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When Noongar man Aaron Wyatt steps on to the stage of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl to conduct Long Time Living Here, the 2019 Acknowledgment of Country MSO Commission by Deborah Cheetham AO, he will make history as the first Aboriginal man to conduct the MSO or any other state orchestra in Australia.

The performance of Long Time Living Here will open the program for A Symphonic Soiree - the MSO’s first of three Sidney Myer Free Concerts to be held at the at the Bowl tonight, Wednesday, 9 February

Adding to the occasion, four members of Ensemble Dutala - Australia’s first ensemble for classically trained First Nations musicians - will perform alongside the MSO as part of the inaugural Ensemble Dutala Residency, a new initiative within MSO’s First Nations Emerging Artists Program developed in collaboration with Short Black Opera and supported by the Ullmer Family Foundation.

The Ensemble members are Noongar man Preston Clifton (cello) from Albany, WA; Kamilaroi man Jackson Worley (cello) from Nundle, NSW; Yorta Yorta woman Allara Briggs Pattison (double bass) from Bendigo, and Lardil and Yangkaal woman Maya Hodge (violin) from Mildura.

Originally from Perth, Aaron Wyatt is a violist, violinist, conductor, programmer and assistant lecturer at The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University. He is also Artistic Director and founding member of Ensemble Dutala.

“It’s such an amazing opportunity to conduct one of the state symphony orchestras,” said Aaron. “While I’ve been involved in some big productions before, including the premieres of Cat Hope’s opera Speechless in the 2019 Perth International Arts Festival and Gina Williams’ and Guy G’house’s new opera Koolbardi Wer Wardong last year, this opportunity with the MSO represents such a huge step forward, both for me as an individual and for Indigenous representation in Australian classical music.”

Short Black Opera Artistic Director and MSO First Nations Creative Chair Deborah Cheetham AO said the occasion marks an historic milestone in the progression of Australia’s orchestral music community.

“Aaron’s ascension to the podium is the result of his incredible passion and skill and a well-deserved acknowledgment of his commitment to orchestral music. It is also an historic milestone for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians.”

“The Ensemble Dutala Residency, which has led to the four players joining the MSO for this performance, is a first in Australia and redefines the landscape of Indigenous engagement in the arts,” said Cheetham.

The Ensemble Dutala Residency provides emerging instrumentalists the opportunity to undertake side by side workshops with the MSO, receive mentorship from established MSO players, perform alongside the MSO at the annual Sidney Myer Music Bowl concerts and in a mid-year showcase performance.

First Voices is the MSO’s second new initiative for emerging artists, creating a welcoming space to identify and develop the compositional talent of two First Nations composers each year. Through mentoring and the practical experience of a paid commission to develop a chamber work with the MSO, First Voices is a program in which cultural narrative is expanded and empowered.

MSO Managing Director Sophie Galaise said these milestones are the result of the MSO’s ongoing commitment to emerging artists’ programs.

“Through genuine partnership and collaboration, these two new programs will develop First Nations voices and bring cultural diversity and learning to the heart of the MSO and to the broader community as a whole” said Galaise. “Our partnership with Short Black Opera will ensure diversity, depth and excellence for future orchestras, ensembles and arts organisations. We are grateful to The Ullmer Family Foundation for their generous support of the program”.

Michael Ullmer AO said the Foundation’s support for the Ensemble Dutala Residency and First Voices was part of an ongoing commitment to the MSO.

“It’s particularly satisfying to see the support from the Ullmer Family Foundation directed to programs that provide development opportunities for our First Nations musicians,” said Ullmer. “Sophie Galaise and Deborah Cheetham have been powerful advocates for diversity and inclusion across the MSO – and they have both delivered on their ambitions for emerging artists. We are extremely proud to be able to contribute to these historic advances”.

A Symphonic Soiree also features the world premiere of Irish pianist Bianca Gannon’s latest commission, Utter Stutter Flutter, which continues the MSO’s long-standing cultural exchange with Indonesia.

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The World Premiere of MSO Commission for Angklung Utter, Stutter Flutter written by Bianca Gannon is proudly supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria

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The Sidney Myer Free Concerts are made possible by the MSO Sidney Myer Trust Fund, in association with ABC Classic, The University of Melbourne and Arts Centre Melbourne.

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