ Union is holding a couple of open meetings in November to discuss how we can be a catalyst for change and better protect our members who may be subject to sexist comments or discrimination in the workplace or even harassment or abuse.  The advice put out by RAM highlights some of the attitudes that have sadly been commonplace in certain work environments musicians frequent and that haven’t been questioned as much as they should have been over the years.  I am glad to see students ready to challenge the culture and make it clear that they won’t accept or go along with it."



If you have been affected by any of the themes in this article, the following links from the Musicians’ Union (MU) and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) provide suitable information and resources in regards to abuse and harassment, as well as information and signposting on how to report it, drop in events and surveys.

In addition, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 (UK and Ireland only)

MU support: https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/News/2017/Oct/The-MU-is-here-to-support-you-if-you-face-inapprop

MU Open meetings on sexual harassment: https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/News/2017/Nov/MU-Open-Meetings-on-Sexual-Harassment-in-the-Music

ISM survey on “Discrimination in the Industry”: http://bit.ly/ISMmakeadifference

ThoughtsDavid Taylor