Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Platform Papers No 38

Enlightenment or Entitlement by Peter Tregear.  Platform Papers No 38, Currency House, February 2014.

Commentary by Frank McKone

For Canberra critics and the arts community Peter Tregear’s “Reflections on Tertiary Music Education” is of particular concern.  “About the Author” (page ix) states In 2012 he was appointed Professor and Head of the ANU School of Music and has led a successful overhaul of the curriculum and staffing of that institution.

I am not professionally able to make any judgement about the success or otherwise of his appointment, since straight theatre is my area of arts criticism and teaching.  But since the change of approach at the Canberra School of Music, as it was known throughout its long history before being amalgamated with the Australian University, generated great controversy, I think it is appropriate to alert interested parties to the publication of this Platform Paper, available from February 1.

Go to http://currencyhouse.org.au/node/317 for a description and purchase options.

Much of Tregear’s argument is about education, of which music education is one aspect.  From an educator’s point view, he raises the issue of a distinction between ‘conservatoire’ and ‘university’ style education.  This issue is also relevant to discussion of the change at ANU of the Theatre Studies course, after the retirement of Reader and Convenor, Geoffrey Borny, into Performing Arts And Creative Writing.

On curriculum grounds, Tregear goes into detail on “The Limits of the Mentor-Protégé Model” which he describes as the essence of the ‘conservatoire’, saying that the shift at ANU to a ‘university’ model, should never have been received as the existential threat it was made out to be, but rather as a timely occasion to implement necessary change.

He goes on to say, Gearing a curriculum – and the ‘pitch’ made to prospective students – so strongly (and uncritically) towards ‘elite’ classical and jazz performance per se, and the increasingly chimeric career path as a full-time virtuoso performer, operatic soloist or orchestral musician that might sustain it, is self-evidently no longer justifiable.  We have an urgent need, instead, to produce graduates who have an empowered sense of agency and responsibility for the musical culture that now surrounds us.  To do that, we need urgently to reassess both what we teach and how.

Platform Papers are published quarterly by Currency House, which is an independent not-for-profit organisation based in New South Wales, Australia, founded in 2000 by Katharine Brisbane.  For more information go to www.currencyhouse.org.au .