The course that produces musical leaders, not just great performers

The Australian National Academy of Music’s 12-month Professional Performance Program is so hands-on, students will barely put their instruments down all year.
The course that produces musical leaders, not just great performers

ANAM's year-long program is an intensive course designed for those who aspire to be Australia's best classical musicians.

The 12-month Professional Performance Program at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) is open to students who demonstrate exceptional musical skill and wish to pursue a career in performance. It offers group and individual lessons in specific instruments, a focus on solo, chamber and orchestral works, and the opportunity to be taught by renowned musicians who actually perform with the students.


This, said ANAM Artistic Director Nick Deutsch, is what sets the course apart.

‘Very often if we tackle a certain subject we like to get people who are highly specialised and sometimes that involves bringing people in from overseas, world specialists, who will not only come and instruct our musicians but perform alongside them,’ he told ArtsHub.

‘That’s one of our specialities – we don’t get people in just to teach the students but they perform alongside them so they can learn by osmosis, so to speak.’

There are 180 public performances staged by ANAM each year, along with many internal performance opportunities open to the public. The focus on performance is equipping students to be prepared for life outside the Academy as a professional musician.

‘It is a very, very intense course,’ Deutsch said. ‘We tell them that if you want to study something easy, go study law or medicine.

‘It is more than a profession, being a musician. And it is something that we need to prepare them for.’

Learning to play different styles of music is a heavy component of the course, but so is diving deeper and having a greater historical understanding of the origins of a particular genre. This is where special projects come in to play.

This year, for instance, ANAM staged seven concerts to celebrate the centenary of French composer Claude Debussy, inviting Australian and international guest pianists to lead ANAM musicians..

“There is the craft itself and in the technical side of things and giving them the best possible help to master their instrument, and then there’s the arts side of things, learning to play different styles of music from different parts of the world and everything that comes along with that,’ Deutsch said.

Training includes solo and orchestral work led by leading musicians. Image by Cameron Jamieson.

Another aspect ANAM’s Professional Performance Program is the Music Enhancement Program, which provides musicians with the skills to stay physically and mentally equipped to perform as professionals in the short and long term. These classes cover physical wellbeing as well as performance anxiety, posture and breathing techniques.

‘We try to produce complete musicians; it is not just getting them into the workforce, it is giving them the tools necessary to survive,’ said Deutsch.

‘They are all young now, but at the age of 50 or 60 they still need to be performing intensely and we do need to make sure they are utilising their bodies in an ideal manner.’

The course is well regarded as one of Australia’s elite programs, said Deutsch. There are only 70 musicians accepted each year, and many of these will complete up to three years with the Academy to hone their skills.

Musicians are often spotted many years before applying to the program, recruitment for which begins in the first half of the year for commencement the following year. ANAM alumni can be found in every major Australian orchestra and in many renowned orchestras overseas.

‘We have the top 1% of music students in Australia coming to ANAM,’ said Deutsch. ‘We strive to produce future musical leaders, not just great performers – the people who are going to take music in Australia into the future.’

For more information about the program, visit the ANAM website.

Cathy Anderson

Thursday 22 November, 2018

About the author

Cathy Anderson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist and the co-founder of digital content startup, Ginger Brown.