Rowan Harvey-Martin. Photo: Peter Hislop.

JUST days before she was due to conduct the Canberra Youth Orchestra in its winter recital, well-respected musical director Rowan Harvey-Martin has been sacked by Music For Canberra (MFC), but they won't say why.

The dismissal came from Helen Roben, the new CEO of MFC, a not-for-profit music school supported by ArtsACT and the Snow Foundation that also acts as the umbrella for, among others, Canberra Youth Orchestra and the James McCusker Orchestra.

Harvey-Martin declined to comment, except to say that she was ”very sad”.

"CityNews" called Ms Roben yesterday (June 18) after reading in the booking link to the Sunday concert that the conductor would not be, as advertised, Harvey-Martin, but rather Louis Sharpe, who conducts the National Capital Orchestra and the McCusker Orchestra.

Helen Roben recently at 'Good Folk,' Queanbeyan. Photo: Martin Ollmann.

Ms Roben, who had surprised the musical community when she suddenly left her position as general manager of the National Folk Festival recently, said: “We have received a number of concerns raised by some parents about some orchestra staff behaviour which is not aligned to our values and they are very serious concerns.

"Our compliance with the relevant protection laws and regulations is very important. We have to protect the safety and well-being of our children. As a result, Rowan Harvey-Martin will no longer be a part of Music For Canberra.”

Ms Roben did not specify any details of the “concerns”, nor, it is believed, were they specified to Harvey-Martin, but it is well-known that MFC has been fraught with managerial problems and internal disunity for the past several years.

"CityNews" is not aware that Ms Harvey-Martin was involved in any of the unspecified concerns of Music For Canberra.

Conductor Louis Sharpe, to take over. Photo: Peter Hislop.

One of Canberra's most respected musicians and a former principal violin with the CSO, Harvey-Martin has also directed the Canberra Boys' Choir, Llewellyn Choir and the Oriana Chorale.

She has won Canberra Critics Circle awards, one in 2014 for her "versatile musicianship and tireless work as musical director and conductor of the Canberra Youth Orchestra, the Canberra Children’s Choir and the Llewellyn Choir", and another in 2020 for her direction of a Will Todd jazz cantata.

She is the violin-playing part of one of our most outstanding musical families – her brother, Dominic Harvey, conducted the Canberra Youth Orchestra for many years, and her brother Michael Kieran Harvey and sister Bernadette Harvey-Balkus are famous concert pianists.

Harvey-Martin had conducted the youth orchestra after Dominic left, but moved to pursue a career in education. Then, when Leonard Weiss, who had himself himself faced dismissal threats from MFC, headed to the US to do his masters, she was invited back to the podium by former director of Music For Canberra, Stephanie Neeman.


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