The Yass Valley is blessed in many ways and one of them is because life in it combines the best of living in a very special rural place with the advantages of living very close to the nation's capital, Canberra.
The Yass Valley, with this proximity to Canberra, which, after the politicians and public servants have been reduced to a modest proportion of its needs, is also a place which has many blessings to endow though it is sometimes hard to admire bureaucrats who begin to think that they are more important than the issues that they have to deal with. Relatively simple issues which come their way often get lost in the red tape of this or that department and some of the convolutions of self-sustaining agencies would make Franz Kafka seem simple.
Is there another rural place in Australia that has so many wonders so readily available at its very doorstep and singular institutions such as the National Gallery, the National Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Library are among those wonders? Canberra University and the Australian National University are two more of the enviable elements which are so readily available to the people of the valley and the School of Music (SoM) at the ANU contributes very significantly to its cultural life.
Only last week, however, it is reported that the administration of the ANU has put forward a proposal for the abolishment of all current academic positions at its renowned SoM to be replaced by "a small number of facilitating positions” - whatever that means – “without specialist instrumental teachers" and the reason for this is that the SoM is running at a deficit of over $1 million per year. The university says that there is an annual deficit of $2.7 million, making it clear that it will continue its $1.4 million subsidy per annum, but the gap between the amount given by the government and the amount it costs is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and they say “we have no choice but to act".
Criticism has been immediate from staff, students and members of the wider music community who know that the SoM plays a vital role in the nurturing of creative talent locally, nationally and internationally and that the changes will effectively mean that it will be producing workers for the music industry, rather than musicians and, with the loss of jobs at the SoM, Canberra will lose many of the country's best teachers and performers, as well as the many talented young students who are vital in maintaining the cultural and musical life of Canberra and the nation itself.
Only last weekend the Yass Music Club was entertained by a trio of fine young musicians from the SoM, who gave a wonderful concert as a very tangible example of the great things that the region stands to lose if the boffins of the ANU have their way. It is to be hoped that there will be immediate and strong protests against their myopic intentions.
Stand up and be counted in opposition to the plans for the SoM. Write a letter, sign a petition - but don't do nothing!