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CSO wins budget boost of $4.1 million

Conductor in chief Jessica Cottis with the CSO. Photo: Martin Ollman

A collective sigh of relief has been heard around Canberra’s classical music community at the announcement on Sunday by of a $4.1 million funding injection under the 2024-25 federal budget for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra over four years.

The CSO is one of the country’s longest-running symphony orchestras but, under an outdated funding model that goes back to the origins of Australia’s symphony orchestras in state-based ABC orchestras, has been forced to operate with instrumentalists engaged on a casual basis.

As has frequently been observed by CSO supporters, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra plays to a smaller demographic than Canberra’s but has always received federal and state funding.

Go-head CEO of the CSO Rachel Thomas. Photo: Martin Ollman

It is well-known that the orchestra’s viability has been at risk due to reductions in sponsorship support and ticket sales, which the CSO attributes to the pandemic, rising program costs and a history of receiving significantly less Commonwealth funding than any other Australian state orchestra, something which go-ahead CEO Rachel Thomas and board chair Sir Angus Houston have been keen to address.

But a different narrative has it that the orchestra’s edgy programming of recent years has had a role to play in declining box-office too.

Thomas said the $1.1 million a year ongoing and indexed funding would go towards expanding the orchestra’s small administrative, creative and programming team, which had been stretched to capacity.

“This generous support will allow us to grow the CSO’s unique offerings, such as our Australian Series and Llewellyn Series concerts, which have long given a voice to new Australian artists, including indigenous performers, and supported emerging talent,” Thomas said, adding that it would help the orchestra to continue to deliver educational and mentorship programs for talented young Australian musicians.

Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s first Llewellyn series concert for 2024, Edge of the World, will be at Llewellyn Hall, May 22-23.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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2 Responses to CSO wins budget boost of $4.1 million

Sigh says: 12 May 2024 at 8:22 pm

Wonderful point about how CSO and Canberra would benefit from part-time roles for key musical positions. Such a shame to see the money instead invested in admin and not musician infrastructure that would benefit the city.

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