Community Orchestras in Australia: Appendix 1

Appendix 1: About the Orchestras Survey

Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, Editor, Music in Australia Knowledge Base, 20 June 2012

The survey, as stated on the Music in Communities Network website,[i] was intended for orchestras in Australia, particularly the members of the former Orchestras in Australia Network (TOAN). The project was concerned with two things: 1) repertoire and 2) a profile of community orchestras in Australia.

The sampling was therefore designed to attract what is known as community orchestras though not necessarily clearly defined. There is a slightly blurred distinction between “community” and “professional” – for example, Wikipedia when accessed on 20 June 2012 listed 37 “Australian orchestras” (see page of that name), which included the major symphony and opera orchestras, other professional orchestras, professional chamber music groups, university-based groups, and others. From their website descriptions I independently identified seven of the 37 listed by Wikipedia as community orchestras.[ii] While some blurring undoubtedly remains, it is reassuring that every one of these seven orchestras were included in the sample.

There is an internal MCA estimate that there may be 130-170 community orchestras in Australia. Not all of these could be identified for the survey. Because one of the main sources was the former members of TOAN, an organisation that has been defunct for some years, some of these members may no longer exist or may have changed their name. The original sampling list of 179 reflected this, as 40 couldn’t be found, leaving a sample of 139 including orchestras who had agreed to be on the Music in Community Network and to be surveyed.

Eliminating four surveys appearing twice in the completed sample, the final response was 54 – yielding a response rate of 40%. This is a very decent rate. Furthermore, all but five responses were from community-based orchestras classified as either “adult/all ages” or “youth outside school”, indicating the right targeting. One orchestra classified itself professional, two semi-professional (which could get close to being community-based anyway), and there were two school orchestras. The vast bulk of the sample, in other words, was genuine community orchestras as intended in the survey design.

In conclusion, while a sample of about 50 is on the small side, limiting the scope for highly detailed classifications, this initiative has to be hailed. Furthermore, it was based on a professionally designed email survey form, designed in cooperation with the research organisation Survey Monkey. Finally, the patterns revealed by the survey results in Alex Masso’s report are highly plausible.

[ii] Interestingly, a Victorian orchestra in its website nominated itself as “one of ten community orchestras in Victoria” which suggests that further detective work may yield many additions to the list (who does a particular type of community orchestra regard as its peer groups, as from other viewpoints there would be more than 10 community orchestras in that state?). Meanwhile, the results of this initial survey appear to be very realistic.