Federal Politics


School of Music reform is a case of missed opportunity

As a former student and current part-time lecturer at the ANU School of Music, I was disappointed to see so many missed opportunities for reform in Professor Young's announcement of staff cuts (''Fresh fears at ANU as cuts target School of Music'', May 4, p1). Granted, the idea for a music school that doesn't offer music lessons was a masterstroke (Professor Young is quite right: every other degree offered by the ANU manages perfectly well without providing music lessons of any sort), but there are other inefficiencies that should also have been addressed.

For example, the School of Music insists on purchasing and maintaining pianos that have 88 notes, despite the fact that many of the notes at the peripheries of the keyboard are used much less frequently than those in the centre. Identify and remove the 27 least called-upon keys (Gb in the top octave, I'm looking at you), and you have an instrument that is 30 per cent cheaper to build and maintain, and students who can get through the Minute Waltz in only 40 seconds. A good thing too, because those very students are just as much to blame for the current crisis. Student orchestras at the ANU continue to perform their programs in a contiguous fashion(!): First Movement first, then the Second, and so on. It's traditional, certainly, but needlessly lengthy were they to perform all four movements simultaneously, much could be saved on lighting, heating and conductors.

When the same thinking that informs stocktake sale efficiencies dictates seminal changes to the Arts, astonishing things are possible. Canberra's young musicians are blessed indeed now; living no longer in an age of Excellence, but of Excel.

And for those recalcitrants who continue to believe that elite musicianship is best developed by an aggregation of elites, rather than a voucher and a copy of the Yellow Pages, there's always well, anywhere else but here, really.

Philip Johnston, Pearce

We have a new composer in the country town of Canberra. His name is Ian Young and his composition is ''Kill the School of Music''. In one foul swoop he has undermined the decency of the new director of the School of Music at ANU, Dr Adrian Walter, with his new other plans. Mr Young has managed in a short period of time to make the students, staff and administration of the arts at ANU to question the validity of their studies, their artistry and their future careers. Mr Young, so-called the Vice-Chancellor for good reason has just destroyed the gentle heart and soul of a musical enterprise within the grounds of the ANU which doesn't make a profit but which gives Canberra a musical base which has been getting better in leaps and bounds over the past couple of years. With ''Kill the School of Music'' we have a deliberate destruction through devaluation of a musical education which has served my children since they were each two years old.


My son is a budding second year composition student at ANU and my daughter is a Music for Secondary School Students (MSS) at ANU with aspirations to be a singer. What message has Mr Young's eulogy sent them about the value of the unseen universe of sound which is of equal value if not more so than the money making enterprise of scientific endeavour.

Shame Ian Young, shame. His horrible composition has insulted the highly regarded and outstanding musicians and music teachers of Canberra of the likes of Max McBride, Alice Giles, John Mackey, Vernon Hill and there are more, all with international reputations and credentials to match any of the scientific practical and logical and, dare I say, money-making academics of ANU.


Vale to one of the best academic music schools in our country.

Karen Dahl, Forrest