Studying metal guitar at a prestigious tertiary music school wasn’t what Alexander Andrevski was expecting, or planning, when he was in high school in Western Sydney. He was considering a degree in law but worried he wouldn’t get the ATAR required. So he turned to his major passion – instrumental progressive metal guitar – and applied for a Bachelor of Music at Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
“My goal is to become a professional musician and make my own music and play it live,” Alexander said. “In the meantime, I’d like to do private teaching. I’m inspired by my tutors and would like to teach other students down the track.”
Alexander, a 19-year-old student who has completed his first year in a Bachelor of Music (Contemporary Music Practice) was able to study metal guitar at the Con through MySydney. The scheme is offers eligible students from low socio-economic areas entry on a reduced-ATAR, plus financial and other support. Alexander lives in Doonside and attended Evans High School in Blacktown. He received a university offer through MySydney with an annual $8500 scholarship.
“It’s been great, I’ve used the money to buy a MIDI keyboard and I’m about to buy an 8-string Strandberg guitar,” Alexander said. “Other uni students might buy textbooks or laptops, but I’ve been able to buy musical instruments.”
Alexander is the first in his family to graduate from high school, let alone apply for university, and now he wants to encourage other students to apply.
“My advice is to just give it a go, put your first preference first,” he said. “There are pathways to literally do whatever you want. I got a Band 6 in Music 1, but my ATAR was 66, which is crazy, because I’m at University of Sydney. I’m just happy I can do whatever I want despite my ATAR.”
Alexander said his first year at university has been a big change from high school but he made friends easily and loves studying contemporary music at the Con. “The most enjoyable part has been meeting new people and finally being able to express myself,” he said.
“The suburb I live in and the school I went to didn’t have many people I could collaborate with and music is a big part of my identity, so being able to actually play with people and not just sit in my bedroom practising has been a huge change – it feels very fulfilling.”
“It’s a fairly small group of students so we become like family,” he said. “The course itself kind of forces you to talk to each other because we’re always collaborating to make music.”
The Contemporary Music Practice course is taught by professional contemporary musicians Dr Jadey O’Regan, Dr Toby Martin, Dr Paul (Mac) McDermott and Ms Bree Van Reyk. The students learn the craft of pop music and writing for solo performers, and in bands. “The teachers are so good, we all love them,” said Alex.
“I thoroughly enjoy all music,” he said. “But I am really into instrumental prog metal and my favourite artist is Sydney-based guitarist, Plini. Just being able to express yourself through guitar is so great.”
Alexander is one of hundreds of students completing their first year of the inaugural MySydney scholarship at the University, and one of 12 at Sydney Con. As part of the scheme, he was offered regular academic support and social events with the other MySydney students throughout the year.
“I met so many people doing other courses, it was great,” he said. “The biggest thing was getting a job working at the university as a Student Ambassador, it’s basically giving tours around the university, and since I’m a Con student, it’s at the Con for me. I give tours for the high school kids. I also worked at Info Day.”
First preferences for the Con are up 14.5 percent at the end of 2023. Professor Anna Reid, Dean of Sydney Conservatorium of Music said this is a bounce back after the pandemic significantly interrupted music lessons for many students during high school. “Teenagers couldn’t attend in-person music lessons with their teacher or play in bands or ensembles at school during the Covid lockdowns. Others weren’t able to sing in choirs. This was a significant interruption to their musical education. Some students put their instruments down and didn’t pick them up again.
“But now we are thrilled that music education is bouncing back and we’re seeing a surge in students auditioning for the Con and we are welcoming them into our school. It’s so important that we are seeing creative expression again after Covid.”
“Music is all about equity and understanding cultural diversity and differences in education, we hope students want to come to the Con to experience the richness of a musical life," Professor Reid said.
Professor Matthew Hindson, composer and Deputy Dean of Sydney Conservatorium of Music said music is a multi-million-dollar industry. “It’s more than classical music on offer here at the Con, you can study film and television composition for soundtracks or video game scores or pop music writing,” he said. “Music is important to every person in Australia and these students will shape our musical future.”
“Musical talent is just as prevalent in Blacktown as it is in Bondi,” Professor Hindson added. “There is so much talent throughout the country, just go for it. If you’re in Year 9, 10 or 11, start thinking about applying for the Con midway through Year 12 when we hold auditions.”