Monday, October 2, 2017


It's well time to shine the rainbow spotlight onto the incoming SSO CEO Emma Dunch. Her guidance and honesty and gold dust words in the Marriage Equality debate reveal a confidence and air of a leader whose values are as deep as they are precious.

And there's a sparkling brightness and energy of purpose and joy in the future leaping out which betrays, admittedly to my prejudiced eyes and ears, an Australianness, dare I say even a Sydneyness.


                                                    (emma dunch, right, and elizabeth scott)

In a welcome about-turn, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Board has changed its mind on the pseudo neutral position it had taken in the current Marriage Equality debate. You may recall it supported the right of people to register their 'vote', but in deference to the mix of its stakeholders, found itself unable to take a stand one way or the other. To repeat myself, abstention is the failure to support the Yes, which is default support of the No.

The initial stance was met with outrage, ridicule, disbelief, and withdrawal of box-office support and patronage. It stays a wound which will heal and the extent of the scar is very much in their hands. My personal feelings are of overwhelming relief. I was ashamed and had taken steps to completely withdraw any formal association with the Orchestra to become an incidentalist.

And on the wave of public contempt, a tsunami even, the musicians themselves have made clear their own public support. It has been suggested the musicians were dissociated from the collective thinking by their recent trip to China, itself named as a possible constituent of those not to be disquieted.

But more significantly, for me at least, is the heartfelt and very moving statement by the incoming CEO, Emma Dunch. While her private life had been very much kept under the radar in the announcement and welcoming of her appointment, her beauty of thought and leadership on this issue augers well. We received this news, and these statements, via texts. Reading them out to K, I couldn't make it through Emma Dunch's in one read. Tearing up is one thing. Tearing up in Cross Street Double Bay quite another.

From the Board ~

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra initially decided that it should remain neutral on this question (marriage equality), taking the view that as a matter of principle it would not take a position that might be seen to commit its wide range of stakeholders to one side or the other. 

In doing so, the Board now acknowledges that it misjudged to need for such an organisation - with its long commitment to inclusiveness, equality and fairness - publicly to proclaim its support for the yes vote which plainly advances each of these ideals.

This decision has the overwhelming support of the SSO's musicians and staff.

From the musicians ~

The musicians of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra wish to unequivocally declare that we strongly support Marriage Equality.

We are proud of our history as a rich and diverse arts organisation performing every week to thousands of people who share our passion for the arts.

We believe in an inclusive and fair society fir all.

From the incoming CEO, Emma Dunch ~

As the incoming Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra next January and an out, gay leader, I am proud to express my personal and professional commitment to advancing equality and inclusion for the LGBTQIA community, and to affirm my unflinching support for marriage equality. I believe that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Australia, and that this outcome is right and just.

Over the weekend, I have joined the SSO's musicians, staff and Board members in discussions that have helped clarify the organisation's position of support of marriage equality in Australia. I deeply appreciate the thoughtfulness that has been brought to bear throughout a respectful and nuanced dialogue. I know that there are very diverse views across Australia on this issue, and I respect the Board's commitment to encouraging every Australian to develop his or her own opinion, and to vote.

For me, personally, this is about more than my own identity. I believe that our society and our institutions are made stronger and more vibrant by the diversity of the individuals who people them. And I believe that denying those of us in same-sex relationships the civil rights accorded the married is the antithesis of the Aussie "fair-go" and perpetrates profound inequality. I hope that my home country will soon be one that validates my committed relationship of seventeen years.

Artists and their art have long played an important role in challenging accepted norms. I am committed to leading a Sydney Symphony Orchestra that champions its exceptional musicians, serves Sydneysiders in new ways, and provides value to our city beyond traditional concert-givng. I hope that you will join me and my colleagues on that journey, confident that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will continue to welcome and support our LGBTQIA community and be an organisation that fosters respectful and meaningful dialogue around complex issues.

After nearly two decades in New York city, I will be returning to Sydney with my life partner Elizabeth  Scott (above left). We have been gratified by the terrifically warm welcome we have received from the SSO's Board, staff, and musicians. We look forward to making new friends when we arrive next year and to proudly counting ourselves among the many Australians who support a fair and inclusive society for all.

#VoteYes #LoveisLove