Community Orchestras in Australia: Participation

Participation, Concerts and Rehearsals

Based on respondents, Australia’s community orchestras have an average of 44 members, rehearse 39 times per year and perform an average of 7 concerts per year.

The value of volunteer hours in an average community-based (non-youth) orchestra could be estimated at $122,000 for performances and rehearsals alone[i]. While the exact number of community orchestras in Australia is unknown, a conservative estimate of 80-100 adult community-based orchestras nationwide would put the value of volunteer contributions from the community orchestra sector at approximately $10-12 million each year. We consider this a very conservative estimate of the value of volunteer contributions, given that community-based youth orchestras are not included in the amount although they receive a substantial amount of volunteer contributions, and we have not calculated the volunteer hours spent managing, administering and promoting community-based orchestras.

This estimate relies on the assumption that the sampling was representative of the total number of Australian community orchestras, and that the response was well distributed among the different types and sizes of orchestras. It is fair to assume, however, that individual community orchestras make a valuable contribution to their local communities.

Age of Orchestras

Most Australian community-based orchestras have been running for over 20 years.   While there are still new orchestras being created, the rate of closure seems low. Clearly these groups are well established in their communities. (Figure 4)

COiA july12 Figure4

Age of Members

All age categories are represented in at least 85% of adult/all-ages community orchestras, and 70% of community orchestras include young people under 18 . This supports an often-stated assertion that community music is one of the few activities in which young and old can participate in ‘a level playing field’, to borrow a sporting term. It is inclusive. As such, mentoring and skills exchange can happen within and between the age groups, based on musical skill rather than age [ii].

The vast majority of youth orchestras have musicians above and below the ages of 18, while a small number (27%) include only one age group or the other.

In “adult” (typically all-ages, not youth-specific) community orchestras, most have participants from all or most age groups. The age group least represented in adult community orchestras are the under 18s (represented in 73% of orchestras), although participation for young people appears to be strong through the youth orchestras. (Figure 5)

COiA july12 Figure5

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[i] The Economic Value of Volunteering in South Australia, accessed 13 June 2012. Using 2010 rates, p8

[ii] For this section, only “community-based”, ie not school-based or semi-professional/professional, were included. We have separated adult/all-ages and youth orchestras for these calculations, as indicated.