30/06/2015 - 11:56

WASO’s public pitch shows the many strings to its bow

30/06/2015 - 11:56

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The West Australian Symphony Orchestra is breaking new ground in efforts to broaden its audience and appeal, and persuade the people of Perth that classical music is not the preserve of an elite clique of enthusiasts.

REACHING OUT: Craig Whitehead with members of the orchestra. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The WA Symphony Orchestra is breaking new ground in efforts to broaden its audience and appeal, and persuade the people of Perth that classical music is not the preserve of an elite clique of enthusiasts.

Chief executive Craig Whitehead told Business News that, for the first time in Australia for any symphony orchestra, WASO’s team of 82 musicians and support staff had held an open day and committed the entire month of June as a community support month.

In June, Mr Whitehead said, WASO had attracted a significant number of new fans through a showcase of programs, which included playing the score of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, holding a ‘rusty orchestra’ performance for amateurs rediscovering a love of playing music, bringing the sound of a WASO string octet to the telling of children’s picture books, and holding free performances for families.

“It’s an opportunity for us to focus people’s attention on the work that WASO does in this education and community engagement space ... to tell the story and the fact that we actually do more work outside of the Perth Concert Hall than inside of the Perth Concert Hall,” Mr Whitehead said.

“I think there’s a perception of orchestras as being elite and I think there’s a sense that the work that we do on the Perth concert hall stage, although very important for us, is the sum total of the activities that WASO does. “It’s just people’s perceptions of classical music and the role that orchestras play in their community and society … that they see that it’s only perhaps for wealthy people.

“That’s certainly not our belief.”

Mr Whitehead said while many supporters who gave philanthropic donations to WASO were motivated by expanding on its history of musical excellence, a growing number of supporters were also interested in contributing to WASO’s free community music programs. These included visiting schools and the Princess Margaret Hospital, and holding private concerts for severely intellectually and physically disabled children.

He said while WASO had long undertaken these programs, holding a month-long series of events was an idea WASO had borrowed and extended on from an initiative launched five years ago by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

“Our vision of the company is to touch souls and enrich lives through music, not to touch rich lives through music,” Mr Whitehead said.

“We take that really seriously, so the work that we do right around the state and with a range of disadvantaged communities is incredibly important for us.”

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