Letter from ANAM student….

October 30, 2008 § 1 Comment

“And to cut back public support would be a fatal error, not only for cultural institutions but also for the whole country.  Once support is cut, it takes thrice as long to build it up again.  And that may never happen. That’s why every cut, every measure which diminishes quality has to be fought.”

Simone Young speaking on Cultural Funding in Germany from the DVD “From Hamburg to Downunder”.

My name is Ashley William Smith and I am a clarinetist studying at the
Australian National Academy of Music

I am one of several students from Perth who have/are benefiting enormously
from the unique performance training that ANAM offers. I come from an
average, non-musical, working-family in Noranda and attended my local
state school. I purchased my first clarinet as the result of washing
trays at the local butcher at the age of eleven. I completed a
Bachelor of Music at the University of Western Australia where I
graduated with several prizes, including a nomination for the J.A.
Wood Prize for the most outstanding graduate of the University for 2008.

I am heavily indebted to my teachers and lecturers at UWA for their
excellent teaching and their commitment to music and the careers of
their students. Given the resources and the number of
performance-career focused students at UWA, I have been given an
undergraduate education which I know is second to none in the country.
However, I have learnt more from the last nine months I spent at the
Academy than from the five years I spent at UWA. It is impossible to
recreate the ANAM model in each state. There are
simply not the resources, the number and quality of students, as well
as the number of visiting artists that the ANAM’s model, as the
centralised ‘national’ school, allows. Being continuously surrounded
by Australia’s fifty most talented young musicians in a hot-house
environment is an experience which no state based model would provide.
I would not be able to ‘tackle life as a professional musician’ were
it not for my (hopefully ongoing) time at ANAM. The last
nine woodwind placements in professional Australian orchestras went to
ANAM students or alumni. As I intend to pursue a career as a soloist
and contemporary / avant-garde musician (where the competition is even
more intense) the specialised opportunities that ANAM provides are of
even more significance.

I must also point out that the musicians of Perth have had fair
representation at the Academy. Others, with whom I am sure you work
with regularly, include Madeleine Boud, Louise McKay, Shaun Lee-Chen,
Rebecca White, Eve Silver, Nick Metcalfe, Alex Brogan, Heather
McMahon, Joanne Brown and Doree Dixon. As the result of its extensive
audition programme, Academy Musicians hail from all over the country.
In our wind section alone there are students from Newcastle NSW, Coffs
Harbour NSW, the Mornington Peninsula VIC, Port Sorrell TAS, the Gold
Coast QLD as well as Perth. There are also many Academy Musicians from
rural areas, including AYO principal violist Tara Houghton who is from
outback Queensland.  Maxwell Foster, the
2008 Young Performer of the Year, has traveled from Brisbane to study
at the Junior Academy.

It must be noted that the reason that ANAM has not toured interstate
is because of a lack of adequate funding – not because of the
decisions of the ANAM board. Most recently ANAM has toured as
extensively as it can. Woodwind quintets and string quartets performed
interstate just last year.

ANAM is also the chief cultivator of cross-institutional contact in
this country. For instance, ANAM invited students and teachers from
every music institution in the country (including UWA and WAAPA) to
take part in the master-classes and concerts for the ‘Piano!’
festival. Three times this month, the ANAM orchestra has joined forces
with the percussion and brass classes of the VCA. This Friday I am
performing a work with a violinist who has been specially sent down
from the Brisbane Conservatorium. The Academy has also hosted a brass
festival, an oboe festival and many vocal programmes which are open to
non-Academy musicians. Non-ANAM music students can attend most
concerts and master-classes for free. There is no other music
institution (other than AYO, perhaps) that dedicates itself so
strongly to bringing together the young musicians of the country.

Most ANAM  visiting artists are already in Melbourne as the result of appearances
for Musica Viva, the ACO and the MSO. This is emphasises the need for
ANAM, as a centralised model, to exist in the city which is
undoubtedly the cultural capital of the nation. If we sent these
international artists all over the country to teach do a master-class
and for two students, the costs to the tax-payer would be astronomical.

I firmly believe that ANAM does not degrade the value of our tertiary
institutions but, on the contrary, raises their standard. I personally
know of several UWA musicians who wish to ‘polish’ their undergraduate
knowledge by attending ANAM in the future. The extremely intense
competition to enter the Academy means that these undergraduate
musicians are working harder than ever. If ANAM is closed, I am sure
it will result in a lowering of standard in music institutions across
the whole country.

Ashley William Smith
Academy Musician (Clarinet)

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