A message from the MCA Executive Director

26/11/12: A message from MCA Executive Director, Dr Richard Letts

Dear MCA members,

It's been some time since I wrote to you. Apologies for that–it has been an action-filled few months.

The first thing I would like to mention is important because it involves you directly. We have set up a survey of members intended to help us address your interests and strengthen Music Forum magazine. It would help us enormously if you would fill it in. Just go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MusicForum and follow your nose. Many thanks, in advance.

We have just learned about the schedule for the further step by step progress of the national curriculum in music. Those who follow this will know that a first draft was released a few months ago for comment – and boy, did it get comment! What we have heard is that the curriculum writers wrote a much stronger curriculum than the one we saw, but that ACARA cut it back in response to pressure from state education ministers. It has now been rewritten to meet the criticisms. We have glimpsed some of the new version and in general terms, it looks much better. However, next April, it again goes to the state education ministers and who knows but that it could be cut to pieces all over again.

So MCA is taking some pre-emptive actions. The fact is that no matter how good the curriculum, most primary teachers have not been sufficiently well educated in music to teach it. So we are taking some very positive proposals to the state education ministers in the states that do not have specialist music teachers in primary schools (ie all but Queensland and Tasmania).

To do this, we have formed committees in WA, SA and NSW. Victoria already has its own. ACT and NT could also be a part of the campaign if they wish. We need to reach the ministers before they all meet next April. In addition to direct approaches by our advocacy groups, we hope to mount public campaigns in the media and perhaps through petitions. The message is that every child should have the opportunity for a good quality music education through the schools. You certainly will hear about that!

The enormous Music: Count Us In program ran again this year. It was the biggest yet, with 2,040 schools and 600,000 children and workshops for over 2,000 primary school teachers. We reckon it is the biggest school music event in the world. It has enormous media coverage carrying the message of the broad value of music education to children.

This is the last Music: Count Us In event to be managed by Tina Broad. Tina has built this, and its host Music: Play for Life program brilliantly over the last decade. She is an extraordinarily creative and effective leader. She has resigned and will leave Music: Play for Life at the end of the year. Potential successors will be interviewed in early December.

I must tell you that I also have resigned as Executive Director of the Council. However, I am not leaving altogether. A new CEO will be appointed who will take care of the management of the Music Council and other duties to be decided. I will continue with the work that most interests me, freed from the general administrative burden that I have carried since I founded the MCA in 1994. Whoopee.

The Music in Communities Network ran a one day conference for community orchestras. About 30 attended and got a great deal from it. MICN can see new ways of supporting the orchestras, especially given that their previous organisation, Orchestras Australia (formerly TOAN), bit the dust. MICN ran a research survey of orchestras which you can see on its website, www.musicincommunities.org.au. (It is current conducting another – of choirs.) If you want to know more, Alex Masso is your man: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I hope you enjoyed the Summer Edition of Music Forum magazine, and its multicultural theme. There is so much music from other cultures to be heard in Australia, despite lukewarm interest from government arts bodies. Its status is shaky and even the finest musicians have a hard time surviving. Buried treasure, as I write in Music Forum.

It is interesting that a number of our Freedman Fellows incorporate music from other cultures in their own music. This year, the winner of the Jazz Fellowship, electric bass player Christopher Hale, takes his music a step deeper with the inclusion of Spanish flamenco music and Korean music – not just as decoration but as integral elements. The previous jazz winner, sax player Matt Keegan, is about to visit a village in India where he will work with the musicians to draw wisdom from their musical tradition.

The next Music Forum, in February, will give some insights into issues facing the contemporary music industry.

Don’t forget that as members, you can get access to the online version.

www.musiccareer.com.au is about to gain a new editor. Suzanne Yanko is a very experience journalist who has led an enormously interesting life in Australia and the Asia Pacific and as writer and editor for Fairfax and Arts Hub, among others. She will further develop this site so well stocked with information by its founder, Alex Masso.

The Music in Australia Knowledge Base has a new and more easily understood home page and around 40 new articles over the past year. Lotsa stats. Check it out, if you wish, at www.musicinaustralia.org.au

You will remember the extraordinary story of Jennifer Condon and her project to produce the first ever performance of Peggy Glanville-Hicks opera, Sappho. She brought it off, completing the recording in July. The CD was supposed to be available here at the beginning of November but so far it's a no-show. However, we hear that it has been manufactured overseas and that copies are about to be sent to Australia. There was a broadcast by ABC radio but the CD gives repeated listening.

I’ll keep you posted about that music education campaign. There will be an opportunity for you to give painless assistance. You can make a difference.

Best regards

Dick Letts


Dr Richard Letts | Executive Director, Music Council of Australia