SSO Fellowship Program addresses unmet needs

The SSO Fellowship program provides the opportunity for young symphonic orchestral musicians to experience the unique and challenging life of a professional symphonic orchestral musician firsthand. 

Program Area:
Vibrant - Arts
Sydney, NSW
Project Dates:
May 2014 - December 2016
SSO Fellows 2016. Image: Robert Catto


Founded in 1932 by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is Australia's premier symphonic orchestra. Currently employing over 105 full-time musicians and 72 administrative and operations staff, the orchestra's presence continues to change and empower the lives of audiences, young musicians and teachers wherever they go.

While other Australian musical institutions have offered emerging artist program for longer, none offered a program specifically tailored for symphonic orchestral music and with so comprehensive an experience. As one of the seven resident companies of the Sydney Opera House and Australia's flagship symphony orchestra, the SSO was well-placed to create and deliver the necessary, all-encompassing program.

The Fellowship program was designed by SSO musicians to fulfill the need of aspiring young symphonic orchestral musicians to further develop and explore their craft; and experience the unique and challenging life of a professional symphonic orchestral musician firsthand. 

Aims & Objectives

In the short-term, the Fellowship Academy aims to provide the most significant professional development experience for each Fellow throughout their year-long engagement.

In the long-term, we aim for the program to support the orchestral music sector's succession pool, ensuring that Australia's cultural identity continues to flourish, and that its footprint is felt globally. 


With a competitive audition-based entry process open to applicants nationally and its delivery over the course of 12 full months, the Fellowship program does not merely simulate the experience of a professional symphonic orchestral musician – it offers the opportunity to be one.

Fellows receive mentorship from their SSO counterparts and pay it forward. Each Fellow receives an annual stipend of $30,000 and a minimum of 40 calls with the orchestra proper, with many being engaged well beyond this.

All Fellows participate in extensive education activities and regional touring.  On top of their rehearsal and performance schedule they receive tuition, coaching, and perform in public masterclasses with international soloists, conductors, and pedagogues. When appropriate, Fellows also join the SSO on international tours.

Fellows also gain a comprehensive insight into orchestra and arts management, participating in leadership, networking and team-building exercises, cultivating strategic and creative thought beyond the bounds of the stage.


In 2016, the SSO commissioned a formal, independent evaluation of the Fellowship program to measure its success and impact when compared to similar offerings. The report was overwhelmingly positive, confirming the Fellowship as the top program of its kind within Australia, and one of the most sought-after world-wide."

'The high employment rate of SSO Fellows in Australian orchestras indicates that the program is contributing significantly to the orchestral music sector's succession pool. Without the SSO Fellowship programme, it is questionable whether there would be the same number of high quality musicians available to work in Australia's symphony orchestras. This is because there are no other programs in Australia that so specifically and comprehensively meet the needs of orchestral playing.' – BYP Group


In 2016, SSO Fellows:

  • performed 16 concerts to a total of 6387 people
  • performed alongside SSO musicians in 34 schools concerts, the Parramatta Park concert, the SSO Regional Tour, Brass Tour and three family concerts as well as their 40 main-stage calls
  • ran seven outreach projects with 329 school-aged children, including masterclasses, orchestral workshops and performances for disadvantaged children, and juvenile prison inmates, and
  • participated in five masterclasses with guest virtuosi.

The 2016 Fellows and all at the SSO thank the Ian Potter Foundation for their visionary support, without which the above phenomenal achievements would not have been possible.

Sally-Anne Biggins, Trusts and Foundations Officer, Sydney Symphony Orchestra

SSO presented an excellent project which the Foundation was pleased to support over 2 years. They have clearly met or exceeded all their goals, and have intelligently adapted their plans as the project progressed to maximise impact. SSO have also been outstanding communicators throughout the project, in both external promotions and their communication with us at the Foundation – despite a staff change mid-way. They worked hard to secure sponsors for all the Fellows, and have diligently collected data throughout the project on the Fellows' achievements post-Fellowship, to help evaluate the efficacy and impact of the Fellowship program.  We wish SSO the best of luck in securing additional funding to keep this impressive project going.

Louise Arkles, Arts Program Manager, The Ian Potter Foundation


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