The establishment of higher education institutions in Australia is normally an initiative of government. However, in the case of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, the journey towards establishment was delayed continually by a government that was either unable or unwilling to accede to the increasingly vociferous demands of its musically minded constituents. The long and tortuous journey towards its opening in 1957 was characterised by the dogged persistence of numerous individuals, who today might be termed lobbyists. Without their collective efforts, the institution's arrival might have been delayed even longer than the half-century that elapsed between the first suggestion of Queensland having a premier music school and that concept being realised. Themes of cultural deprivation amounting to a ‘state's rights’ catch-cry figure strongly in the Conservatorium's story. It also became a socio-political issue as families sent their musically talented children to study at conservatoria in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney or overseas. The stream of agitators for a Queensland conservatorium provides an interesting snapshot of the state's musical community during the early twentieth century. This article discusses the ‘power of persistence’ by a several musical advocates — some of them were well-known community leaders, while the contributions of others have faded from public memory, but were no less significant.
Peter Roennfeldt is Professor of Music Literature and immediate past Director of the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. His interest in local musical history commenced with an Honours dissertation on Robert Dalley-Scarlett at the University of Queensland, and was reignited recently through a recording collaboration with the State Library's Music Queensland project. His forthcoming monograph on the history of the Queensland Conservatorium will be published by Australian Academic Press.