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A new maestro for the Conservatorium

Rosie Marks-Smith and Paul Meo make music with Dr Karl Kramer

Amid scandal and controversy, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music featured quite heavily in last year’s Honi Soit. From drastic class cuts, reduced student-teacher contact hours, and the crazy antics of the Dean at the time, Kim Walker, the Con had a rather turbulent year.

reported on plagiarism claims made against the Dean, but Ms Walker also took legal action against the University of Sydney late last year, seeking damages for ruining her international reputation.
However this year the satellite campus has been relatively quiet. This may be due to the recent appointment of Dr Karl Kramer as the new Dean and Principal at the Conservatorium.

Dr Kramer comes to us from the University of Illinois, with a history as a professional classical tuba player, extensive experience in music education and the founding member of the Brass Ring Quintet. While his experience in the jazz scene is not extensive, he was lucky enough to work with one of the best baritone saxophonists to date, Gerry Mulligan.

It has been nearly a year since Dr Kramer took command of the University’s Conservatorium, and upon reflection he sees it as “a world class institution”, comparing it to similar institutions overseas where everyone is trying to master their chosen instrument.

Based on the controversial history at the Conservatorium, we were keen to ascertain his stance on the previous Dean, Kim Walker, and his master plan for the future. He was fairly ambiguous, however, on both fronts. Regarding Walker’s lawsuit with the university, Dr Kramer said, “There are two sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle”. Dr Kramer doesn’t know Ms Walker personally.
Looking to the future, Dr Kramer said, “At the moment I am here to observe.”

Considering he took over an institution dealing with great distrust between academics and performers, recent cuts to seven per cent of staff and the view that Walker had created a tempest, it seems that Dr Kramer is trying to steady his footing before making any drastic changes.

In his calm manner he said, “After six months we’ll talk”, so perhaps next year he will have something more to say.