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.