Community-based Orchestras: SBS Youth Orchestra

July 2012

Here is a guest post by Ian Hamilton describing the history of the orchestra and the ways in which businesses and institutions can support community-based music groups. Ian is Honorary Secretary, SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra.

Ian Hamilron

The SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra was formed in 1988, a year after Maestro Matthew Krel approached the Television Production Department with a suggestion that the SBS Multicultural Charter would be a good fit with a Youth Orchestra.

Discussions with Matthew confirmed that there were synergies and also that Matthew had the skills and drive to make the idea work. As the Director of SBS Television Production at the time, I advised the SBS Board to accept the proposal but to require that Matthew form a Company with which SBS could have a formally contracted legal relationship. There were a number of obvious reasons to require this. Issues of insurances, employment obligations and governance of the performing group were among those that drove us in that direction. Matthew had no experience in company formation and so I provided him with some advice (namely to establish a non-profit company limited by guarantee). In forming Youth Musical Endeavours Ltd, I became the Honorary Company Secretary, a role I have held for almost 25 years.

The kind of support provided SBS is, I believe, a model for other groups and corporations to consider. SBS, like many businesses, has meeting rooms which tend to be unoccupied in the evening. These rooms are quite suitable for holding tutorial sessions for young musicians. SBS also has an open area large enough to fit a symphony orchestra. We are lucky enough to also have been given access to a small storage room/office. We are permitted to use SBS photocopiers, computer system and a telephone.

Anyone with experience in running a community music group will understand that these considerations remove the most expensive overhead costs from our operation. We decided that our Board and Management would all be volunteers. Our member, performance and other small revenues were then sufficient to cover the costs of hiring tutors, conductors and music.

Its support of the Orchestra allows SBS to demonstrate its commitment to youth and to the development of young Australian musicians. Every time the orchestra performs it promotes SBS. As SBS staff head for home on Friday nights they often hear music coming from the meeting rooms in the building. This makes them feel good about the organisation they work for.

Of course, the orchestra wanted to deliver other benefits to SBS, so we have produced over 60 television programs using a mix of voluntarily provided expertise and reasonably priced production professionals. SBS wants to encourage such productions and provides us a limited access to “in-kind” services and facilities. We donate these programs to SBS along with the right to on-sell them where a market exists. This has delivered the Orchestra a modest royalty income in recent years.

Any reasonably sized business with conference rooms that lie vacant in evenings and weekends can potentially host the rehearsal needs of a musical group. This will act as a vehicle for showing how that corporation has a commitment to the musical arts. Obviously both parties must have a respect and be determined to promote each other (and share a determination to develop Australian Arts). That our partnership has lasted 25 years is surely a proof of the concept.

For more information about the orchestra see

Watch: The SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra performing “Consolation”, by Elena Kats-Chernin, in memory of Matthew Krel (1945-2009),founding conductor of the orchestra.