3 May 2012

Our beating heart

For me, the essence of Canberra has been its intellectual and artistic life. This is not a big town but we’ve been blessed with the jazz I’ve written about over recent years, our local Orchestra, our International Music Festival and the rest. But were it not for the ANU School of Music, we would have few of these. The ANUSM is the beating heart that makes our musical life happen in Canberra. So I despair of today’s announcement that the Music School is downsizing, introducing a range of innovations (what a loaded word that is!), like “real-time, video-linked lessons”, a Professional Development Allowance (with the requisite acronym, PDA) to allocate to “specialist one-to-one tuition … summer course … master class … conference … learning a new piece of music software” (the work of an evening of two), and training in “skills needed across a range of music jobs”. I don’t wish to judge the ANU and I don’t have the information to make a judgement. Management can be a lonely path (but it can also be ideological and blinkered). I’ve heard of small student loads in some classical instruments and one-on-one must be expensive (but it’s the essence of musical training). Perhaps something needs to be done. And I fear that Canberra has been living off cross-subsidies from the ANU, at least our meagrely-funded CSO. But as I sit here and take this in, I wonder what the future will be in Canberra with a donwnscaled music school. Our musical heart is missing beats. The community may have saved the Fitters’ Workshop (for its limited musical uses), but there may be noone to perform in it.

1 comment:

Eric Pozza said...

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Robert F. Kennedy Address, University of Kansas, 18 Mar 1968