Professor Kenneth Lampl is stepping down as head of the Australian National University’s School of Music after two years in the role. Lampl, who took the position in February 2017 after a period in which the school was without a permanent Head following the shock resignation of Peter Tregear in 2015, will continue to teach at the School of Music.
“Professor Lampl’s decision to step down was his own,” a spokesperson for ANU said in a statement. “The University is delighted to retain Professor Lampl’s exceptional vision, talent and wealth of composition experience as an academic and teacher.”
Kenneth Lampl. Photo © Australian National University
“While I am proud of my achievements as Head of School of Music, the reason I came to the ANU was to build a Composition for Film and Video Game Program and to be a part of the growing film and video game industry in Australia as a professional composer,” Lampl said in a statement. “I am particularly excited to be returning to my main passion and focus at ANU: teaching the art of film and video game composition, and developing new and innovative techniques to be applied to 21st century technologies in film, television and video gaming.”
In his statement, Lampl pointed to the School’s successes on his watch. “During my time as Head of School, student enrolments increased by 148 per cent, we raised more than $200,000 to go towards scholarships and other student support and I established many valuable partnerships with business and industry,” he said. “I have also had the opportunity to work with some of Australia’s most outstanding film directors, creating original music for them. As the School of Music grew so did the demand for my time as composer in the film and game industry.”
Lampl, who has made his career primarily as a film composer and lecturer at institutions including The Juilliard School and Hofstra University in New York, was appointed following a 2016 review of the School of Music by Andrew Podger that found the School was financially unsustainable, was not attracting the numbers of high potential students it should, was not delivering the excellence in teaching required of a top university and that the university had “not managed the challenges facing the School well over a very long period, allowing distrust and emotional stress to fester”. Among the Podger report’s recommendations was an overhaul of the School’s governance, including that “appropriate staffing arrangements should be put in place to support the School’s rebuilding including the Head being appointed for a substantial fixed period to lead the change process.”
Lampl’s decision to step down, therefore, has come as a surprise to many, however Lampl describes it as a product of the School’s success in terms of enrolment numbers, particularly in the Composition for Film and Video Game Program, which he teaches. “The school grew so much faster than any of us expected,” Lampl tells Limelight. “I came to build that program and then to teach into it – but we have so many students there, it’s my job now, because they’re coming to study with me.”
A spokesperson for the University confirmed that there has been a 195% growth in undergraduate commencing enrolments in music programs and 48% growth in total teaching load at the School of Music in the past three years. In fact, Lampl says, “film and video game composition, traditional composition and music technology” is more than half the school.
Lampl, who was hired by the ANU in 2016, describes his decision to take on the Head of School position as simply one of seniority. “It’s a rotating position,” he says. “I’m the senior level academic at the School of Music – I’m the only Level E that we have – and so when the role of Head of School came, it’s the obligation of the senior academic to take that position.”
“Most of the Head of the School role is managerial, it’s administrative. My role was to really set the template, build the curriculum, and get back to teaching,” Lampl says. “And it just grew so quickly that it’s time for me to step back a little sooner than anyone thought.”
Lampl’s decision to step down as Head comes in the wake of an allegation of plagiarism in October, reported by the Canberra Times, relating to the team song, Go Cavs Go! that he wrote for the Canberra Cavalry baseball team in 2017. According to the University, an independent review cleared Lampl of any wrongdoing in December. Lampl denied the allegations had any bearing on his decision to step down as Head of School. “The discussions about me stepping down as Head were long before that,” he tells Limelight. “We had always talked about it happening as the student numbers were increasing.”
Lampl remains upbeat about the future of the School of Music. “We’re doing something that nobody else is doing,” he says. “We are the real deal when it comes to the 21st century music school, where – and this is what’s important about us, that nobody across Australia does – every student can take every class. Meaning you can come in as a classical violin player, you can take film and video game composition classes, you can go into the recording studio and learn audio production.”
Lampl cites infrastructure projects as a legacy of his tenure, particularly the School’s five recording studios. “You needed a school of music to have those structural, curriculum things in place, because that’s what students come for,” he says. “We wanted to offer them a different kind of experience than they would have if they went to the Sydney Con or Monash or VCA down in Melbourne.”
None of this will change when he steps down, Lampl says. “I’m just stepping away from an administrative and managerial role, and that was something I was never interested in,” he says. “The structural work in terms of putting the school in a new direction – and the curriculum – is done. There’s nothing for me to do there, in that regard, anymore, except teach.”
“An interim Head of School will be appointed shortly,” a spokesperson for the ANU said.