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United in discord at proposed Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand School of Music Cuts

A protest concert against proposed staff cuts at Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) has been organised for this Thursday, 13 July. Professional, student and amateur instrumentalists and singers will unite in a rowdy musical lunchtime event conducted by Brent Stewart, including jazz arrangements by Wellington musician Daniel Hayles and famous choral excerpts from Carmina Burana and Verdi’s Nabucco.

Victoria University of Wellington, Te Herenga Waka, recently announced a raft of proposed drastic staff cuts across the university. The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, which includes the NZSM, has been particularly hard hit. Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music would lose around a third of its staff if cuts, proposed to help Victoria University keep its deficit under control, go ahead. 12 positions, 10 of them teaching, from its core programmes of classical performance, composition and music studies would be lost, along with its director, Professor Sally Jane Norman.

Emeritus Professor, Peter Walls, former Director of the School of Music said “The proposed cuts seriously undermine the viability of the university’s school of music. That’s a significant loss to the university, and a massive loss to Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa needs the NZSM to flourish.”

The University has also announced that its plans to develop the National Music Centre, dubbed ‘the Juilliard of the Pacific’, in partnership with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra have been put on hold. This project involves co-habitation of the Wellington Town Hall (currently being seismically refurbished) by the NZSO and NZSM.

Prominent Wellington arts philanthropist Lady Gillian Deane said “The NZSM is one of Aotearoa’s national treasures and the dismemberment of it would be a national and Wellington tragedy. Wellington has prided itself on being the Arts Capital of New Zealand, we should not allow this to slip away from us. There has been a galaxy of musical talent produced here that is now nationally and internationally recognised.

Concert organisers, trombonist Shannon Pittaway and flautist Bridget Douglas say “We would love any instrumentalists and singers that support saving the NZSM to come along and play at this event to create as much noise and publicity as possible.” Douglas is an alumni of the NZSM and both she and Pittaway play in the NZSO and teach at the NZSM, “not only is protecting the NZSM essential for growing the next generation of professional musicians in Aotearoa but we need to recognise the value music and the arts have in our wider society as they connect and nurture us all. “

As Jennifer Ward-Lealand said recently “ A country that values its arts is a country that sees the arts for what that are: a strategic national resource. Something that impacts economy, health and wellbeing, society and education.”

WHEN: 12-1pm, Thursday 13 July
WHERE: The Hub, Victoria University of Wellington (Kelburn campus)