Daily Archives: May 21, 2009

Of artistry and benchmarks

Should  Melbourne University should be known as “The White Knight for Struggling Arts/Music Institutions” or as  “The Institution That Ate Its Competitors”?   The  Victorian College of the Arts amalgamated with Melbourne University as the “Faculty of VCA and music”, and last year the Australian National Academy of Music, based at the South Melbourne Town Hall,  also fell under the auspices of the University of Melbourne when the Federal Government withdrew its funding. So much for choice.

Enter the new Dean, Professor Sharman Pretty.  Employed as a “change agent”, she is charged with restructuring the VCA’s six schools into three, shaving $11 million dollars from the budget and fitting the schools’ offerings into the Melbourne Model.   And so we see the music theatre course, which started this year with 32 students accepted from 370 applicants, suspended from 2010-  but “Professor Pretty says it will return if it can be made to fit the model“.   Yes, that’s the way- fit the course to the curriculum model- not to the students, not to the work environment, not to the demands of the genre itself.

I’ve done my time observing the nursery of music theatre from the outside:  the tap-dance lessons,  the end of year dancing school concerts,  the examinations,  the auditions, the hair rollers, the tap-shoes, the false eyelashes.  Consider the mainstay of musical theatre today, the franchised musical, shipped into a capital city for a financially-lucrative, solidly-marketed period with its authorized sets and carefully mandated cookie-cutter characters.  Is this really post-graduate study???

But Professor Pretty knows how to play the market game.

Our benchmark partners are institutions such as the Sydney Conservatorium and WAAPA and there is no reason we can’t compete with them to produce internationally competitive graduates.

Benchmarks??  Internationally competitive?? Sheesh. I don’t really understand what drives the artistic character, but I strongly suspect that it has nothing to do with academic excellence, grade point averages and assessment tasks, and an awful lot to do with dreams, drive and ambition.  I wonder if we can “benchmark” them?