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The Music Council of Australia’s Music in Communities Network has based their findings on a survey of more than 50 community orchestras. The study focused on two aspects: what the orchestras play and how they operate in the community.
“Our research found that the average adult community-based orchestra has a volunteer contribution valued at over $120,000 a year, and present an average of seven concerts each year for their local community,” said Alex Masso, manager of the Network and researcher for the project.
The survey estimates there may be 130-170 community orchestras in the country. Challenges of the survey included distinguishing “community” from “professional” groups, and a low response rate of 40 per cent from the orchestras approached.
One encouraging finding is that 70 per cent of community orchestras include members under 18 years of age. Notably, two-thirds of these orchestras were found to be well-established in their communities, having been formed over 20 years ago.
It was also revealed that more than half commission new music and/or have someone within the orchestra composing for it. A desire to explore a wider range of genres was expressed by 46 per cent of respondents, with Australian music rating highly alongside movie themes and 20/21st century music.
Tina Broad, who runs a grassroots music advocacy campaign for the Music Council, Music: Play for Life, said: “This research is filling an important gap in our knowledge of community music activity in Australia. We already know a lot about the health, social and cultural benefits of community music making music, now we’re looking more closely at where and how such groups operate in Australia.”
The findings will inform the Community Orchestra Conference to be held in Sydney in late September.