With a sense of sadness but great pride, I conclude my tenure as CEO of the Australian Youth Orchestra after 17 rewarding years.
As I reflect, I am in awe of the achievements of our musicians, staff and the whole organisation. The results of our work together, and those whose efforts we built upon, are embedded in the musical fabric of Australia and will continue to make a difference for generations to come.
Thank you for your loyal support and encouragement, without which AYO would not have achieved the successes that we celebrate today. This has been a journey of continual growth, and when I joined AYO as CEO in 2005, four key initial ambitions were in focus:
- To build the business strength in order to support an ambitious artistic vision fuelled by the pursuit of excellence
- AYO to be recognised as a global leader among national youth orchestra programs
- To attract staff, teachers, conductors, directors and guest artists of the highest quality and to develop a rewarding, challenging, and inspiring place to work
- The breadth of development of the individual musician to be extensive, covering many centuries of repertoire, style, roles and scenarios
In 2010, the AYO toured China, Australia and Europe conducted by Sir Mark Elder. The orchestra’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London was acclaimed with words I will always remember: “A succulent refinement of tone and touch, an adult grasp of emotions and cultural words usually thought beyond any teenager in any hemisphere.” (Geoff Brown, The Times, 2010). While one doesn’t always use concert reviews as evidence of achievement, this unique and powerful statement demonstrated we were on track to reaching our goals.
With financial stability improving and expectations of artistic achievement established, and thanks to additional support from the Australian Government and other major supporters, in 2015 we embarked on extending our training pathways to include Momentum Ensemble. This program was created for our graduate students to explore and discover new ways of using their musical skills within their community. Around this time, AYO also had the opportunity to support the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program, an innovative solution to the crisis in school music education.
Thank you to the many individuals and organisations who have made this journey possible. I have learnt much from you and am forever grateful for your support of this incredible organisation. To the tutors, conductors, soloists, directors and teachers who have made such an impact on thousands of young Australians, my heartfelt thanks and respect.
I could not have taken on this role without the support and patience of my family – Lisa, Ruby, Felix and Lily. Thank you for helping me make a difference to so many other young people.
There are many opportunities ahead for AYO, and the organisation is well-positioned to embrace them. I am proud of what has been achieved and will be continuing my support and advocacy for AYO in the future. Please join me and continue to invest in AYO for the future generations and for the benefit of Australia’s cultural life.
After a short break, I will commence work as CEO of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in March. I am delighted to see that several recent appointments to the orchestra include musicians who have participated in AYO during my tenure, a nice reminder of the journey we have travelled together.
AYO’s founder John Bishop’s words remain as powerful and relevant today:
“Young people, who with their combined purpose and intent, together with the visionary leadership of their tutors… will together discover a concept of living and thinking that will remain with them as an everlasting inspiration”.
AYO will remain with me as an everlasting inspiration.
Colin Cornish AM