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April 9, 2018 | by  | in News Splash |
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Tertiary Music Schools Face Restructuring

A proposal to axe five prominent members of Auckland University’s music school staff has been met with harsh criticism by New Zealand’s music community.

The proposed cuts to staff numbers came as a response to the University’s independently conducted review of the music school model. The external review allowed for a more flexible style of learning within the Bachelor of Music degree, and was mostly accepted by students and staff when it was released last year. The supplementary proposal that followed regarding staff cuts from Head of School Martin Rummel, and Faculty Dean Diane Brand, however, were not.

The proposal at Auckland University is the latest in a string of staff cuts at music schools across the country, with Otago University and Waikato University having experienced similar proposals to cut staff numbers over the past two years. A student at Waikato Conservatorium, Sylvia Neild, said it was “hard to ignore the series of music schools facing these sorts of attacks on conservatory models”.

Several students at Auckland’s music school have also voiced concern over student retention in the context of the proposed staff cuts. Rangimakehu Hall, a music student at Auckland University, stated that “a number of students have expressed their reluctance to stay, should the proposed changes to staffing go ahead”. Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that students will either follow their teachers or go where they feel can provide the best environment for their studies. “I can say that if my teacher is no longer at the University, it rules out any possibility of me undertaking a Masters at Auckland in the future.”

Students at Victoria University’s New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) were equally concerned about the cuts occuring in Auckland. “I know some very talented and amazing musicians up there, and they certainly do not deserve this,” said Sarang Roberts, a student at NZSM. Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, described the changes as a “serious misunderstanding around how the classical music world operates and thrives”.

A spokesperson for the Auckland University School of Music Students Association had a dire warning for Victoria Students, saying that students should “begin pushing for as much student consultation as they can, so that when this happens to the New Zealand School of Music, they are not taken completely by surprise as we were”. The Association also speculated that future enrolments in Auckland University’s music school could be adversely affected as a result of the drop in staff numbers. “Often students come to study with particular teachers, rather than for the University itself.”

In a statement released to Salient, Victoria University said that they are not considering a restructuring of their school of music. “We are committed to maintaining the position of the NZSM as a preeminent school of music within the Asia-Pacific region, and continue to work with Wellington City Council and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra towards realising a national music centre, with the NZSM as a key player, in central Wellington.”

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