UNSW Orchestra

Our History

The UNSW Orchestra was founded in 1989 to bring the live performance of fine music to the University community and to the many people who live in the surrounding suburbs.

The Orchestra was established by three undergraduate students, Jan Howe, Richard Pulley and Emery Schubert, with guidance from Professor Roger Covell of the (then) School of Music and Music Education and was initially funded by a grant from the (then) Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Birt. The vitality of the Orchestra today owes much to all these founders’ vision and caring.

The Orchestra’s first concert took place on 15 August 1989, and on 14 May 2010 it gave its 100th public performance. There are, at any one time, about 65 players in the Orchestra. Additional guest players are brought in as the need arises, usually for the rarer instruments such as bass clarinet, contrabassoon, harp and celeste, or when a large-scale symphonic work is on the program.

More than 1000 UNSW students, staff and alumni have played in the Orchestra over the first 23 years of its existence. This remarkable figure shows what a wealth of amateur musical talent there is on campus. It also reflects the inevitable annual turnover among players, as existing players go off with their degrees and new players join.


The Orchestra’s repertoire is broadly from the Classical (1750-1810) and Romantic (1810-1910) eras. More recent works, especially works by contemporary Australian composers, are well represented in the Orchestra’s programs, as is film music from the past four decades. Concertos for various solo instruments figure prominently. The soloists in these concertos are mostly students from the University’s music department.

Join Us

All string, wind, brass and percussion players are invited to audition for the Orchestra. Auditions are held for the Orchestra during the O-Week of Semester 1. All members, returning and new, are required to audition. You will be required to play two prepared contrasting pieces, and a short sight-reading excerpt. In 2018, auditions will be held on the Thursday and Friday of O-Week (22nd and 23rd of February). If you are interested in joining the Orchestra, please complete the Online Registration Form. Returning members are also required to register.

Special thanks to the Music Performance Unit for their assistance with the creation of this page.