After 40 years working in community-based broadcasting and an additional 12 years as a volunteer with 3MBS, it is safe to say that John D Smyth has an intimate knowledge of, and burning passion for, music and broadcasting.
Below, John chats with the ACF about his experience and pleasure supporting the arts and, in particular, music.
ACF: Hi John, thanks for generously taking the time to chat with us.
First things first, what are you currently –
Listening to: Radio National (ideas companion, pity about the music. Thank heavens Andy Ford survived the cut.)
Reading: Allan Sutton: “Recording the ‘Twenties: The Evolution of the Recording Industry 1920-1929”
Watching: Air Crash Investigations
I’ve been involved in community-based broadcasting, especially music and live broadcasting, for over 40 years. After retiring from a (separate) 38 year professional engineering career at the end of the 2nd Millennium, I decided that for the 3rd Millennium I would shift towards an avocation centred on volunteer effort in music and broadcasting (which had started in the mid-70s).
In the course of 12 years as a volunteer with 3MBS recording musical performances for broadcast, I came to have a deeper insight into the efforts of community music performers and aspiring young performers, particularly quartets and trios. Talking with them at rehearsal/sound checks gave me an insight into what they went through in following their musical passion (just as their feedback helped me to advance my capabilities in broadcasting).
When I left 3MBS in 2014, I decided that my enjoyment, hitherto derived from supporting them through recording their activities should be in some way continued by financial support. I worked on an arrangement to create a program (my “SLUSH” fund -one of those ‘S’s stands for ‘Smyth’ but I haven’t worked out which one) for this purpose and two others – social justice and medical research. Tinalley and Streeton are two such groups (among others) that I enjoyed working with and I decided continue to support them via ACF.
What would you say to encourage others to support local artists and why is it so important?
Music (among other arts forms) is a significant part of our cultural and spiritual heritage which, wittingly or not, we draw on every day.
Music needs our support to be composed and performed to continue to provide and expand this heritage, as well as sustain us in the present.
I am interested in other musical forms, especially jazz, and the same remarks apply.
You have generously made a number of donations in June, through the ACF, over the years. Can you discuss the benefits of tax deductibility and donating close to the end of financial year?
I have some interest-earning assets for which I figured a sustainable situation could be found where, instead of tax disappearing into the cloud of government over which I have no direct control, it can end up with the musical, social and research interests that I feel satisfaction from supporting.
The ACF provides a convenient framework for making these tax-deductible donations.
The SLUSH fund balance is finalised by 1st June each year, the funds are allocated and dispersed electronically, and they are available to recipient organisations for the start of their new financial year. (And the ATO doesn’t keep asking me for PAYG to cover the tax I would otherwise incur …)
If a prospective artist was to approach you about their project, what three things do you want to know about them and their project?
In the 2nd Millennium, my professional work involved decisions on investments in development of new technology, so I can apply some standard assessment techniques for investment.
But for me there also has to be a more personal approach and finding some empathy with their endeavours. So firstly, I would try to understand the degree of commitment they have to their art form; secondly, what personal resources they have available to achieve a successful outcome for that project; and finally what they feel they would contribute to our artistic heritage (and thus make me feel my contribution was a result of good judgment).
Finally, if you had one piece of advice for art lovers looking to become involved in supporting artists – what would it be?
I think it is often easy to adopt a ‘rational’ approach to investing support in any activity undertaken by others. But it is much more meaningful if there is a personal connection involved. It is important that the result of the support offered can in some way be recognisable to you. And I also think it is important that the manner of your support is such that the artist receives the greatest benefit from it.