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The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has been forced to “hibernate” all its musicians

All musicians, plus 12 administrative staff, have been stood down until further notice.

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Written by
Nicola Dowse
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The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has announced it is standing down all its musicians as a result of the current crisis and consequent shutdowns. On Monday, April 13, MSO managing director Sophie Galaise announced that the orchestra would “hibernate” all musicians and 12 administrative staff, with the remaining essential staff taking a 20 per cent pay cut.

When the first venue closures were implemented in mid-March, the MSO was one of the first arts organisations to pivot to online, hosting a number of free livestreamed and pre-recorded concerts on YouTube. You will still be able to listen to great music on the MSO’s YouTube channel, but the performances will be from the company’s archives. Jams for Juniors and the MSO's ANZAC Day virtual choir (which you can be a part of) have been pre-recorded and will still go ahead as planned. 

The orchestra has now found itself unable to continue at all with performances due to revenue lost from ticket sales, donations and sponsorships. In a letter to MSO musicians, chairman Michael Ullmer said: “Our overriding objective is to preserve this great organisation so that it can prosper into the future, and to do this it must have the financial strength to survive this extraordinary crisis. It is with great regret that we have no other option at this time other than to enact a stand-down of our musicians, and we have instructed MSO Management to commence a process of ‘hibernation’ effective today.”

The orchestra will retain its core government funding for 2020 and has indicated that many of its employees will be able to access the JobKeeper program (the benefits from which are not available until May). 

The MSO employs 100 full-time musicians in addition to 40 administrative and management staff. An extra 100 casual musicians are also employed each year by the orchestra. If you would like to donate to the MSO, you can do so via its website.

The Australian Ballet has launched free online ballet classes for adults.

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