The faculty of the Bienen School of Music takes issues regarding sexual harassment very seriously, and the University has established a strong policy on the subject. During applied music lessons, pedagogical concerns often dictate that some amount of physical contact will take place between the teacher and the student. Singing or playing an instrument is a physical activity, and there are centuries of pedagogical history involving expert physical contact. These guidelines propose to remove some of the apprehension that may arise in the studio and to clarify the appropriate procedures.
If the pedagogical need for physical contact arises, the teacher will first ask permission to touch the student. The teacher will explain beforehand exactly what will be done and why. That way the student can understand the actions being taken. Specifically, such physical contact might include placing a hand on the student’s back, sides, or abdomen to confirm proper breathing, placing a hand on the face or jaw to assess facial tensions, or placing hands on the shoulders to establish appropriate posture.
Everyone has different comfort levels for physical contact, and it is impossible to predict what those levels are for each person. Some professors believe they are more effective and efficient using physical contact as a part of their teaching.
If students have questions or concerns about such physical contact, it is important that they do not hesitate to inform their professors. Asking questions or expressing concerns will not affect their grade. Students are responsible to let their professors know if they are uncomfortable with any physical contact. Students may also wish to do one or more of the following:
- Let the professor know that they are uncomfortable and ask the professor to discontinue the physical contact.
- If it is difficult to verbalize this, write the professor an email or note that deals with such concerns.
- Ask to have another person present in the studio during the lesson, such as an accompanist or friend.
- If students still feel uneasy or need assistance or clarification, they should talk to the program coordinator, the department chair, or the assistant dean.