The SBS Radio & Television Youth Orchestra was formed in 1988 after Russian-born conductor Matthew Krel approached the Special Broadcasting Service in Sydney. One of its unique aims was to give young musicians experience in performing for national broadcast on television and radio.
|SBS requested that Matthew form a company (Youth Musical Endeavours Ltd) as a vehicle for a formal contractual relationship and a voluntary Board, some of whom were also SBS staff. Through the contract SBS provided rehearsal space, a small office and access to administration support services.
Orchestra members were expected to be aged 12-24, and travelled from as far afield as Wollongong and Newcastle to the SBS Radio and Television studios every Friday night to rehearse. The Orchestra reflected the best principles of multiculturalism, from the composers it played, the countries it toured, and in the culturally diverse backgrounds of its young players.
In most years the Orchestra toured abroad. Tours were organised to many counties:
New Zealand, Tonga, Taiwan, New Caledonia, Malta, China (Beijing), Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn & Tartu, Estonia; St.Petersburg & Moscow, Russia. In July 2000 it performed in Shizuoka, Japan; in 2001 in Spain; and in 2002, in both France and Italy. In 2004 it toured Russia for a second time, and in 2006 travelled to Macau and Hong Kong. In 2008 to Germany and the Czech Republic.
Since its formation the Orchestra made many Radio appearances, over fifty television programs broadcast nationally, and recorded numerous CDs . The Orchestra gave the Australian premieres of the newly discovered Liszt Piano Concerto No.3 with pianist Roman Rudnytsky, Respighi’s “Belkis, Queen of Sheba”, and Charles Lennon’s “The Famine Suite”, involving collaborations with traditional musicians from Ireland – to name but a few. It also commissioned new Australian works exploring the crossover between classical and jazz music: Julian Lee’s “Don Burrows Suite” (1991) and Judy Bailey’s “Four Reasons” (2000), which were premiered by Don Burrows and James Morrison respectively, and were then released on CD.
The SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra was a participant in the Olympic Cultural Festival leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – “A Sea Change”, “Reaching the World” and “Harbour of Life”.
There have been numerous success stories within the ranks of the orchestra. Former Concert Master Natalie Chee was the winner of the 1992 ABC Young Performer of the Year Award. She went on to work in Europe. Former orchestra flautist Sally Walker was playing with Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and (occasionally) THE Berlin Philharmonic before returning to Australia tp perform and teach. Ben Hames (viola) became a permanent member of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. David Elton was appointed Principal Trumpet in the West Australian Symphony Orchestra before taking up the Principal’s position with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Rachel Westwood (violin) and Joshua Clarke (Principal Trumpet) were members of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (AOBO). Trumpeters Greg Flynn, Matthew Dempsey, and James McCrow, French horn as well as many other ex-members work part-time with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the AOBO. Alex Mitchell is a full time member of the SSO…etc etc. This names but a few!
The orchestra had the privilege of working with many international artists including:
Giuseppe Giglio (Italy), Roman Rudnytsky (USA), Jansug Kakhidze (Georgia), Christina Ortiz (England), Dimka Ashkenazy (England), and Liam O’Flynn (Ireland). Australian artists include Horst Hoffmann, Myer Fredman, Katherine Selby, Don Hazelwood, Marilyn Meier, Dene Olding, Don Burrows, Geoffrey Collins, James Morrison, Judy Bailey and Chris Shepard.
The orchestra’s founding patrons are Lady Marie Shehadie AO, and (deceased) Sir Charles MacKerras, CBE.