Colin Cornish AM has been CEO of the Australian Youth Orchestra for 17 years, and has departed this month to take up the position of Chief Executive of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
On behalf of the Board, I take this opportunity to share with the AYO community our sadness at his departure, our acknowledgement of his contribution to our organisation, and our congratulations on his new and exciting appointment.
Before Colin commenced with AYO in 2005, he had studied and performed as a violist, including with the AYO itself, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and other ensembles. He went on to work with the ABC as a producer and then followed with a role at Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. His time as Director of Artistic Planning at MSO saw him grow from performer to artistic leader, from musician to leader of musicians, and from administrator to executive manager.
Colin would say, with customary humility, that he continued to grow and develop during his time at the AYO. From my own perspective – and having talked to the other Chairs of the AYO Board during his tenure, Professor Di Yerbury AO and Mary Vallentine AO – I can say with confidence that he arrived brilliant and left truly great, and with his contribution to the Australian musical community widely recognised and honoured.
AYO has a 75-year history of commitment to the needs and interests of young Australians with a passion for orchestral music. During this time, there have been many contributors, leaders, managers, volunteers and performers alongside thousands of participants. There have been exhilarating international tours, intimate small ensemble performances and inspiring music camps – and participants with these experiences are now working throughout professional orchestras in Australia and internationally, as well as in careers beyond music.
During Colin’s time at the top in this 75-year history, AYO has been carefully managed; has nurtured an enduring and successful relationship with our principal funder, the Australian Government; has grown and developed through new programs such as the Momentum Ensemble; has secured support from countless individual donors as well as through longer-term relationships with philanthropy and charitable foundations; and has supported individual participants to have the best possible experience they can during their time on AYO programs. All of this has been under Colin’s leadership – an important aspect of which has brought together a fabulous staff team with the skills, talents and capabilities to deliver on the AYO’s potential.
Thanks to Colin, the Australian Youth Orchestra of 2023 is characterised by excellence, partnership and care. Excellence – as a leading music training organisation on the world stage and an important contributor to the Australian performing arts sector. Partnership – as an organisation that is open and engaged, growing and developing through connections with others – as seen in the partnership with the late Richard Gill AO to establish the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program, for example. Care – as an organisation that supports the talent, capacity and diversity of Australian young people, aspiring for the best possible experience for each participant in every program.
It is always the case that organisations continue to grow and develop, respond to changes in the needs of their stakeholders – in our case, participants, funders, the music world and the broader arts community – we will continue to strive for that, as Colin would wish us to, and we look forward to continuing success over the coming years.
The Board are delighted that Kimbali Harding has agreed to become the next Chief Executive Officer of the AYO, and we are confident that Colin is leaving the organisation in exceptional hands. We will introduce Kimbali to the AYO community more fulsomely over the coming weeks.
For now, however, all that remains is to say farewell to Colin – the newest life member of the Australian Youth Orchestra. We are confident that you will stay connected to the AYO community. We thank you for your service to this organisation and look forward to seeing what marvels the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra achieves during your tenure.
Chair, AYO Board