The Orchestras

Links: Survey of the Educational Background of the Musicians of the Sydney Symphony and Survey of the Musicians of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.


The Sydney orchestra is double the size of the Tasmanian orchestra, much better resourced and resident in a city about 25 times the size of Hobart. Presumably, competition for positions in the Sydney orchestra is stronger.
The Tasmanian orchestra is a cultural icon in Tasmania, strongly defended by the population. Its performing standard is generally acknowledged as very high.
The SSO survey was conducted first. Based on that experience, some questions were added to the TSO survey but comparisons therefore cannot be made in those instances.


9% of SSO members attended a Catholic school and zero% of TSO members. Catholic schools constitute 18% of schools nationally. There may be a need for Catholic school systems to review their music programs.

30% of SSO members attended an independent secondary school, 40% of TSO members. In both cases, about 60% attended government schools. (The difference may be accounted for by the absence of Catholic schools in the backgrounds of the TSO members.)

About half of each sample said their primary school music program was good. But of those attending independent schools, 78% of SSO members said the program was good but only 18% of TSO members. We did not ask the SSO members to give the location of their schools. TSO members named the states in which their schools were based. There was a fairly good spread around the country.

Concerning secondary school programs, the assessments were very similar. 76% of SSO members and 84% of TSO members found the programs to be good. In both cases, 12% thought they were of only fair quality. The SSO result was diminished by attendees’ opinion of the Catholic schools, where only one of the three schools was assessed as good. The number of opinions is very small in this instance and might be passed over except for the very low presence of Catholic schools in the backgrounds of these successful musicians.

In the combined samples, only one musician did not hold a tertiary music qualification. There may be a higher percentage of TSO members holding postgraduate qualifications in the form of Bachelor with Honours or Advanced Diploma or Certificate. In the SSO questionnaire, respondents were not asked whether they had received Honours. Otherwise, the postgraduate qualifications are similar.

73% of SSO members studied for their postgraduate qualifications overseas, vs 44% of TSO members.

In both samples, those who attended independent schools did less instrumental practice than those who attended government schools.

In both cases, all respondents held regular orchestral positions by the age of 30. However, 33% of SSO respondents vs 4% of TSO respondents held their first positions by the age of 20.

Members of both orchestras cited as the most important factors in their music education: inspiring teachers, supportive parents, youth orchestra and other performance experience; SSO: high school music programs; TSO: conservatorium education.

54% of SSO and about 33% of TSO respondents expressed interest in performing in non-classical genres. There was a strong desire in both samples to have more chamber music performance opportunities and to do more teaching.


Richard Letts. Entered on knowledge base 17 June 2013.

Dr Richard Letts AM is the founder and Director of The Music Trust, founder and former Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia (now Music Australia) and Past President of the International Music Council. He has held senior positions in music and culture in Australia and the United States, advocated for music and music education, conducted research, written policy documents, edited four periodicals, published four books and hundreds of articles.

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *