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Two islands, two orchestras

What makes a beautifully tuned youth orchestra, metaphorically speaking?


That is the question at the heart of a special research project under way between the University of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Youth Orchestras and the Singapore National Youth Orchestra.

The project is exploring the educational and organisational factors that foster high-quality performance opportunities, as well as healthy, resilient attitudes in young musicians.

The “Best practice in youth orchestra leadership for the 21st Century” project is led by Dr Bill Baker, of the School of Education, who recently travelled to Singapore with Tasmanian Youth Orchestras general manager Ms Kyna Hart. There they met Ms Siu Yuin Pang, who leads the Singapore National Youth Orchestra.

Similarities greater than differences 

During the visit Dr Baker and Ms Hart attended SNYO rehearsals and performances at the Victoria Concert Hall. Dr Baker collected data about high performance and wellbeing, gendered leadership, and the social and cultural aspects of management.  The data will help shape a repository of digital resources that will be available at the end of the project to support best practice in the leadership and management of youth and arts organisations.

“To see two orchestras from two islands working together like this is really inspiring,” Dr Baker said. “We are aiming to help youth organisations develop resilience, so at the end of the project we will use what we have learned to assist other arts or youth organisations in developing a positive and supportive culture.” 

"It's very important that they feel like they belong to a family."

Ms Pang and Ms Hart shared their experiences of being leaders of youth orchestras. They both felt that the similarities in teamwork between their two orchestras far outweighed the differences in orchestra practice. Further collaboration will take place when Ms Pang visits Tasmania in 2023.

"It's not just about playing the music, there are a lot of learnings when it comes to socialisation through group work and teamwork. It's very important that they feel like they belong to a family, that they focus on finding their friends, finding their voice, finding their identity,” Ms Pang said.

Ms Hart agrees: “Connecting like this reminds us that youth orchestras have a shared heritage, characterised by a really robust training tradition and a common commitment to the artistic development of the young people who choose to make orchestral music part of their lives.”

The $30,409 People-to-People grant has been provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australia-ASEAN Council. Other University of Tasmania staff working on the project are Jennifer Earle, Associate Professor Anne-Marie Forbes, Associate Professor Mary Ann Hunter and Dr Kim McLeod.