You can read about the planned cuts here and here.
I was the last student to be let into the Bachelor of Music (Jazz) course in 2001. As in, I wasn't supposed to make it in, but literally begged my way in. I'm pretty sure I left about 40-50 voicemail messages on head-of-school Mike Price's answering machine pleading with him, something along the lines of "I really would love to be in the course. I will work hard to bring my standard up." etc. etc. I was over the moon when he called to say he'd let me in: I remember I'd just been shopping to buy kitchen utensils for my move out of home.
The ANU School of Music (S.O.M.) was an excellent place to learn. While Canberra didn't possess the most vibrant scene in Australia for jazz, the faculty and course was excellent. The have fond memories from pretty much all of my subjects that I now consider integral to my development into a jazz musician; I also try and pass on some of these to the students I teach now.
It's the place I first came into contact with the music of Scott Tinkler, Bernie McGann, Dale Barlow, Alister Spence, Paul MacNamara, Mike Bukovsky, Andrew Hill, Paul Bley, Don Pullen, Carla Bley, Cecil Taylor, Matt McMahon, Carl Dewhurst and Steve Sedergreen. I remember each of these moments vividly; they were inspiring and motivating.
Most of my time there was spent practicing, transcribing and rehearsing; I was quite reclusive. I still have folders upon folders of transcriptions. I think the list of players I checked out over the years is a good indication of the focus of the course: on jazz tradition but with the possibility of becoming more exploratory: Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett make up most of my first year, then Herbie, McCoy, more Keith, Bud Powell and Monk, and third year is mostly Andrew Hill, Paul Bley, Duke Ellington (I chose to transcribe pretty much all of Money Jungle for my third year research project), Sonny Rollins and Cecil Taylor.
That this course is being cut to shreds is a crying shame. Obviously it's for financial gain: one-to-one lessons must stick out like a sore thumb on the university's budget.
Below is my letter to the vice-chancellor, I try to make the point that, beyond such unsupportable opinions of music being "noble," "honourable,"or necessarily good for the world, artists might engage in society outside of the elitist circles in such a way that the musician is challenged and the audience is engaged and challenged. To my mind this is art being relevant to society, rather that Beethoven's Fifth/Ninth being played to yet another generation of kids who don't "get it," only to be told that the problem is theirs.
Please help save the school of music by signing this petition.
I have recently read about the planned cuts to the ANU’s school of music. I wish to express my concern that this cuts will not only drastically lower the quality of students and graduates, thereby acting as the worst kind of advertising for what I experienced as an excellent learning environment, but also places the ANU school of music curriculum in the lowest echelons of tertiary education.
No doubt these choices were made after much deliberation, but I can only imagine that they were decided upon from a financial basis; no one in there right mind who has a strong affinity with education in the arts would believe that the abolishment of one-to-one lessons would not cripple the entire program.
Graduates from the courses offered at the school of music have gone on to great things, and I’m sure that the vast majority of them are appalled at what is happening to this school. I have attached my CV for you to see the kinds of things I have explored since graduating; I hope you’ll agree that they are not insignificant achievements. I also teach many students here in Melbourne, both at a tertiary and secondary level. I am often asked about the ANU School of Music and have always given it the utmost support as a course and faculty, I’m afraid I’m no longer able to do this.
Finally, artists contribute to society not only by continuing the great, canonical works of the past; I know many creative musicians who are graduates of the ANU SOM who are concerned with presenting art that engages society in a non-elitist way in order to question the value of art and it's place in society. This sort of art-making results in a positive relationship between art and society to the benefit of all. I believe that this sort of art making cannot be gotten to without the level of craft that comes from close attention to instrumental technique: the kind of attention that will be lost if these cuts proceed. This, more so that the need to continue on the great works of the past, is the real reason for supporting music education in Canberra.
I strongly urge you to reconsider these cuts: I cannot imagine any positive effects on the SOM.