Music is a wonder that sparks inspiration, joy and happiness.

Australian Youth Orchestra CEO Kimbali Harding. A black and white image of Kimbali Harding. She is smiling and wearing a long sleeved shirt with her hair tied back.

I have been privileged to have music as a cornerstone of my life and have shaped my career around all the beautiful and creative aspects of this artform, as a trained concert pianist, musician and educator.

I came to realise and appreciate very early on that being part of an orchestra really is a special and unique experience. You are creating something that is greater than what you could possibly do as an individual.

The Australian Youth Orchestra is the best of the best, but one of the truly special things about AYO is that all the different ideas, all that wonder, the exploration and the discovery, happens as a collective because orchestras, by their very nature, are not a solo enterprise.

At AYO, young people open up their way of thinking. Some of the biggest companies in the world want the next generation of their workforce to be creative and dynamic, they want them to be able to collaborate, they want forward-thinkers. You don’t get that better than you do when you’re in an orchestra working at this level.

AYO creates unique performance and educational opportunities for the very best young Australian musicians to come together; creating a vibrant national community of exceptional music makers. In many cases these connections span lifetimes and geographical barriers.

AYO has been part of the evolution of Australia’s cultural identity. It started as a dream to give young musicians the chance to develop together and provide pre-professional pathways for progression to international standards. At the time it was revolutionary for Australia, and even today is one of only a few similar programs in the world.

I want to work with these talented young people and help them use their art to shine a light on issues that matter to them. It’s about agency and giving young musicians an international platform for their musical voice to be heard.

In the 75 year history of the AYO, much has been achieved – and its future is as bright as the young people we nurture and help further their musical artistry.

Music has been a life-long pursuit and passion for me, and I already feel at home at AYO after almost two weeks in the role of Chief Executive Officer.

The AYO has served as a pinnacle for many performers, and was something I aspired to as a child. It is an achievement that I am now here, albeit in a different capacity.

Performing on the concert stage from the age of four as a soloist and ensemble musician, youth orchestras have been an integral part of my development as an artist and an educator.

I majored in piano performance at the Sydney Conservatorium and the Cortot Conservatoire in Paris, under the tutelage of renowned French concert pianist France Clidat, completed a musicology degree at L’Universite de la Sorbonne, and Masters through University of New England.

In addition, I studied at the prestigious Texas Piano International at the Van Cliburn Institute and toured internationally. Highlights of my career include conducting Australian star violinist Emily Sun in the award-winning film Mrs Carey’s Concert, and as a passionate advocate for Australian music, I conducted a number of world premieres, including the world premiere of Luke Byrne’s Great Lights with symphony orchestra and choir of 1,600 voices.

In Australia and New Zealand, I found a true passion for working with young people through music performance and as a conductor, including as Director of Education at Musica Viva, Australia’s national chamber music organisation. There, I implemented the organisation’s digital education program and helped connect professional musicians with more than 300,000 children in schools.

I now look forward to working with the AYO Board and team to build on the incredible foundations and achievements of this organisation, to help more young orchestral musicians achieve excellence in their art.

Some perceive orchestral and classical music as niche, but this new generation of talented musicians – who hail from all walks of life – proves that music is an integral part of who we are as a creative nation.

Kimbali Harding
Chief Executive Officer, Australian Youth Orchestra