Monash University: Save Chamber Music!

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Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music’s units ATS3021/ATS3022 Chamber Music 1 and 2 will be facing cancellation on 13th July. The unit is one of the few practically-based classes, where small music ensembles develop pieces together under the guidance of the music staff.

From 2016, Monash University has made changes to the various music course structures, which has resulted in the reduced number of enrolments in Chamber Music. These include;

  1. Prohibiting double degree music students from enrolling in music electives; and
  2. Participating in Chamber Music as a hurdle requirement;

In 2016, Monash University made changes to its course structure that eliminated the option for all music double degree students (Law (Honours), Education, Commerce, Arts, and Science) to enrol in any music electives. Chamber Music is one of the music electives that students may enrol in, and the only option for classical musicians of different instruments to work together in small ensembles.

As the only tertiary school in Victoria to offer the option of a double degree involving music, it comes as a surprise that students studying a double degree would be denied the option of undertaking practically-based units found in the music electives.

If this unit is cancelled, many classical music students (namely, all of the double degree students post 2016) will graduate from their music degrees with little to no experience working with other instruments, and as a consequence, will find themselves ill-prepared for the music industry which demands collaborative musicianship.

Prior to Semester 2 2018, students have had the option of choosing Chamber Music as a necessary hurdle requirement keeping attendance high, however this privilege has come to an end.


Chamber Music 1 and 2 will be cancelled if the minimum enrolment numbers are not reached by 13 July 2018, and yet, only 3rd year double degree students enrolled prior to 2016 and 3rd year single music degree students are able to enrol in this unit without special permission from the unit coordinator.

Last semester, the unit was threatened to be cut due to “low level of enrolments”. Several teachers fought for the unit, citing high participation numbers and the importance of this as a part of tertiary musical education.

It therefore came as a surprise that the unit is again facing cancellation. High participation is now no longer being accepted as a valid argument for why the unit should continue. As only a small amount of students can logistically enrol in the unit because of the course structures across Monash, this makes the task of reaching “minimum enrolment numbers by 13 July 2018” a nearly impossible goal.

We call on Monash University to:

  1. Prevent Chamber Music from being cancelled;
  2. Allow students to use Chamber Music for their hurdle ensemble requirement; and
  3. Adjust the course map to include the option of Chamber Music as a second and third year elective for double degree students.

Why are we asking for this?

  1. Students choose Monash because of its double degree option and wide range of subjects when picking a Bachelor of Music;
  2. Playing with other instruments is a key aspect of musicianship;
  3. Double degree students should benefit from diversity rather than be subjected to a course map which is chosen for them;
  4. Without Chamber Music, Classical music students will not have the opportunity to create high quality, detailed work in small ensembles; and
  5. Ensemble skills are key in expanding the music community and networking to create new music.

In a recent masterclass, Stephen Hough, multi-award pianist, said that two thirds of a professional musician’s life is playing with other musicians. It is interesting to note that without the Chamber Music ensemble, Classical music students would almost never have the opportunity to play and develop alongside instrumentalists of varying disciplines.

Please sign this petition and share with your fellow musicians to let the Arts Faculty know that this unit should not be cut. If you would like to talk more, please feel free to get in contact with Ursula Searle on or Sarah Ha on



Ursula Searle

President of the Monash Music Students’ Society