Play: fight the brain drain in small towns


Resisting the geographic pull of Sydney and Melbourne and retaining talent in small capitals is “an ongoing problem for most art forms,” ​​according to Jodi Glass, president of Chamber Music Adelaide.

However, she also knows that the artistic ecology of a city like Adelaide means that opportunities for musicians – especially young classically trained students and graduates – can be relatively scarce.

“We tend to have dominant art forms and dominant institutions in Adelaide because of scale,” Glass explained.

“The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is a classic example in the field of classical music and perhaps also the Australian String Quartet, an internationally recognized ensemble but with only four musicians. And the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra has titular musicians. Other artists have to find gigs in between that, and so often you find that you can’t keep yourself here as a full-time professional musician, ”she said.

Read: Creative Career Progression in the Arts

Vincent Ciccarello, Managing Director of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO) notes that “the sheer size of Melbourne and Sydney in particular, and the infrastructure and opportunities that go with them”, make it particularly difficult to hold back. young musicians of classical training. in small towns.

“It’s a numbers game,” he told ArtsHub. “We have only one State Symphony Orchestra in South Australia, while in addition to the State Symphony Orchestras of New South Wales and Victoria, for example, there are opera and ballet orchestras and a number of other sets. So the pure law of numbers suggests that there are more opportunities [in larger cities] and therefore you might lose people for these reasons.

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Image provided.

Ciccarello also notes that there is a structural problem specific to the orchestral sector that limits the number of jobs available.

“The life cycle of members of symphony orchestras, in general, has a very long tail. When people walk into these jobs, which rarely show up, they hang on to them. For decades, generally, ”he said.


Dr Arabella Teniswood-Harvey is Head of Music at the University of Tasmania Conservatory of Music and has first hand experience of the gravitational pull that large cities can exert.

“From my own experience, I grew up in Tasmania and went to Melbourne for my upper and upper secondary education, and stayed there for about 10 years before I came back to Tasmania. So I understand this desire to seek bigger places and bigger experiences, ”she told ArtsHub.

Teniswood-Harvey’s experience demonstrates that leaving his hometown is not necessarily detrimental to the local artistic ecology in the long run. Many artists end up returning home, disseminating the skills and experiences they have acquired elsewhere among a new generation of practitioners.

“I think it’s really important, especially for an island state like Tasmania, that young people experience the world at large.”

Dr Arabella Teniswood-Harvey

“It is through the experiences of others – people who return to Tasmania, whether from the mainland or from other countries – that we increase awareness of those who in Tasmania. I think it’s really important, ”she continued.

“At the same time, I think we have a lot to offer in Tasmania itself… and especially now, with the ease of access to information on a global scale, there is a lot to do. of Tasmania, while participating in broader dialogues.

Read: Building cultural capacities outside the CBD

Ciccarello agreed, noting that there is often a cycle of people leaving to learn new skills and coming back years or even decades later.

“We know people know it – and especially now; it seems that people are more mobile – that people are drawn to their place of birth or the place where they have spent most of their life and where they have these ongoing family and friendships, ”he said. declared.

“The brain drain is not necessarily final. It can be a temporary hiatus in what is a career circle or a cycle that brings people back in again.


If cities like Hobart and Adelaide are to retain their young musicians, more opportunities must be created for professional practice and performance, according to Glass.

“The reality of living in a small town like Adelaide, which is remote, is that there are fewer opportunities,” she said. ‘And it’s not peculiar to music, like I said, but there are ways to build capacity.

A performance at the Art Gallery of South Australia as part of Chamber Music Adelaide’s annual event, On The Terrace. Image provided.

Creating more opportunities for performers and developing audiences for chamber music is part of the purpose of Chamber Music Adelaide, the umbrella organization representing seven local ensembles only glass chairs

“The role that an organization like Chamber Music Adelaide can play is to foster all of those large-scale ensembles that might have continuous work but not necessarily a permanent job. Thus promoting several concerts throughout the year; collaborations; commissions; perform at festivals; make works on a larger scale by combining two or three sets; giving opportunities to soloists and so on, ”explained Glass.

“Having a range of opportunities means there is more work, there are more opportunities for emerging artists or early or mid-career artists who have not yet been able to establish a work in progress, thus giving them a chance to strengthen their capacities, strengthen their repertoire, and build their presence.


Despite being a UNESCO city of music, Adelaide lacks a dedicated concert hall or music center – to the detriment of the city’s culture, Ciccarello believes.

“We still lack a dedicated music home in South Australia. We called it a concert hall, but I prefer to call it the Music Center or the Music Hub. We miss this place which is clearly where music happens in South Australia and I think the sooner that happens the better our stocks will fare, ”he said.

“I sincerely believe in the old adage that if you want to be it, you have to see it. And at the moment, there is no obvious place where the music is going. ‘

To read: The UNESCO City of Music without a concert hall

Infrastructure plays a role in training and development, and therefore in helping to retain artists in cities like Adelaide, Ciccarello explained.

“And that Adelaide misses,” he told ArtsHub.

Glass would also like to see a music center or similar building built in Adelaide, but with at least one major caveat. “It has to be affordable,” she said.

“If this is a concert hall beyond the reach of most independent artists or even small and medium-sized ensembles… it won’t have any significant impact on their professional life.

Jodi glass

Glass said she wanted investment in infrastructure to match investment in artists. She also believes that any major new venue should be affordable and flexible, in order to meet a range of artistic needs.

“A concert hall will absolutely serve the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, but the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra just cannot perform 365 days a year. It would therefore have to be supplemented in a complementary manner by other performances. And a concert hall is not a pros-arch theater that will suit other art forms, it is a concert hall that would be dedicated to music, so a reflection on the programming must be devoted to it ” , she warned.


In Hobart, the recently completed performing arts district The Hedberg provides exactly the kind of cultural focus that Ciccarello believes Adelaide lacks.

As Teniswood-Harvey describes: “We have a fantastic new building, The Hedberg, which is very special. It is beautifully designed to meet the needs of musicians of all specializations… and has fantastic recording facilities that can benefit both those studying music technology and students of performance as well.

“It also has two beautiful spaces, the recital hall and the lounge, and fantastic medium-sized rooms for ensemble rehearsals, as well as rehearsal rooms for performing students. And the two performance spaces have varying acoustics… and that means its suitability as a venue for a wide range of musical styles has really increased, and we can also simulate different concert environments, ”she said.

When asked if The Hedberg could help reduce Hobart’s brain drain and maybe even attract other students from the mainland to study in Tasmania, Teniswood-Harvey replied: “The building itself is a business card… This is definitely a fabulous building right in the city center and it has everything you could possibly want to study music.

Tasmania has changed since Teniswood-Harvey had to move to the mainland to study, and she believes Hobart is now much more attractive to artists, especially those who already inhabit the city.

“We now have a very stimulating contemporary art scene, obviously because of the Mona effect and the flow that goes with it with the different festivals and so on, so there’s always a lot going on that wasn’t there. 10 years ago. Hobart has changed a lot, which is exciting for the students… it really is a very stimulating city to live in, ”she said.

“We also have some fantastic and highly skilled musicians in Tasmania. We are very lucky in a way, obviously with the musicians of TSO but also those who have had really significant careers elsewhere in Australia and abroad and who have now made their home in Tasmania. I think we are very lucky to have great people around us and great facilities as well.


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