A much revered specialist music course in Canberra for Year 11 and 12 students is to close down after new funding arrangements are introduced by the ACT government in 2019.
Since 1982, the Australian National University’s School of Music has been running an Extension Program Advanced Music Course that provides specialist tuition and ensemble direction in classical music and jazz for students enrolled in ACT schools.
However, the program will cease taking new enrolments from 2019 due to a decision by ArtsACT, which funds the program, to instead support a range of new programs that it says will have wider community reach. These include a rock and jazz programs for girls, a Community School of Rock, and a mentorship program for Aboriginal youth.
The new funding priorities reflect “a shift away from supporting students in the school environment, to supporting members across the whole community to access music programs and develop their artistic skills,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.
The ANU stated in response: “We’re disappointed we won’t be able to continue delivering this fantastic program, but ANU has a world-leading tertiary music program and ACT high school students are able to enhance their music education through the ANU Developing Musicians Program.”
The Extension Program Advanced Music Course, or H-Course as it is popularly known, has long been regarded as a central part of Canberra’s music life, and the decision to axe it has bewildered many. Protesting staff and community members demonstrated outside the ACT Legislative Assembly, and a social media campaign is underway seeking to have the course’s funding reinstated.
“The ballpark annual cost for the School of Music H-Course is approximately $270,000. It would seem to be an incredibly small amount of money to invest in the education of our young people,” writes RiotACT’s David Howe.
It indeed seems a seriously retrograde move to do away with such a long-established and outstandingly successful course, especially given the increasing recognition of music education’s importance of music in Australian schools. The newer community-based programs that ArtsACT is funding in its place equally have a role, so it should not be a case of either or, but both.
Students currently enrolled in the Extension Program Advanced Music Course will not be affected, but the decision means that enrolments will close as of 2019.
Another program whose funding was cut under ArtsACT’s new community outreach funding model is Canberra’s Music Engagement Program, which has similarly operated through the School of Music: see our earlier story on this.