12 May 2024

Federal Budget: Multimillion-dollar 'lifeline' for Canberra Symphony

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief conductor and artistic director Jessica Cottis with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. New funding will secure its future. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The Federal Government has come to the 75th anniversary party for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra with a $4.1 million package over four years from 2024-25, and $1.1 million a year ongoing and indexed.

The money to be provided in Tuesday’s Budget will buoy the CSO, which has been facing critical funding challenges and, like other producers of live music, weathering tough financial conditions that have been impacting ticket sales.

The CSO, which turns 75 in 2025, receives the lowest amount of Commonwealth funding compared with other state orchestras, and ticket sales and corporate partnerships are yet to bounce back from the COVID pandemic.

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The extra funding will secure the viability of the orchestra and allow the CSO to invest in additional staff and infrastructure and expand and develop the scale of its operations.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher will announce the funding today (Sunday) at the CSO’s Reverie chamber concert at Albert Hall.

“The Albanese Government is proud to be investing in the Canberra Symphony Orchestra for the long term,” she said.

“Ensuring the Canberra Symphony Orchestra is adequately funded means they can keep bringing music to the Canberra community and beyond, while training and mentoring the classical musicians of the future.

‘I’d like to thank Angus Houston as chair of the board and the staff and musicians of the CSO who have brought so much joy to Canberrans for almost 75 years. This funding will set them up for the next 75 years.”

Sir Angus said the Federal Government had provided a financial lifeline to the CSO.

“This funding marks a pivotal moment for the CSO,” he said. “It will ensure the orchestra can remain a vibrant part of the ACT community, supporting a large arts workforce and delivering educational and outreach initiatives.

“This funding will provide critical support for our flagship Llewellyn and Australian Series, which lead the nation in championing Australian voices, generating pathways for emerging artists and bringing diversity to the stage.”

The CSO has been bringing memorable musical experiences to the Canberra community for nearly 75 years, and its community outreach programs ensure that Canberrans of all ages and abilities can experience live classical music.

The orchestra employs the ACT’s largest arts workforce, with more than 130 casual, full-time and part-time staff and contractors.

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The CSO was the first Australian orchestra to appoint a female chief conductor and artistic director in Jessica Cottis.

It will present its first Australian Series event of the year, Heart Space, on Thursday at the National Museum.

On 22 and 23 May, Ms Cottis will lead the orchestra in its first Llewellyn Hall performance for 2024, Edge of the World, featuring works by Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Australia’s Nigel Westlake.

To learn more, visit the CSO website.

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