The School of Music was established under the name Canberra School of Music in 1965 with Ernest Llewellyn as the founding Director. The original plans for the School were prepared in the 1960s when the Department of the Interior recognized the need to establish centres for art and music study in the national capital, with the vision of providing high-level performance and practice. Sir Richard Kingsland, Secretary of the Department from 1963 to 1970, provided valuable support for Ernest Llewellyn's vision. The Canberra School of Music was established in 1965. It was first located in the Canberra suburb of Manuka and in 1976 moved to its current site on Childers Street between the Australian National University and the city centre, becoming the first purpose-built music school facility in Australia.
Llewellyn's vision for the school was based on the Juilliard School; he regarded Isaac Stern, with whom he had studied at Juilliard and who was his longtime friend, as the "father" of the school. He set the School up with a hand-picked staff and a focus on the training of soloists, chamber and orchestral musicians. As part of his grand plan he also envisaged the development of a national symphony orchestra based in Canberra. This has never been established, although Canberra has its own professional part-time orchestra, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, based in Llewellyn Hall.
Responsibility for the Canberra School of Music passed from the Department of the Interior to the Minister for Education and Science, John Gorton. Control was transferred in 1974, and Sir Richard was the first Chairman of the Canberra School of Music. The Kingsland Room in the School of Music is named in his honour. The current School of Music building was opened in 1976. In 1987, the Canberra School of Music combined with the Canberra School of Art to create the Canberra Institute for the Arts. In 1992, it became part of the Australian National University. In 2001, the Peter Karmel Building was opened to house the Jazz and Percussion Areas, and the Centre for New Media Arts. An extension to the Music Library was completed at the same time. In 2004, the National Institute of the Arts was dissolved, with the Schools of Music and Art becoming part of what was then the ANU Faculty of the Arts.
In 2007–08 the future of the School of Music came under review by the Australian National University. In 2012 the School of Music was subject of heated public debate, as the University responded to an annual running loss of $3 million, with a reduction in the University's internal subsidy and overhaul of the School's curriculum and staffing arrangements. The Head of School at the time, Professor Walter resigned shortly after in June 2012 to take up the Headship of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Professor Peter Tregear, a graduate of the University of Cambridge and a prominent conductor and musicologist, was appointed to replace him and took up his post in August 2012 and resigned in August 2015.
The current Head of School is Malcolm Gillies the former vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University is joined by former Juilliard School faculty member and award winning film composer Kenneth Lampl as Artistic Director.
Past and present staff include:
The school offers the academic degree of Bachelor of Music at the undergraduate level. Since 2005, combined degree programs as Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Laws, and Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Science have been offered by the ANU. Postgraduate programs include graduate diplomas, Master's degrees, and the award of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) majoring in Performance, Composition, or Musicology.
The school has had a number of ensembles in residence, including the Australian Haydn Ensemble, and The Noise. It also hosts recipients of the H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship. The School also offers a range of Ensembles for students to participate in.
The School currently specializes in the areas of classical and historically informed performance, jazz performance, music pedagogy, composition, musicology and ethnomusicology music research.
The School of Music also runs an 'Open School', a pre-tertiary program for secondary students who study music at high schools and colleges in the Australian Capital Territory.
The Friends of the School of Music provides practical and financial support to students of the ANU School of Music, advances musical endeavours within the School, and helps foster its engagement with the Canberra community.
The School of Music Foundation works to secure the School’s vision for excellence in music education for the foreseeable future by promoting links to the corporate and philanthropic community. The Foundation is currently chaired by School graduate and leading South Australian businesswoman, Dr Marcia Hewitt.
The School of Music complex is situated on the south-eastern edge of the Australian National University campus, between the School of Art and University Avenue, bordered on the north-western face by Childers Street.
The complex itself consists of four buildings; two of which are demountables. The demountable buildings, which are joined, were installed in the 1990s and house some of the graduate facilities as well as some administration and technical capacity of the Music area and are colloquially known as "The Shed".
The two permanent buildings, the main School of Music Building and the Peter Karmel building are both built in contemporary architectural styles.
The main School of Music building was designed for the National Capital Development Commission in 1970 by architects Daryl Jackson and Evan Walker. The architectural works of Jackson at this time can be seen to be in parallel with those of noted U.S. architect Paul Rudolph, most notably his 1960s interpretations of Le Corbusier's later works.
The following, taken from the Australian National University's Heritage Factsheet on the School of music, provides a physical description of the building and its architectural merits and heritage:
The building is a six level building, oriented inwardly to the core of the site, with the public and administration areas wrapped around the more acoustically sensitive performing and teaching areas as a barrier against the noise. In vertical relationship of areas the spaces which tend to generate greater noise problems are located on Levels Five and Six. It was originally anticipated that there would be significant external traffic noise from an arterial road but this was never built. Daryl Jackson described the design in the following way 'The School's boldness of form is due to these factors as well as a desire to produce an assertive cubist arrangement whose parts explore landscape and figurative metaphors, to create architectural presence'. The building has white off form concrete walls, concrete framing and floors with white concrete blockwork infill and no large areas of glazing, apart from glazing to the external circulation routes around the 1,500 seat auditorium and a metal deck roof. There is a sculpture by Norma Redpath adjacent to the entry. The heavily sculptured forms of this building come from the phase in Daryl Jackson's work when he pursued ideas of rendering large mass in a way he called 'cubist', using common materials, particularly off-form concrete and masonry. In addition there are a number of other items which are manipulated sculpturally, such as the external expression of stairs as cylindrical tubes and a visually weighty cantilevered room at the upper levels of the building as if it were a garret.
The building is heritage-listed by;Royal Australian Institute of Architects (Ref: R031);
ACT Heritage Register (Nominated);
Commonwealth Heritage List (Place ID – 105636);
National Trust of Australia (ACT) Classification List: Classified.
Refurbishments to the main School of Music building in 2008 after a storm caused serious damage to the roof have included the complete refurbishment of Llewellyn Hall.
The main School of Music building houses Llewellyn Hall, a 1,400-seat concert hall that not only hosts events of the School (including most of the Australian National University's graduation ceremonies), but is also the venue for concerts by musical organisations of the city (including the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, Canberra Youth Orchestra, Canberra Choral Society and The Llewellyn Choir) and the nation (such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Musica Viva.
The ACT government provides Llewellyn Hall $200,000 each year in addition to the ANU's $1.6 million annual funding for outreach programs. The 2010 Loxton Review of the Arts in Canberra recommended that in regards to Llewellyn Hall, "with such significant support, the ACT Government should leverage considerably greater benefits for the ACT arts and public, based more on a sharing arrangement, with extended and more affordable access. If this is not possible, it may be necessary to consider whether ACT public arts funding could be more productively invested in the arts and music elsewhere". The Loxton report also recognized the vital contribution the ANU School of Music provided the ACT public.
Llewellyn Hall came about directly through the initiative of its namesake, Ernest Llewellyn, the founding Head of School and instigator of the Canberra School of Music project. Llewellyn's plans, drawn with renowned architect Daryl Jackson, provided for a large "lecture hall" (with seating for 1,300 people and full audio and lighting facilities), smaller rehearsal spaces, teaching studios and offices.
An addition to the School of Music is the Peter Karmel Building, opened in 2001. The work of MGT Architects, this building is discretely separate – both in a site planning and architectural manner – to the original building.
The Peter Karmel Building was designed as a new freestanding addition to the Canberra School of Music to accommodate numerous practice and performance functions for the School, with specific accommodation of the Jazz and Percussion Departments and the Australian Centre for Arts and Technology (ACAT). The two-storey building forms a new Entry Court to the School of Music complex and provides integrated connections between practice and performance spaces in both the original School and new addition. The façade design commission by artist Marie Hagerty was intended to be an opportunity for the artist to work with the large-scale architectural forms in their three-dimensional landscape setting to create a patterning, ‘marking’, and enlivening of the glazed and solid surfaces of the building's exterior.
The building, named after former ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Karmel, was designed and project managed by Guida Mosely Brown Architects in conjunction with commissioned artist Marie Hagerty. It currently houses the Centre for New Media Arts, the Jazz Department and the Percussion Department. It also contains the fourth most important performance space in the ANU campus (after Llewellyn Hall, the Theatre Arts Performance Space and Theatre 1, the Home of Canberra Repertory), the Band Room.