Australia wins Test, kills orchestra

Australia wins Test, kills orchestra


norman lebrecht

December 10, 2013

Rotten news from the north of the Lucky Country: The Queensland government has just cut ALL the funding to the Queensland Youth Orchestra. This is the second Aussie youth orchestra to be killed off in a month.

Violinist Tor Fromhyr writes: The Queensland Youth Orchestra and John Curro have together been the inspiration and motivation for thousands of Queensland’s youth in making good choices for themselves and their communities. This organisation has given so much to so many for almost 50 years.

Recently, I was performing with the Tasmanian Symphony and on the stage were18 former QYO members ranging in age from 19 to over 60. The alumni of QYO reads like a who’s who of elite musicians, scientists, researchers, doctors, engineers, business leaders and simply good citizens and ambassadors of this country. I contend that most place their experience with the Queensland Youth Orchestra as being one of the most important influences in their development and success in life.




If QYO has been a part of your life, or if you just believe in showing your support for a wonderful institution that has been operating on a shoestring for 47 years then please write to the minister. Even better if you copy it to the Federal minister.

The Queensland minister is The Hon Ian Walker, Minister for Science, IT, Innovation and the Arts:

George Brandis is the Attorney General and the Federal Minister of the Arts:


  • Monica Curro says:

    Thank you Tor for your loyal words which are being echoed around the globe after just a few facebook posts. Can’t wait to see what happens after a press release from QYO!

    Thank you Mr Lebrecht for your wonderful Slipped Disc.

    – Monica Curro

    • Lisa Dowling says:

      I was so shocked and angry to learn about this Monica! I’m sending my letter asap! Without QYO and John I would not be where I am today. I received a priceless education with QYO for 5 years and it is deeply upsetting to think that the cultural and social lives of Queensland’s youth is in danger!

  • Stereo says:

    What philistines.Good luck trying to educate people.

  • I am a proud former member of the Queensland Youth Orchestra; without them, I very much doubt I would be the person (and composer) I am today. I’m a dual citizen living in Philadelphia these days, but I often feel like an ambassador for Australia and Queensland, and I want to continue to be proud of the programs we have available in Queensland that made my achievements possible, despite not coming from a particularly ‘elite’ background.

  • Chris LS says:

    The QYO has been a shining light in the arts scene in Qld for decades with a model and quality that all other youth orchestras in the country aspire to.

    Wanton destruction of anything of value seems to have become the only defining feature of this ignorant government.

  • Pat says:

    Totally agree. I also know of a lot of kids (now adults) who were in QYO who have gone on to bigger and better things with music. It is a shame when kids bear the brunt of bad government decisions. The young need to be encouraged not discouraged.

  • Julia Stoppa says:

    I am shocked to hear this news! It feels as though we are plunging ourselves into 2nd world status with this one. Why aren’t our young people our top priority? It’s tricky to stay out of trouble when you’re a teenager – you need to be busy with other things and interacting with other, like minded, youth. I once asked a classroom of twelve year olds what the world would be like without music and one little boy said we would all die very young. What are we doing??

    A youth orchestra is a magnificant training ground for the few future professionals but more importantly, it’s where our future audience is also lovingly handled and developed. The young people who love music but don’t make it their profession are out there now, making decisions about other’s health/education/safety/etc… Our world is better for these young folk who have learned to work together and think beyond themselves at a young age. They have seen volunteers work tirelessly and they’ve brushed up against their peers from other countries and communicated in a universal language.

    Australia, you’re being short sighted and ignorant.

  • Jeremy Williams says:

    John Curro and Tor have been the inspiration for many generations of musicias, many like Paul and Brett Dean to name but a few. This is not even considered as a factor whe beurocrats make such ill informed decisions. The likes of John and Tor are like gold!

  • Melanie says:

    YOU NEED TO Contact the Premier

    Write to the Premier

    By post:

    PO Box 15185

    City East

    Queensland 4002

    By email:

    Contact the Premier’s office

    Phone: 07 3224 4500

  • Andy says:

    QYO has been a positive ambassador for Australia for decades – as a student in Vancouver a years old program of their performances there elicited excitement from faculty at UBC. Their memories and positive comments show just how much impact this organisation has had globally.

    The Newman government is an embarrassment to all Australians.

  • Riemke Kelly says:


  • Not only the orchestra, also almost all the adventurous music and performance, including Zen Zen Zo, Backbone, Topology and more

  • Chris Mangin says:

    An outrageous, short-sighted decision. An act of outright bastardry. John and the QYO are two Australian treasures. The bastardry cut deep into much youth endeavour.

    Chris Mangin

  • Pete says:

    So, who’s setting up the petition so people can start to spread it on social media?

    • Monica Curro says:

      Hello Pete, just waiting for a press release and hopefully then a petition from QYO. So many people have written personal letters to the govt but are still busting to sign a petition. Will keep you posted.

  • Gwen says:

    My life is immeasurably better because of my experiences in QYO, and I know countless others who say the same. Share some of the sport funding around!

  • Steve wood says:

    I’m a tone deaf music lover. We need these guys to be funded come on everyone fight Newman as he will start attacking other arts funding.this is a very spiteful move. Low and greedy

  • Rodney Shon says:

    It was inevitable. As the Newman government continues to recuperate and consolidate debt left behind by bligh and the labor bums. I’m sure this will only be a temporary measure until the coffers are filled again. People need to understand that the old adage ‘eating your cake and keeping it’ does not work in the real world.

    QYO is one of many community organisations that’ve been hit by the unfortunate budget cuts. QYO is a business and needs to be run as such (and i’m sure Geoff Rosenbrook would agree) and can not be immune to the downturn around it. This is basic economics 101.

    It is unfortunate that most musicians/artists don’t realise this and can not appreciate that in the real world, abreast from artistic measures, one has to pay their way on their own accord without subsidy. It is also a reality that if the arts world, world over wasn’t supported by monetary bodies, they’d collapse overnight. So a balance is needed.

    QYO is NOT a financially poor organisation having invested its money fairly well into certain ventures that return money. It also has a large contingent of paying members. I do not see how this will affect the overall running of the organisation… maybe a bit of consolidation on their part would not go astray. I suggest for all those ‘whinging’ to look at GCYO and how they run things on a shoe string budget and a pittance by comparison. Maybe a few more should work for free and find superior paying jobs in other fields as I had to do due to the lack of playing positions and poor wages in the world of music. It’s a great eye opener to leave the world of arts and become a ‘shit-kicking’ builder (pardon the lingo) to see how unappreciated the arts in general are in this country. As an interesting side note, before I left the music industry, I worked almost solely in a vacuum. I had NO IDEA of how poorly we’re understood and unappreciated in general. I would suggest anyone who disagrees to leave your positions for 10+ years and see where i’m coming from. Sad, but in fact, reality that’s hidden from those also working in the artistic vacuum.

    i remember the outcry last year when MOST and FANFARE was cancelled due to budget cuts. Oh the petitions and protests! Unfortunately for those people who engaged in these activities, it didn’t make one bit of difference to the overall scheme of things and here’s why… If your good, your good… If your brilliant, you’ll go places regardless of how many more extra ‘artistic activities’ you engage in. Take me for example… I never did MOST or FANFARE. They didn’t exist in my time and besides, I never did grade 11 or 12 either for that matter! But, that didn’t stop me gaining a place in University due to one hell of a good audition! There, I learned everything I really needed and then some. I appreciate that wouldn’t necessarily happen these days and I am forever grateful (thanks Max Olding 🙂 for the opportunity. Moral of the story, ‘if you know your shit, you’ll go places’. You only need so much experience as a child, life will teach you the rest. A good musical education supplied by many of the schools today combined with private lessons, augmented with a little outside engagement is all one really needs at that level. The Youth Orchestras are an excellent ‘fill’ for this mix…

    Now, it is with little wonder about the uproar but people need to understand that unfortunately, we live in a very uncultured country by comparison to Europe and this is not going to change no matter how much money is pumped into the system. Whilst I disagree with the cutting of funding to any artistic venture especially those that further the cultural development of young people we also have to acknowledge that sport will always take precedence over the arts. Sport is cheaper, easier to begin playing initially and also more fun to engage with at a beginners level… Don’t believe me? Ok, take 100 kids and give them a ball and a violin (or an oboe ha! good luck!) tell them to go outside and play with both and see how many gravitate towards the ball after a short time. Then, tell the parents how much private lessons are on a yearly basis and how much that tuba is to buy and lug around.

    It’s simple psychology, mix short attention spans with instant gratification combined with the low cost of initiation and sport will always win over. That, is just one of the battles that the Arts has to combat when it comes to funding… overcoming popularities and social norms.

    I digress and could go on forever. The Newman Government is doing what it has to do albeit painfully for many. You can’t have one government ‘paint the town red’ and rack up debt and expect a stable economy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this and anyone who disagrees needs a financial lesson… something that I see many an artist could seriously do with.

    Rodney Schon

    Percussion QYO1 (as it was back then 😉


    • Lindsay Dunstan says:

      I can only ask are the sporting groups suffering as well in Qld? I’m cynical enough to doubt it. But you are right to advise musicians not to rely on Gov. assistance

    • Qld Mum says:

      Rodney I think you may need you facts right. Qld had a great economy when Labor was in. Not so good since the LNP got in.Qld is now a joke. We have to get over the myth that we have to be in the black. Ask any economist!! Funny Newman can find money to build his Tower of Power. As for funding that has been cut from not for profit organisations, Newman and his lot should hang their heads in shame. People who depend on these organisations are now on their own. Where do they turn for help – not this government!! But I suppose in the end, why would the LNP care about these people, as they would be the people that traditionally would not vote for them.

    • Wayne Jennings says:

      “The Newman Government is doing what it has to do albeit painfully for many”

      The Newman Government is wasting $260,000 a month on unused office space Rodney:

      Before the 2012 the LNP arts spokesman Scott Emerson promised : ‘Our commitment is not to cut funding to the arts at all. ‘We’re committed to maintaining the funding for the arts.’

      A promise broken just 15 days later.

      So please, Rodney, don’t try to sell us the tired old lie that the Newman Government is just doing what it has to.

  • vallennie says:

    Recent research proves convincingly that music instrument study is a catalyst for better involvement and achievement in other study areas also. With over 30 million young piano students understanding this, China is recognising and utilising the valuable study of Western Music with young students. This interest is extending to Western Classical music and instruments being encouraged also. We seem to be going backwards with

    Queensland’s orchestra closures. I hope it is not a permanent measure with so much important culture to be lost.

    Val Lennie

    Music Educator


  • Joanne Cork says:

    We pay taxes in many ways to governments so that they can supply services and support worthy causes. Why do organisations such as QYO need to be run as businesses?

  • Shaz says:

    Dear Rodney, perhaps this Government could turn its attention to more financially negative decisions such as building a huge edifice or selling Public buildings at a loss only to spend $1.5 billion renting them back, rather than attacking small community organisations which do run on a shoestring? Do not blame the previous Govt for the appalling decisions this Goverment has made – they’ve made a lie out of their own “budget emergency” with their expensive nepotism, their outrageous pay rises, their dismantling of a profitable workers comp scheme against all advice & their coal at any cost mantra which threatens the jobs of many more people than mining will ever employ. So the talented will always succeed while those of lesser ability will sink (nice right wing ideology right there? Two words: Justin Bieber

    • Anon says:

      Shaz, your last remark is uncalled for, and dare I suggest inaccurate. Justin Bieber is a very successful entertainer, and you intend us to infer that he isn’t, with a snort of derision in his general direction.

      He’s certainly a far superior on-stage entertainer than I am, and I dare say than most of us are. You don’t need to take my word for it of course, as a simple look at his incredible standing amongst his many millions of fans and in the pop charts will prove simple verification.

      Perhaps you fell in to the trap of thinking of him as a ‘singer’, and maybe even using a classical model of ‘singer’ to reference him against? He isn’t that; but he is certainly an entertainer – through music as a catalyst – and at that he seems to be very talented.

  • Kathy Davis says:

    Rotten news. Much passion and effort has gone into many artistic enterprises which have got the chop.

    There has been minimal growth in arts funding to the small to medium sector (major organisations swallow up most of the arts funding budget) for 30+ years.

    Writing as a former arts program manager of The Division of Cultural Activities under the Mike Ahern government, and as a philanthropy mentor with the Australia Council (2008 – 2010), who worked with QYO to try to help grow fundraising income, I believe that Queensland arts grant funds haven’t really grown much more than CPI, they are just moved around.

    When one organisation or arts sector gains funding, another loses it. For example, when many peak bodies lost funding under the Labor Government, youth and community arts groups which hadn’t previously received triennial funding were successful. This sector was recently cut, which might have been the excuse they had been waiting for to chop the QYO.

    Interestingly, in the same grants round, a music organisation formerly chaired by the current Arts Minister, and which has been trying unsuccessfully for ages to achieve funding, was successful. Frequently, it is about who you know, how much lobbying you do, and how much influence the lobbyist has.

    When there is not enough grants funding to go round, there always will be winners and losers.

    I am not writing this to justify the decision to cease funding the QYO, which has provided so much opportunity and experience for so many, thanks to the passion and commitment of John Curro and supporters including parents, past members, sponsors, donors and the tiny, hard-working staff.

    However, I do believe that Rodney Shon made some very valid points in his comment, above.

    The Queensland Government and its bureaucrats may be making the decisions that they think have to be made, but if the QYO goes under, music education, production and appreciation in Queensland will suffer, and the flow-on effect will be felt for decades. QYO funding was a small investment with multiple rewards. John Curro’s legacy probably is irreplicable.

  • The powers that be don’t want artists, they want serfs. This is going on all over the world. I PITY the future.

  • Andrew says:

    I agree with all the disappointment we are now all feeling, but may not want to say out loud. I am most definitely writing personally to the State minister, Federal minister and Premier tonight! My life, experiences and national and international musical achievements did not happen because of just my input – they happened because of QYO and the brilliant musicians associated with the organisation; including John Curro, Tor Fromhyr, Christopher Andrews, Chen Yang and the likes. I am more than upset with this thoughtless, unresearched, unsupported decision! And what now for our younger gifted and talented musicians’ input into future society; whether it be in the Arts, Medicine, Government, Education, or future musicians in our State funded, full time orchestra?……….absolutely disgusting!

    Andrew Bell

  • Rosalind Virisheff says:

    I’ve only been living in Queensland for a few years, and don’t actually have any contacts from QYO; but my heart breaks to hear of this, What amounts to Cultural Vandalism.

    What Philistines! SO angry! Music and Art are so important, and they are SO neglected.

    I have just written emails as requested, and am hoping people power will win out.

  • Jaakko Kuusisto says:

    Dear Rodney Shon,

    The day we begin to expect the arts (and education) to pay for themselves will be the day we kill them.

  • Tor Frømyhr says:

    Absolutely correct Jaakko Kuusisto. A youth orchestra or arts organisation, especially those of the quality of QYO and of course, Helsingin Juniorijouset are valuable, even essential educational and of course artistic resources in the development of children and young adults. A simplistic reduction of this value by applying an often flawed economic or business model is niaive, irrational and irrelevant in the extreme.

  • Kim Bishop says:

    I was a violinist in the QYO in the 80s. I count the experience of playing in that orchestra as one of the true highlights of my experience. Indeed my choice to move from Tasmania to study in Qld was strongly influenced by the national reputation of that youth orchestra. The legendary John Curro was my conductor then, and continues to be an inspiration to me. Decades later one of my violin students had the opportunity to perform as a soloist with that orchestra, under the same conductor, and she proudly includes that experience in her resume as she now studies and performs around the world. I sincerely hope the outrage being expressed through media and letters to the relevant people will be enough to reinstate funding for this Australian treasure.

  • Bales says:

    As an Australian living in the musical capital Vienna, I am embarrassed. Australia is moving backwards under the Liberal regimes.