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Update from the MCA: June 2012

26 June 2012 An update from Dr. Richard Letts, Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia, covering the MCA Freedman Fellowship, Music: Count Us In, issues in Tertiary Music Schools, State education departments cutting music staff, Music and Media, the National Curriculum, and more.

Dear members,

A few of the hot issues this month:

MCA Freedman Fellowships. Sixteen fine jazz musicians were nominated for the Jazz Fellowship and all have submitted projects and recordings for assessment. Now the judges choose four finalists. The judges are saxophonist David Theak (leader of the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra), pianist Mike Nock (leader of many fine bands going back to when) and senior jazz critic John Clare. The finalists will be presented in a playoff at The Studio of the Sydney Opera House at 7.30 on Friday August 10. It’s always a great night.

Music: Count Us In. In my last occasional bulletin, I was able to announce that the MCA’s Music: Count Us In program had been funded again, this time for four years. Thing have moved quickly since then. We held a competition for the song to be sung by school kids around Australia. From 80 entrants, 4 were chosen and brought to Sydney to work for a day with songwriter Josh Pike. They produced a song to which Josh will apply his professional skills.

We are about to record a backing track, produce written arrangements for all manner of school ensembles, commission teacher notes, offer workshops for thousands of teachers, and recruit schools to perform it. The performance will take place across the country at 11.30am on November 1. Last year we had 560,000 kids sing. This year, we hope for even more. The event is numerically spectacular but the real benefits are that many kids have their first organised music experience and many schools begin or upgrade their music programs.

There have been other important developments in music education:

Statement from ACARA about the National (now Australian) Curriculum: "The ACARA Board has approved draft Australian Curriculum F-10 for Dance, Drama, Media Arts and Music subject to editing. Draft Visual Arts curriculum F-10 will be submitted to the Board for approval in the week beginning 25 June.

Subject to Board approval of the Visual Arts, the draft Australian Curriculum: The Arts F-10 will be published on the Australian Curriculum website from early July for national consultation until mid-September 2012."

Our understanding is that after the consultation, the curriculum will be revised and then tested during 2013 for implementation in 2014. The plan is to test in 80 schools, covering all states and territories. So far as we are aware, there are to date no plans for training teachers to deliver the curriculum. This is especially a problem in primary schools.

Dick Letts (MCA) and Julie Dyson (Ausdance), representing the National Advocates for Arts Education, will meet this week with Minister for School Education Peter Garrett to discuss implementation issues. Getting action on these issues will be extremely complicated and difficult because the responsibilities are divided among so many entities, all of which can shelter behind someone else.

NSW Arts Unit cut? I do not have facts so treat this as rumour. The word on the street (ie. Facebook) is that funding cuts to the education budget by the NSW government will severely affect The Arts Unit. We have no detail at the moment but apparently an announcement was made at State Music Camp last week and people are already strongly reacting to the news. A proper announcement should come soon.

Meanwhile, this is real enough to have motivated a petition which already has nearly 5,000 signatures.

There are also severe cuts to curricular support staff in Education Queensland. The only survivor might be Mike Tyler, who is in charge of the state music education program. The great WAAPA music theatre school is in danger. Have a look at this video.

The Vice-Chancellor thinks WAAPA might do even better if it had less money! We await his conclusion that the same goes for his university as a whole.

You will be aware that the Australian National University has cut its subsidy to its School of Music, with an outraged response from the university community and the Canberra community, but support from the University Council, with a membership of deans of other disciplines that have to contribute to the subsidy. What you may not know is the this year also, the University of Tasmania has HALVED its funding to its Conservatorium.

The Commonwealth does not provide sufficient funds to our music schools, with the result that their host universities have had to keep them alive by internal cross-subsidies. This year, two universities have cried "enough" and one seems to be headed that way. MCA has organised the potentially most affected tertiary music schools and we are attempting to get the Minister for University Education to change the rules so that funding per student is increased and universities will no longer have to find internal cross-subsidies. We hope to meet with his principal advisor for university education next week.

Australian music on radio and television. In my last occasional bulletin, I mentioned the MCA's Music and Media Symposium. Subsequent to that meeting, the Commonwealth released its Convergence Review and one of the main themes of the Review was the need to ensure a strong presence for Australian content on television and radio. Its view was that in due course it would no longer be possible to achieve this by regulatory requirements and that Australian content quotas would be terminated. However, that day had not yet come and so for a "transitionary" period, they should continue.

This was a considerable relief to the music sector. After consultations, MCA has written to the Minister supporting continuation of the radio quotas and regulation for a stronger presence of Australian music in television. Meanwhile, MCA has begun a process of invention for a post-quota world.


Dick Letts

Executive Director

Music Council of Australia