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10 September 2014

2014 Art Music Awards - John Davis's speech

John Davis Image: John Davis  

By popular demand, John Davis's speech from the Art Music Awards ceremony on 26 August, celebrating the achievements of the music community as well as those of the 40-year-old Australian Music Centre, and identifying some areas where there is much work to be done.

> See also: 2014 Art Music Awards - winners (Resonate 26 August) and 2014 Art Music Awards - finalists (Resonate 31 July).

Good evening and welcome - it's great to be here in Melbourne. Like George Dreyfus, when accepting the award for Distinguished Services at this event last year, we feel buoyed up - buoyed up, greatly buoyed up, being here.

What you will see and hear this evening represents outstanding achievement in our community. It provides an overview of the quality and diversity of the many activities that take place each year in Australian art music - its creation, its presentation and performance, and its support and dissemination.

We celebrate the winners, and applaud the finalists, but we also salute the many other excellent nominations received, which represent many individuals and organisations around the country whose work champions Australian music, and furthers our musical culture.

10 days ago saw the 40th anniversary of AMC registering its Articles of Association. The anniversary of AMC's opening happens later next year, and between now and then it is appropriate that we reflect on the journey travelled, and the path ahead. To reflect on our values, and articulate those things that we care about.

So, what is it that we care about at the AMC?

We care about the creation of an Australian repertoire, a music of this place and this time. We care about access to it, its dissemination, and its utility. We care, along with APRA, about returns to artists, and more broadly, returns to copyright owners, through performance, broadcast, and digital dissemination.

We care about composers and creative musicians, and their creative and professional development. You'll be hearing more in the coming months about our new artist development framework, AMPlify, which we've been working on. And we want to be working with anyone involved in presenting artist development programs, and seek ways to complement and amplify what they do.

As evidenced by much of what you will see and hear tonight, we care about, and we celebrate, the role of women in our sector. Amongst our 45 sister organisations in the international community AMC has the highest representation of women composers, at 25% - which shows that there is still LOTS more work to do in this area.

Susanna Eastburn, my colleague at our sister organisation in London, Sound and Music, recently published a public call for more women to nominate in the BASCA awards, roughly the equivalent of these awards, following the situation arising last year where there were no women winners or finalists. We thankfully don't have that problem here.

We care deeply about Australian content: in concert programs, in education - at all levels, in broadcasting, and online. In people's thinking, their playing, their listening, and their learning. We all know that the small to medium sector is where most Australian content is showcased, where most innovation takes place (you'll also see this tonight), and, in relation to sustainability and viability, the small to medium sector is where most risks exist.

But there are big issues in the major organisations sector where, amongst the orchestras for example, in recent years, levels of Australian content in their programming are at best static, in some instances diminishing - not only in their mainstream programming, but across the board.

In the orchestras 'flagship' programming since 2009, Australian content has represented around 5-6% of works performed. This, in a sector where tens of millions of public subsidies are invested, and in a context where for example ABC Classic FM aims for 12-15% Australian content, and 25% local performance in its programs; and a broader context where commercial radio has a quota of 25% local content, free-to-air television a 55% quota, and 80% of content for advertising.

It's just not good enough, is it? We can do better than this.

And whilst the situation for orchestras might be complex, AMC is working with them to identify the obstacles to programming more Australian content, and how they might be addressed.

More broadly, AMC cares about achieving higher visibility for Australian creators in music and sound, and their creative output, online and offline - and indeed this is our core business. We care about the community that shares our passion, the community that you here tonight are a part of.

Do we care too much? I think not.

You will hear many acknowledgements from others this evening, and I need to briefly make a few of my own. Firstly to the team that brings you this event - Narelle Butterworth and the events team at APRA, and the production team from GPJ. To the astounding Genevieve Lacey for her curation of this evening's music performances - thank you.

Thanks to those who served on the Panels for the Art Music Awards, for the time and the care which they took in assessing the many nominations lodged, this year more than ever before. They're listed in your programs, but I want to specifically highlight the role of the Chair of the National Panel, Liz Terracini, who again took on the challenging task of overseeing the deliberations of the panels - it's a huge amount of work. Thank you Liz.

I proudly acknowledge the outstanding work of all the AMC staff, and the passion and commitment that they bring to their work on behalf of Australian music. I thank the Australia Council - the Australian Government's arts funding and advisory body - who support the Australian Music Centre via a 3-year market development initiative for art music. Thanks also Arts NSW, who provide support for the AMC's NSW activities.

I want to publicly acknowledge and thank APRA for its support of the AMC, particularly over the past couple of years. We've navigated through some difficult challenges, and we're emerging from them, and we face the future with considerable optimism.

So we're very thankful…and, we're buoyed up!

Further links

Art Music Awards (AMC Online)


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