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The UNSW Orchestra was founded in 1989 to bring the live performance of fine music to the University community and to the many people who live in the surrounding suburbs.
The Orchestra was established by three undergraduate students, Jan Howe, Richard Pulley and Emery Schubert, with guidance from Professor Roger Covell of the (then) School of Music and Music Education and was initially funded by a grant from the (then) Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Birt. The vitality of the Orchestra today owes much to all these founders’ vision and caring.
The Orchestra's first concert took place on 15 August 1989, and on 14 May 2010 it gave its 100th public performance.
There are, at any one time, about 65 players in the Orchestra. Additional guest players are brought in as the need arises, usually for the rarer instruments such as bass clarinet, contrabassoon, harp and celeste, or when a large-scale symphonic work is on the program.
More than 1000 UNSW students, staff and alumni have played in the Orchestra over the first 23 years of its existence. This remarkable figure shows what a wealth of amateur musical talent there is on campus. It also reflects the inevitable annual turnover among players, as existing players go off with their degrees and new players join.
The Orchestra’s repertoire is broadly from the Classical (1750-1810) and Romantic (1810-1910) eras. More recent works, especially works by contemporary Australian composers, are well represented in the Orchestra's programs, as is film music from the past four decades. Concertos for various solo instruments figure prominently. The soloists in these concertos are almost all students from the University’s music department.
On 28 August 2009 the Orchestra celebrated its 20th anniversary with a special Anniversary concert and a reunion for past players. The concert program, and photos from the concert and the reunion can be found at this page.
On 14 May 2010 the Orchestra gave its 100th concert performance. The list of pieces the Orchestra has played over all these 100 concerts can be found at this page and reflections on this special occasion by Colin Piper and Richard Pulley are here.
In April 2012, the Orchestra joined with the Sydney University Symphony Orchestra (SUSO), creating a combined group of about 150 players, to perform Gustav Mahler's Symphony no. 1 in D major, under the direction of George Ellis (Musical Director of SUSO). Two performances were given to enthusiastic audiences -- on 20 April at UNSW and on 28 April at Sydney University. A selection of photographs is here.
On 9 October 2012, at a memorable farewell concert, we said a warm goodbye to Colin Piper, the Conductor and Musical Director of the Orchestra through all of its first 23 years, from August 1989 until October 2012. Some farewell photos are here.
Our Conductor – Steven Hillinger
Steven Hillinger graduated in music from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 1992, having studied the French Horn with Anthony Buddle. He has performed on this instrument with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, and the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra.
Since completing postgraduate studies in Conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium in 1997 with Henryk Pisarek and John Hopkins, Steven has developed a vibrant career as a conductor in parallel with his appearances as a performer.
Steven's previous role at UNSW was as conductor of the UNSW Wind Band (2006-12). Apart from his new role with the UNSW Orchestra, he currently conducts the Ascham School Symphony Orchestra, the North Sydney Girls’ High School Symphony Orchestra and the North Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
He has in recent years also appeared as conductor with several professional orchestras in the Sydney region, notably the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Sydney Youth Orchestra and the Ku-ring-gai, Mosman, Willoughby and Penrith community orchestras and the City of Sydney Wind Ensemble.
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Page last updated: 27th March, 2013