Community Orchestras in Australia: How Many Orchestras Are There?

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How many orchestras are there?

The survey itself was not able to determine how many orchestras we have in Australia. This is a question ripe for further research, perhaps by canvassing local government cultural officers, for example. Our estimate is that there are between 130-170 community-based orchestras in Australia, but there could be well over 200.

In 2010, Anne Cahill estimated that there were 78 community orchestras and 33 community-based youth orchestras in Australia.[i] The Music Council is aware of approximately 79 community orchestras and 53 youth orchestras, although in some cases (particularly youth orchestras) we know that several ensembles operate under a single organisation but have not calculated these additional ensembles as separate orchestras. We began this research with a list of 179 orchestras but in the process approximately 40 of these could not be found online. We cannot be sure how many of the 40 not found have closed and how many are simply not found online; another piece of research suggests that 25% of community music groups have no website, which suggests that some orchestras not found online may still exist.[ii]

If we work from the various lists and other sources known to us and extrapolate from the population figures for each State and Territory, we are prepared to say that our ‘best estimate’ of the number of community orchestras nationally in Australia is 147. We base this on 6.55 community orchestras per one million people[iii]. Again, taking into account the fact that some of the lists are a little old, we have come up with a range of 130 – 170.

Next: Appendix 1 & Appendix 2 (Questions)

[i]Cahill, Anne: Australian Community and Youth Orchestras – the State of Play. Prepared for the MCA Classical Music Summit (2010).;%20Youth%20orchestras%20the%20state%20of%20play.pdf

[ii] Community Music Online, preliminary research by Alex Masso, February 2012. Unpublished.

[iii] Population statistics: Australian Bureau of Statistics (, accessed 24 July 2012. Average orchestras per million of population are 6.6 (NSW), 4.8 (VIC), 7.5 (QLD), 3.7 (SA), 1.7 (WA), 9.8 (TAS), 5.4 (ACT), 12.9 (NT). Average of all states and territories = 6.55. This rate, extrapolated to a national population of 22,482,200, provides an estimate of 147.2537 Orchestras. In some states and territories (QLD, TAS, NT) we know there are more orchestras than this average rate per million.