A former State Opera boss has told an Adelaide court an allegation he had sex with one of his underage singing students three decades ago is “absolute garbage”, but that touching students was a “normal part of the lesson” to correct posture.

Key points:

  • Former State Opera of SA chief executive Timothy Sexton is currently on trial
  • He is accused of 17 sexual crimes against three girls, and has pleaded not guilty
  • He today told a court that an allegation he had sex with a student during a lesson was “garbage”

Timothy Sexton, 60, is on trial in South Australia’s District Court accused of 17 sexual crimes against three girls across seven Adelaide suburbs between 1989 and 1993.

The court has previously heard the former State Opera of SA chief executive was a “handsome and charismatic” orchestra conductor and composer who used his charm and reputation to seduce and abuse the three teenage students.

The charges include two counts of maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a child, seven counts of indecent assault and a further eight counts of unlawful sexual relationship with a child.

The court heard the first of his alleged victims was having private singing lessons with Mr Sexton, while he was working as a freelance musician.

Mr Sexton, who has pleaded not guilty, told the jury he had studied a diploma of education, but he had not intended to become a teacher.

“I really tried to keep the teaching of the singing to a relative minimum,” Mr Sexton said.

“I really only took on students that I was — who had really good voices that had potential to do very well because I didn’t want to clutter my calendar with lots of small things at the expense of being able to do bigger things.”

Mr Sexton said he got along “really well” with the student and they had a “good teacher/student relationship”.

Mr Sexton is standing trial in SA’s District Court.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

But he said there was no sexual contact “whatsoever” and an allegation he had sex with her during a lesson was “absolute garbage”.

“I mean, we were very friendly, we got on very, very well.”

He said there was some touching of students to correct posture, which was a “normal part” of a singing lesson.

“It was necessary to make certain corrections… the same you might say with a sportsperson or a weightlifter… making sure that they are lifting correctly,” he said.

“Essentially, I had taught the way I had been taught and had seen other people teach and that did involve pushing down on shoulders because people breathe at top of lungs and of course shoulders go up and that doesn’t work.”

‘Peck on the cheek’ over joke gift

The court heard the singing lessons mostly took place in practice rooms at Adelaide University’s Elder Conservatorium of Music — but, on occasion if the rooms were booked, he would pick the student up in his car and drive her to another arts venue in Norwood.

The court heard Mr Sexton once gave the student “a peck on the cheek” as a thank you for a joke birthday present she had given him, of baby food.

“I was making some complaint about ageing, so she had made some crack about — an uncharacteristically funny crack — about being a big baby and properly got some baby food,” he told the court.

He also told the court the girl had once asked him if he had ever had an affair or relationship with a teacher.

“I said to her that I had had a relationship with a person who had been a teacher at my school but that was after I had left school,” he said.

The court was previously told that the three alleged victims were not known to each other, but had a “shared experience” through their dealings with Mr Sexton.

Mr Sexton pleaded not guilty in the Adelaide Magistrates Court in 2018 to offences including maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship with a minor and indecent assault.

He was the artistic director and chief executive of the State Opera from 2011 until his resignation in May 2017.

The trial continues.