Founder of the ANU School of Music Ernest Llewellyn.

Founder of the ANU School of Music Ernest Llewellyn.

Conducting a grand musical vision

Fifty years ago, Ernest Llewellyn had a dream to bring the grand musical conservatories of the US and Europe to Canberra. RICHARD FOX reports on the ever-evolving ANU School of Music.

Sleepy 1960s Canberra seems an unlikely location for a musical revolution but one man's vision composed an inspirational uprising.

It was a dream based on the world famous Juilliard School in New York, where Australian conductor and violinist Ernest Llewellyn had studied.

With hand-picked staff and a focus on training soloists, chamber and orchestral musicians, Llewellyn set about transforming Australian attitudes to music - and he wanted Canberra to be the nation's musical hub.

As a result, the Canberra School of Music opened in 1965, in modest premises within a childcare centre in Manuka.

Llewellyn had recently left his position of 15 years at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and relished the challenge to create a new school in Canberra.

He insisted it should aim for standards comparable with the high level of research and teaching already occurring at ANU.

Within a year, he had gathered outstanding teachers and performers, including violinist Vincent Edwards, tenor William Herbert and pianist and composer Larry Sitsky.

Sitsky was persuaded to move to Canberra after previously performing with Llewellyn. He was appointed head of keyboard studies in 1966 and to this day remains part of daily life at the School.