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The SBS Youth Orchestra is to disband after 25 years according to a memo sent to young players earlier this week.
The radio and television orchestra was founded by Russian-born conductor Matthew Krel whose tragic death from encephalitis occurred unexpectedly in 2009. According to the orchestra’s manager, Ian Hamilton, it has proved impossible to see a way forward without Krel’s creative drive. The final concert is now scheduled for December 1 at the Joan Sutherland Centre for Performing Arts in Penrith.
SBS agreed to the founding of the orchestra in 1989, but said it was up to Krel to make it work. Virtually no funds would be made available to the orchestra, and neither state nor federal governments would support them financially. SBS did provide them with free rehearsal space, storage space for instruments and use of a photocopier.
Over the years thousands of young musicians aged between 12 and 24 have played with the orchestra and many, like pianist Simon Tedeschi and violinist Natalie Chee, have gone on to successful, high profile professional careers. The orchestra have made over 60 SBS TV programs as well as CD recordings and have toured regularly to places like Russia and countries in Europe. Several former members expressed their feelings earlier to Nick Galvin in the Sydney Morning Herald
Writing on the Limelight Facebook page, current principal violist of the orchestra, Justin Julian wrote, expressing his disappointment, doubtless shared with his young colleagues: "I think it is a terrible shame that the orchestra has seen such a sudden end. During the course of 2013 the orchestra has seen a massive improvement in standard under the baton of Thomas Tsai. After the passing away of Matthew Krel the orchestra went through hard times, but in 2013, we were headed on the way back up to living up to the reputation of the orchestra in its days of glory. It is an unexpected and unnecessary end. I do believe that if Matthew Krel was still with us he would have wanted the orchestra to continue after seeing 2013's progress."
Hamilton meanwhile maintains that the finances are sound but that the trend for the future is insufficiently promising to continue. The board has decided instead to establish a Matthew Krel scholarship in support of talented young Australian musicians, the precise details of which are unclear at the present.