The recent decision by Arts Minister Peter Garrett to close down The Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in order to replace it by Australian Institute of Musical Performance (AIMP), run by the University of Melbourne, is so nonsensical that it must be fishy.

There is no question that the ANAM “finishing school” excels at what it does. Its graduates consistently fill senior positions in all our orchestras, win all the important national competitions most of the time, win some international competitions, and so on.

There is no doubt that its replacement, AIMP, has been planned “on the run”. Much of the description of AIMP has been lifted verbatim (or nearly so) from the ANAM prospectus. The start has now been deferred till July. In his Lateline interview on Tuesday, Mr Garrett couldn’t tell us where the new institute would be.

On its website, the University of Melbourne doesn’t have any details about the “transitional arrangements” that Vice Chancellor McPhee writes about. In his Hinch interview on Tuesday, Mr Garrett said he “doesn’t want to go into detail” to many questions — it’s reasonable to believe that the detail doesn’t exist.

It is absurd to think that MU can teach at this level. Despite the deserved prestige of MU, none of its teaching staff have a track record of consistently achieving the regular ANAM successes listed above. If they could do it, they would have done it already! It is not realistic to think that new teachers with the necessary track record can be recruited in time — there are very few of these. MU graduates seeking a performance career have in past years regularly sought admission to the ANAM ‘finishing school’ because MU has a different purpose.

So why has this happened?

In a conversation with me three years ago at a school function, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Kwong Lee Dow stated that it was MU’s aim for ANAM to be closed down and its budget and students incorporated into MU. Shortly afterwards there were some press articles suggesting this. Nothing happened at the time.

The only scenario that is believable is that MU VC Glyn Davis, the architect of the 2020 Summit, has made a deal with his friend Kevin Rudd to engineer the closure of ANAM in order to achieve what Lee Dow knew two to three years ago.

Maybe ANAM made MU look bad one time too many. Maybe the $2.5m pa was just too attractive. Mr Garrett’s rationale for this closure is spurious and not really believable — a technical breach of process, denied by ANAM, and ignoring its successes.

Peter Fray

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