Therese Underwood's Address

Good evening Mr Mayor, alderman and staff of Penrith Council, PSO board members, sponsors and donors, players and friends.

The board of the PSO is pleased to announce our 2017 concert series and delighted that the Penrith Council has put on this function for our launch. Paul Terracini will speak soon about the music program, but I wanted to give an insight into who we are, and the value of our community orchestra.

The PSO has been in existence for 28 years and as you have heard, the resident orchestra of the Joan since 1991. Two of our current violinists, Margaret Bournes and Margaret Smith have been with the orchestra since it’s inception. We have had links to the Penrith community from the beginning, with our patrons Jenny Bounds and her husband John, a long standing Penrith GP, starting up the orchestra with likeminded friends. I would like to acknowledge the recent passing of John and offer our condolences to his family. It is wonderful to have Jenny here this evening, and to have that continued link with our origins, while looking towards a glowing future. Victor Brangwin our public Officer, and Jan Hartley have remained active friends of the PSO, and were there with Jenny at our formation.

The members of the orchestra and the board live and work locally, in the mountains, towards Camden/Campbelltown, The Hawkesbury and further afield.

Our oldest and most charming member is Miluska Simkova who plays in the first violins. Miluska teaches violin in Penrith and her student Stella Melito, not only plays in the second violins, but has the important job of providing us with tea, coffee and yummies in our rehearsal break. Miluska has had a wonderful and vibrant life. She sang in the chorus for Opera Australia and still busks in Hornsby! We all played happy birthday for her 90th in 2013.

Communities are made up of families, and the PSO also has families of players. One example is Lyn Pearce from the 2nd violins. Her husband John plays viola and their son Ben, 2nd trumpet. Ben’s sister Tamara played cello for many years with us but now has other priorities with young children. I’m sure she will return some day, just as others have when their lives allow the space for regular rehearsals, private practice and concert performance. Our husband and wife team Gita and Justin play cello and bassoon, and Gita did the artwork for our CD of Verdi’s Dies Irae which we have here to give you tonight. Please make sure you get your CD and play it on the way home! Piers Dugdale from the first violins has played with his son Rowan from the French horns, and his practice, Nepean diagnostics is the sponsor for Paul Terracini in our next production, La Sonambula on Saturday week, the 26th November at 8 pm in the Q. I hope you can all come and bring your friends.

PSO, like all community orchestras has musicians from an array of professions including music, medicine, teaching, academia, accounting, architecture, IT, business and diverse trades. Some are retired and others, students. Our backgrounds reflect the diverse multicultural mix of our community. We all give our time to community service with the PSO, and in so doing pursue our passion for music and improve our musicianship. We strive for excellence and hope to entertain, educate and inspire our community. We are in your backyard. We want to make new connections, and hope to meet and collaborate with many groups in our diverse city.

Playing music has long term positive effects on the brain and lights up multiple areas in both hemispheres. It’s creative, disciplined, extending, frustrating, exhilarating, and absorbing. It brings together old and young as exemplified in the association of the PSO with Penrith Strings, and in the audience that enjoys live classical music. We can mentor less experienced players in a safe and welcoming environment, and have a role in supporting local and emerging musicians.

What does our community orchestra add to the life of Penrith? It provides enjoyable and excellent performances at a good price locally, compared with our professional Sydney orchestras. There is parking available at the door of our ”Joan”. You don’t have to wear a tuxedo to attend the concert, although we need you to turn off your mobile phone! It welcomes all, young and old, music buffs and newcomers, and adds to the intelligent and dynamic society around us. Artists are innovative thinkers, and you’ve only got to attend a concert to feel the dynamism and enthusiasm of the players and the audience. We attract people who foster school participation via our Penrith Strings program and youth choirs, and mentor emerging and local musicians. We enjoy playing works by Australian composers.

A survey of community orchestras done by the Office of Volunteers in 2010 for the Government of South Australia concluded that the value of the volunteer hours of the average community orchestra was $122,000 per year, not including hours from all the support workers; and 10-12 million per year Australia wide.

PSO is being innovative and has recently completed a survey of our players and audience with the University of Western Sydney and the Marks Institute. We are confident that when the results are published early next year that we will have evidence of a positive effect on the psychological, social and physical health of our group and audience.

Intelligent, active people attract others. This creates a vibrancy which is good for all, including the business community. We can and do showcase the best of Australia’s soloists, such as pianist Simon Tedeschi in our 2017 series, which enriches our audience’s enjoyment.

Our board is running an orchestra of volunteers and add-on professionals who are generally not very well renumerated, when considering their skill level. We have friends who give their time but we need to employ our manager. It is expensive to run our orchestra and costs are continually mounting while we keep our ticket prices very favourable. We are happy that Arts NSW, Penrith Panthers, the Penrith Council and the Joan have given direct or indirect financial assistance. We need your financial support for our outstanding achievements, and are formulating a sponsorship program for our 2017 series. We have a tax deductible donation program for individuals. Please help us to continue to thrive, and maintain our position as The Orchestra of Western Sydney.

Thankyou for your attention, and enjoy this celebration with music from Bonita, Lyn, Sybbi, Anne and Nerida