The AD and conductor of The Metropolitan Orchestra has been honoured for her contributions to music and the community.

Sarah-Grace Williams, artistic director and chief conductor of The Metropolitan Orchestra, has been presented with the 2017 Chancellor’s Leadership Alumni Award by Western Sydney University. The Alumni Awards formally acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of its graduates. Williams’ award, the highest honour the Awards bestow, was recognised for her leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Selected from 53 finalists, Williams is the second person to win the highly prestigious award.

“Western Sydney University has over 170,000 graduates and I was humbled enough just being included amongst such esteemed company,” Williams said. “To actually take out the most prestigious award of the evening left me speechless.”

“To receive this recognition for my Leadership, Innovation and Entrepreneurship means the world to me and having an esteemed institution such as Western Sydney University appreciate and honour what I am trying to achieve in both my career and the importance of founding of The Metropolitan Orchestra, is not only a huge pat on my back and reassurance that I am doing something right, but also a recognition of the importance of supporting the Arts in their eyes!” she said.

Professor Peter Shergold, Chancellor of Western Sydney University, commended Williams’ emphasis on community outreach and her efforts to make classical music more accessible to diverse audiences. “Sarah-Grace is a highly accomplished individual and a true trailblazer of her generation,” he said. “I have been strongly impressed by her innovative approach to breaking down barriers to classical music, making it more accessible to every person – including young audiences and refugees. She has also provided professional development opportunities to musicians, composers and emerging artists.”

“I have been very lucky to work with some wonderful orchestras and musicians around Australia and overseas,” Williams said, “and I am grateful for every concert I have ever had the opportunity to conduct.”

“I would say the most rewarding aspect of being the founding Artistic Director of The Metropolitan Orchestra is feeling part of something truly unique and important, and watching my long-term dreams and aspirations for the orchestra come to fruition. Every time I stand in front of TMO is exciting. I am part of an incredible team who are passionate not only about music making and its importance in Sydney’s future cultural fabric, but also about sharing this incredible and very rewarding journey together,” she added.

Asked what the honour means for her career and orchestra, Williams hopes it will help raise awareness about the importance of supporting the arts in Australia.

“Making high quality music for a living in Australia is a difficult ask. To make a career out of it, and to build an organisation that is dedicated to supporting not only other musicians but helping audiences to also enjoy our art is something we feel is imperative for the future culture of this city. To have WSU show their support and commitment to what I am doing proves that I am on the right track and that TMO is making a big difference in the development and appreciation of classical music in this city.”