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School of music moves forward with new talent


Lisa Cox

Peter Tregear.

Peter Tregear. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

The Australian National University has appointed a violinist, a popular music expert and one of the country's leading tenors to its restructured school of music.

Head of school Peter Tregear said the school now had ''something to boast about'' following the announcement of the three new staff members on Monday, after an international search.

And Professor Tregear said the school expected to take on a full complement of students in 2013, despite a 30 per cent drop in applications.

Violinist and musicologist Dr David Irving, English studio recordist and popular music and technology expert Dr Samantha Bennett, and tenor and early music expert Dr Paul McMahon were selected from 130 applicants for positions at the controversially restructured school.

The new academics, who each have extensive international performance backgrounds, will join the seven school of music staff members who successfully reapplied for their positions.

All staff were originally spilled from their jobs when a major structural overhaul was announced at the school in May to make courses more vocational and less performance-based in a bid to save $1.5 million a year in costs. Then staff were told they would require a PhD to stay on.

Professor Tregear said the school would appoint two more academics to the school in the next 12 to 18 months.

''As we know, the whole change is premised on a complement of full-time staff that can teach across the curricula,'' he said.

''They [Drs Irving, Bennett and McMahon] have significant performance backgrounds but all have PhDs.

''All can offer teaching in more than one area.''

Professor Tregear said the ''world class'' new staff members had expertise that would allow the school to offer courses in areas of growing importance, including popular and digital music and music in south-east Asia.

''We've gone from a situation where the school didn't have much to boast about and now it does,'' he said.

''It's not just closer to what you'd find in Sydney and Melbourne, it's better.''


  • The school has something to boast about with the appointment of three new staff members? Does than mean it has something to be contrite about when it sacked dozens of staff members?

    Date and time
    December 18, 2012, 8:42AM
    • So let me get this right - everyone who graduated from the ANU School of Music up to this year has a worthless degree? That's the message I get.

      Date and time
      December 18, 2012, 9:00AM
  • "Didn't have much to boast about [before]".

    This is a huge insult to the incredible teachers and performers that the ANU sacked.

    I find it hard to believe that someone like Alice Giles is an inferior teacher and performer to these new hires (who I have nothing against) because she does not have a PhD.

    Date and time
    December 18, 2012, 11:15AM
    • No Grant, you have misinterpreted the comment. It is simply saying that (earlier this year) there was nothing to boast about with the school in turmoil, and now there is (with the new appointments giving stability). Your extreme hyperbole regarding all degrees given in the entire history of the SoM is just that. Now is the time to move forward and create a multi-faceted and fiscally-responsible School in which performance is but one of the areas in which to excel.

      Date and time
      December 18, 2012, 11:41AM
      • 'Student' - You have really bought the ANU's spin haven't you? 'Multi-faceted and fiscally responsible', this is just fluffy management words and an insult. What exactly is fiscally responsible about losing over $10m worth of philanthropic support?

        Those who are actually involved performers and performance students know that there is no substance to the claim that performance will thrive... Excuse the rhyme, it will be lucky to survive.

        Date and time
        December 18, 2012, 7:39PM
    • The argument is that the school of music was rubbish before but now its been saved by the heroic Peter Tregear. My daughter was studying there over the last two years and she found it inspiring, as did I for the performances I saw, including at regional music events.

      If things go well it will take years to recover from the trauma and the hubris exhibited here suggests there is more trouble ahead.

      Ken Taylor
      Date and time
      December 18, 2012, 11:42AM
      Comments are now closed

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