Music school's sour note

By Emma Macdonald
Updated April 18 2018 - 12:53pm, first published May 27 2012 - 5:36am


The Manhattan School of Music has contacted the Australian National University to condemn the proposed course changes at the School of Music and to object to its name being used in association with the funding and staffing cuts.
Since January last year, the Manhattan School of Music and ANU School of Music have been collaborating to deliver video-conferencing and distance learning music exchanges together.
When Vice Chancellor Ian Young earlier this month announced a $1.3 million funding cut, 10 academic job losses and course reforms at the school which reduced access to one-on-one tuition, one of his selling points was that students would be able to take advantage of the videoconferencing technology to access experts at the Manhattan School of Music.
But academics in Manhattan have expressed dismay at the proposed course changes, which take the focus of professional performance and one-on-one contact in favour of broader and more vocational music courses in areas such as music administration, journalism and teaching.
Marjorie Merryman, Vice President for Academics and Performance at the Manhattan School of Music wrote to students over the weekend, assuring them the MSM did not support the restructuring plan and had grave concerns about the use of their name in association with the restructuring.
Professor Merryman said ‘‘the University is using our name without our permission and over our expressed objections.’’
She said staff at the school had learnt about the restructuring about 10 days ago when contacts at ANU brought to their attention the statement by Professor Young that some ANU faculty would be cut, but that students would have the option to take lessons and sessions provided by MSM through videoconferencing.
She told students she had written to Professor Young saying ‘‘We do not agree with (his) idea as an educational model; we support one-on-one live studio teaching. Educationally and philosophically, we could not endorse ANU's new model for college-level music study.’’
Furthermore, she said ‘‘We have no arrangement with ANU to provide the services they describe.’’
Video-conferencing is believed to be an occasional feature, not a regular offering at the School of Music.
‘‘We strongly object to being associated with a plan that would eliminate faculty positions...and we strongly object to our name being used or to any implication that we endorse this restructuring.’’
Professor Merryman said she had received reassurances from Professor Young that their name had not been used, which had not been the case.
She said ‘‘We are very sad to learn that the University's financial decisions may result in faculty members losing jobs, and in students there receiving an inferior education. Certainly we would hope that ANU could find other solutions to its financial crisis. But we are truly dismayed to be cited as partners in such a decision or supporters of such an action.’’
A spokeswoman for Vice Chancellor Ian Young said the ANU was ‘‘in contact with the Manhattan School of Music on these issues. Our relationship with the school is one we value highly.’’
Jazz student Rohan Moore, who has facilitated the email contact with the MSM said it was clear that there was no internal university support for the cuts, and wider community outrage that they were being undertaken - including from the international music community.
‘‘One would hope that the support of the entire (ACT) Legislate Assembly, nearly 25,000 petition-signers, and perhaps hundreds of local and interstate organisations and societies, would sway them. They have received statements of outrage, disgust and utter opposition from hundreds of notable musical figures worldwide, some ANU graduates,’’ he said.
‘‘One would hope that the sheer tonnes of bad publicity nationally and internationally focussed on the ANU, and the remarkable efforts of my fellow students and staff to demonstrate their opposition would make them realise their entire reputation is at stake.’’
Staff and students have staged record-breaking rallies and parades, a 24-hour concert, a major production concert from each of our teaching and student faculties, stood in the rain at outdoor string concerts outside Council gatherings and was planning to fight on.

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