The Musicians' Union has released a video - with the NSPCC and other organisations - telling music teachers that they don't need to touch their pupils to demonstrate technique. It is called 'Keeping Children Safe In Music', and the voiceover goes: 'When you're teaching instruments, there are times when you need to demonstrate particular techniques. In the past, this has often been done by touching students, but this can make students feel uncomfortable, and can leave teachers open to accusations of inappropriate behaviour. It isn't necessary to touch children in order to demonstrate: there's always a better way.'
The video in question is ridiculous:
Instead of placing a struggling violin pupil's hands in the correct position, the teacher plays his own violin and tells the pupil to 'keep his hand in the same position', and as if by magic, the pupil plays the correct notes. 'Yeah right', says one music teacher on a chatroom thread about this:
Other teachers note that touch essential - it is the simplest way to straighten backs, reposition hands, or deal with all the myriad errors in technique reproduced in every young player. They also note that no-touch policies make everybody anxious, and make the whole thing into a big (and potentially seedy) issue. All this relates to the discussion and research by academic - and Manifesto Club member - Heather Piper, in her book
Henry Fagg from The Tutor Pages, who posted the discussion thread, told me that he thought this was probably about back-covering from musical authorities:
‘I think it’s to do with those in positions of responsibility in the music industry wanting to be seen to be doing the right thing. It is a fear of fear itself – fear of what is going to happen if an allegation is made against you. It is certainly hysterical, and interferes with music teaching day-to-day. It also fails to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate touch, and hence the real issue of child abuse is completely ignored.’