Exclusive: Shock resignation of Conservatory chief

Exclusive: Shock resignation of Conservatory chief


norman lebrecht

April 17, 2015

Karl Kramer has quit as dean of the Sydney Conservatorium on the eve of its centenary. His letter has just gone out, late on Friday night, in the hope of minimising media attention over the weekend. The reasons? He’s not saying, but there have been rumbling personnel issues and accusations of bullying at the Con. Read the letter.

Sydney Con goes headless into its centennial.

UPDATE: Here’s a clue.

karl kramer


Dear Colleagues,

I notified Michael Spence Thursday that I will be resigning my position as dean of the Sydney Conservatorium effective July 17, 2015. For personal and family reasons, Jean and I will be returning to the United States. There will be a smooth and orderly transition over the next three months.

After 26 continuous years without a break of chairing, directing, and deaning in higher education, it is time for me to take a respite and consider my future plans. I want to thank everyone in the faculty for their hard work and perseverance, for joining me in pursuing a vision of musical excellence, and for congealing into a unified and trusting staff to serve the students and our art.

I am leaving the faculty in excellent shape artistically, and the morale of the school has improved markedly since my arrival. There is still work to be done; however, our student body is incredibly talented, our academic staff is world-class in its teaching and research, our professional staff is expert, clever and indefatigable, and our building is in excellent logistical condition. In addition, as a co-founder of the Pacific Alliance of Music Schools the Con holds a leadership position in the pantheon of tertiary music institutions in the region.

The future of the Con is indeed bright and I wish you all the very best.

Most sincerely,

PROFESSOR KARL KRAMER | Dean and Principal
Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Conservatium of Music


  • V.Lind says:

    Anybody worn out from “deaning” is due for a rest.

  • John Porter says:

    Karl Kramer should be given a lot of credit for righting that ship, after some pretty big time problems with his predecessor.

    • Ian Shanahan says:

      On the contrary. Bullying and intimidation has continued under Kramer’s watch. Prof. Winsome Evans – a friend and colleague of mine over the last 35 years – is a victim of bullying by some of her colleagues at the Con, and Kramer has repeatedly failed to intervene and solve the problem.

  • Anthony Jones says:

    While the reasons for his sudden departure are not clear, Prof Kramer (or 2K as he is known) has made substantial and profound changes in his short time. His predecessor’s time was contentious, but she began the process of internationalising the Conservatorium. Kramer has seen the process through, but also has widen the focus of the institution in both its performance and research streams.

    I’m hoping that we will be able to look back kindly upon his time, if dark revelations do reveal themselves.

  • Rock says:

    While you may think there’s more to it, Norman, actually it is for personal and family reasons as Karl Kramer states. Those close to the action know this to be true. There is no salacious story. There are few if any “rumbling personnel issues” any more at the Sydney Conservatorium: I daresay about the same or less as any other tertiary music institution. Sorry to disappoint.

  • Fred Merkel says:

    Perhaps the Con should have done it’s homework. His bullying tactics are a tradition in his dictatorial rule.

  • Darrin C. Milling says:

    I had the pleasure to meet and work with Karl Kramer in Miami Beach, FL in 1996 / 97. Wishing him and his family all the best.

  • André M. Smith says:

    An Open Letter, which may be distributed by the Recipient

    To Wit:

    And if your eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Matthew 18:9

    And pluck you did, Sydney. You will survive in recognizable form, and be the stronger for it.

    Kramer, you’ve been plucked!

    What goes around comes around. The financial auditors at the Sydney Conservatorium seem to have come to their senses even after so little as a cursory review of the fiscal improprieties of Dr Karl Kramer were revealed. What surprises me is how long it took officials to catch him with his hand in the cookie jar. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydney-conservatorium-of-music-dean-karl-kramer-forced-to-resign-over-expenses-20150702-gi3q57.html Dr Kramer is an intellectual property thief.

    I had overseen the preparation of Brass Quintets 2-4 by Victor Ewald (1860-1935) for their first performances in Carnegie Hall during the mid-1970s. I gave an introductory lecture preceding each of the three performances.

    “For many years it was wrongly thought that Ewald was the composer of only one quintet, his Op. 5 in B flat minor, because this was the only one published (by Edition Belaïeff in 1912) during his lifetime. The discovery of the other three works was due to the tireless research of André M. Smith, (an eminent musicologist and former bass trombonist at the Metropolitan Opera, New York) who was given the manuscripts by Ewald’s son-in-law, Yevgeny Gippius in 1964. A further nine years of investigation was necessary to authenticate the manuscripts, before the pieces were given their first modern performance during the 1974-75 season in a series of concerts by the American Brass Quintet at Carnegie Hall.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Ewald I remain the world authority on the life and work of Ewald. https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=victor+ewald+andre+m.+smith

    “Brass in early Russia, from the beginnings to the birth of Victor Ewald, 1860.” ITG Journal 18(2):4-20, Dec 1992.

    “Victor Vladimirovich Ewald (1860-1935), civil engineer and musician.” ITG Journal 18(3):4-23, February 1994.

    “The four brass quintets of Victor Ewald.” ITG Journal 18(4):33, May 1994.

    “The history of the four quintets for brass by Victor Ewald.” ITG Journal 18(4):5-32, May 1994.

    After I had loaned Dr Kramer and his fellow miscreants in The Brass Ring a complete set of parts to the Quintet Nr 4 for Brass by Victor Ewald for their review, he took my manuscript and published it over the imprint of Ensemble Publications. http://www.enspub.com/bre.htm When a member of a new ensemble in New York, Saturday Brass Quintet, subsequently called me to ask about some editorial refinements in “the new edition,” I had no idea what he was talking about. https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=saturday+brass+quintet I was sent a couple of sample pages for my review. After their receipt I called Dr Kramer for an explanation. He rejected my call and abruptly hung up. After my lawyer interceded in the matter Dr Kramer was never again heard from in the matter.

    The misappropriation of my manuscript and its pirated misuse by Dr Kramer in his series of Brass Ring editions published by Ensemble Publications seriously undercut a planned publication in series of all four Quintets for Brass in a collaboration between The American Brass Quintet and myself. http://www.juilliard.edu/about/newsroom/2014-15/american-brass-quintet-pays-tribute-retiring-members-raymond-mase-and-david and http://hornmatters.com/2011/06/psa-on-the-ewald-quintets-and-that-ewaldking-%E2%80%9Csymphony-for-brass%E2%80%9D/

    There is one point which I am sure must have been handled adroitly by Dr Kramer. Every student of the tuba taught by him during the past three decades must have asked him about the origin of the text for his publication of the Quintet Nr 4 by Ewald. There is no way he could have retained his professional ethics intact and been honest with any one of them. A kick in the can at the present time could not be received by a more deserving pair of cheeks.

    From my readings about the abrupt departure of Dr Kramer from Sydney during this important time in the history of The Con, the local population should be dancing the hora. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzhQuQGyulA


    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)

    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)

    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)

    Formerly Bass Trombonist

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,

    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),

    The Juilliard Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.