Finding a voice amongst the shouting

Finding a Voice amongst the Shouting
by Chris Quinlan 11.12.2000

Hey there! How you doin' ..... this month I'd like to raise the issue of
the ratio of musicians wanting tertiary music education versus the
number of positions available to them.

How does a young student handle the tattslotto-like odds of being one
of three hundred plus musicians auditioning for a music course
with only twenty-five positions available? Or being the one, maybe two
drummers they pick from fifty plus auditioners for the more elite insitutions?

Let's go back in time to late November of any given year ...... a few
hundred VCE music students display their chops to a table of
teachers hoping like hell THEIR version of Latham's solo#8 or
Parker's "Ornithology" will do the trick and get them into the course
that will send them onto the student gravy train of a two year course
making them more connected, more hip and more "qualified".

What does the young student need to do to prepare for this? Well,
essentially, we have to prepare way before Year 12 VCE or HSC
(depending on what state your in) 

For many students, Year 12 music craft is a "trial by fire"
experience; many students who have "knocked about" on their
instrument for a year or two are faced with the task of learning
Charlie Parker Jazz Standards or Advanced Funk Studies on Drums with
perhaps only a year or two experience on their instrument, barely
being able to read, let alone interpret jazz classics on guitar or
understand linear funk grooves on drums.

Nearly all instrumental teachers working in secondary schools have
their own hair-wrenching account of trying to teach year 12 music
students ridiculously difficult pieces of music beyond the students
capabilities and in a short amount of time; This pressured deadline too
often resulting in a half-baked performance by a disheartened student,
often leading to the student losing interest in their instrument. As well
as this also being an unfair reflection on the teacher.

How can this be prevented? Well, most teachers would tell you that
Forewarned is to be Forearmed.

Many schools adopt a policy of allowing any student to enter VCE
Music craft if they have "some" experience on their instrument. This
often results in disaster; Talking to fellow instrumental teachers
whilst researching this article, one in particular had been placed in a
position of trying to teach "Ornithology" to a guitar student who had
only been playing guitar six months with no reading skills whatsoever.
This situation can only be described as ridiculous.

For a parallel example: Every secondary school has year 12 subjects
that require Maths at a certain level as a pre-requisite, why not the
same pre-requisite for year 12 music? 

For the serious student, there IS "life after the audition" ... recently in
a report dealing with the cost of child care on TV's "A Current Affair";
there was a quote by a child psychologist talking of children being

One only has to look at the number of young musicians auditioning for
so few positions at tertiary music institutions around Australia to know
that our economic rationalist educational dogma breeds an "US AND
THEM" mentality amongst our young musicians of the future. If there
are only one maybe two drummers accepted into the elite insitutions from over
fifty hopefuls at year 2000's end ... 
...who crys for the poor soul who came third? Why is it even a competition? Everyone's own Originality is an Artform within itself. Why is every Artform eventually subverted into an Industry? As one of my own students was told when he auditioned at one elitist joint, "Most of the applicants here already have degrees" ..... what a thing to say to a young hopeful during his audition! ..... and where does this leave the kids? Do we have to get into the big PAPER CHASE and the "HAVES" get more elite while the "HAVE-NOTS" are left to ... ? What's the answer? My answer twenty-five years ago was to buy a book .... then learn to read ..... I figured that this was the best way to eventually write your own book.