Aussie School of Music blows up again

Aussie School of Music blows up again


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2015

Three years ago, Peter Tregear was brought in to calm down the Australian National University’s (ANU) School of Music in Canberra from which the teaching talent was flying out as fast as and wherever it could after a round of budget cuts. Peter succeeded. Canberra reverted to a modicum of quiet efficiency.

Three months ago, Peter saw his job advertised. Today, he quit.

ANU has lost all credibility. It may also be missing a final consonant.

peter tregear


  • anon1 says:

    Peter did a reasonable job given the circumstances (given I don’t even know the fullest extent of the behind-the-scenes pressures from the university) but believe me Peter did not succeed in maintaining the school. The school got decidedly trashed, and is/was a pitiful empty shell of what it once was. The student standard has been shockingly low since the cuts, the performance staff have virtually all gone too. The school is in absolutely horrendous shape I’m sorry to say, with a very confused vision.

    Fundamentally I think the point that could never be recovered was the a) the budget being halved, and b) the performance staff/composition staff loosing their full-time jobs. Canberra is not big enough to have freelancers of the required calibre for work as tertiary instrumental teachers, it needed those full-time positions. Ultimately even if Peter had done a perfect job, I don’t think there was ever any coming back from this position.

    The school has more problems than I could possibly list here, and I have grave concerns for its future at all. The really sad thing is the university if they wanted to at this point could probably just close the whole thing without much resistance – the community gave its all in 2012 to no avail.

    When mourning Peters loss, lets too not forgot those teachers who had taught for 10, 20, 30+ years building incredible and (in some cases) internationally-respected instrumental departments – who were let go in perhaps even crueler circumstances.

    Where to from here I wonder? Will basically just have to wait it out for the federal government to decide they want to fund a performance institution of note in the nation’s capital and build it alllll up from scratch… again.

    Bravo Ian Young.

    • Bemused says:

      Dear Anon, you have got to be kidding me. Let’s see what’s been achieved in the performance space since 2012. An international piano competition, a digitally staged opera, successive winners of the national MBS young performers prize being School students, a Jazz festival, etc etc etc. There are some truly extraordinary students in the School; I am shocked that you could write this, but not surprised you would do as ‘Anon’. It seems members of the canberra musical community remains as graceless and as ungenerous to a fault. With attitudes like this, you get the School of Music you deserve.

      • Anon3 says:

        I would say ‘Bemused’ is just as anon as ‘Anon1’. Problem is everything ‘Bemused’ has mentioned, whilst all very admirable, is essentially just fluff. The problem lies with the Music School’s core offerings. Student numbers have collapsed in the past few years as few students are attracted by what the school has to offer. Whether this is Tregear’s fault or not is hard to say. It would seem that the University itself has gutted the institution to the point that it is dysfunctional, no matter who happens to be leading it. Still it has been surprising how many opinion pieces Mr Tregear has been willing to publish analysing the problems of others, when he has had so many of his own.

        • Luigi Nonono says:

          Presumably, there is some sort of government minister who oversees the school. That must be where the problem lays, or the minister could have taken action long ago. It’s simple enough to re-hire the fired faculty, if they are willing to return.

  • Tor Frømyhr says:

    There is no question the school is a shell of its pre 2012 days however to diminish the quality of students is unfair and lacks real knowledge. In last 3 weeks of the string performance class that I have recently been engaged to run ( after being made redundant along with all of my colleagues in 2012) we have heard Sibelius Conc, Korngold conc, Barber Conc, Lalo Symph , Brahms sonatas etc. These are not hopeless students, they are very fine indeed. music was just starting to find a way. Tregear’s job was not to maintain the standard, the university has already destroyed that before he came. He took on the task to rebuild, an impossible task without willing support structures.
    Do not diminish the students,anywhere, ever. Many of the greatest minds and artists in history have grown and emerged from environments where there have been perceptions of hopelessness.

  • Peter Tregear says:

    It’s hutzpah indeed for someone writing under the heading ‘Anon’ to suggest that I, or the School I ran. was averse to self criticism. It is an axiom of a great University culture that it will strive to be precisely that, self critical, and I have strived to honour that ideal. I would welcome an open, honest, scrutiny of my record, but that in turn requires a prosecutor who is at least prepared to reveal her or himself. Anything less is cowardly and unfair.

    And Tor is absolutely right-please do not disparage the efforts of our students to adanvce any personal cause.