Community-based Orchestras: Coffs Harbour City Orchestra

July 2012

In this guest post about Coffs Harbour City Orchestra, Pamela Fayle tells us how the group operates and describes its work in serving the local community.

Our orchestra is a community orchestra with members from the Coffs Coast area ranging from 12 years old to in their 80s and ranging in musical abilities from beginners through to people who have had professional careers and are very good. We work with that range of abilities so we are not the Sydney Symphony, but we have such fun and strive to be as excellent as we can while being as inclusive as possible. We never turn down anyone who wants to play regardless of instrument balance and often transpose parts for particular instruments to restore the balance of sound if we have too many or too few of certain instruments.

Coffs Harbour City OrchestraThe orchestra has been going for over 30 years and has waxed and waned but currently has 47 members across all instrument groups. We play an annual gala concert with guest artists and we do a range of concerts throughout the year, often in smaller country halls in the vicinity of Coffs Harbour as great venues are hard to find in this area.

We play a mixture of classical orchestra, opera and ballet music, folk tunes, Broadway musical numbers and modern film music, modern hits and even some jazz at times. We do at least one free concert at a retirement or nursing home each year and we donate our time to do an annual workshop with primary school band members which culminates in a public concert where the students sit in among the full orchestra for an ensemble experience most outside capital cities never have. Each year we have found at least one young player graduates into the orchestra from these events with primary school children.

The players volunteer their time, have their own instruments and pay a small membership fee to help cover insurance and music copying costs, though we have been reducing this fee each year for the past few years having put the orchestra on a sound financial footing. We pay our conductor and assistant conductors a very small fee for each rehearsal and each concert (weekly rehearsals of 2 hours are held throughout the year except for the Christmas break) and hope to increase this as funds permit.

We have this year received a small grant from the local Coffs Council which enables us to pay substantial fees to guest soloists for our gala concerts each year and have had grants from the Federal Government (volunteer grant) and State Government in past years.

We have a policy of never charging children entrance fees at our concerts, nor do we charge full-time student members an orchestra membership fee as we are determined to foster greater appreciation of music and greater involvement in music making in the younger members of our wonderful community. The orchestra is managed by a volunteer committee which takes care of financial management, concert organisation, administration tasks, acquisition of music, management of our music library and website as well as PR.

In conclusion, we are happy little music makers in Coffs.

Pamela Fayle, July 2012

For more information about the orchestra and its activities see

Image made available courtesy of Coffs Harbour City Orchestra