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Sydney Symphony Orchestra CEO Emma Dunch resigns

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The government arts agency, Create NSW, had consulted with PwC to advise on the financial position of the orchestra.

Data provided by SSO confirmed cash reserves of $14.7 million as of December 2021, a spokesperson said.

In her farewell email to the orchestra, Dunch said it had been an honour to work alongside staff and to “manage through the most challenging and difficult era in the Orchestra’s history”.

She did not elaborate on the circumstances of her sudden departure, and whether she had been compelled by the board to resign.

Formerly a junior publicist for the SSO, and later a career arts administrator, Dunch rejoined the arts company in 2017 to manage its two-year exile from the Concert Hall, its home since 1973.

During her four years at the SSO, Dunch had lured world-renowned Australian Simone Young as chief conductor and avoided redundancies and the industrial unrest that had beset Opera Australia during the worst of the pandemic.

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But her position came under pressure with the leaking of reports that had been commissioned after Dunch’s assertive pursuit for more compensation while the orchestra was delayed returning to the Concert Hall.

Dunch said on Friday she had personally pushed against calls for the SSO to cut its season by six weeks, and sack musicians to reduce costs.

“Mine was a very specific change management assignment and my docket is complete,” she said. “I leave knowing that the future of the Sydney Symphony is bright, with new artistic leaders in place, a signed six-year venue agreement at the Concert Hall, no job losses during COVID-19, multi-year government funding confirmed for many years into the future, and record growth in philanthropy and fundraising.”

Dunch said she would take time out on the Central Coast before relaunching an international arts management blog, the focus of which will be reflections on the state of the Australian arts and culture sector, non-profit governance, and the challenges of leading through disruption.

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“Rest assured that I plan to remain a lifelong Sydney Symphony donor and frequent attendee,” she said.

Chairman Geoff Wilson said Dunch had been a dedicated, optimistic, and energetic leader. “We are grateful to Emma for her leadership during this challenging period.

“We will mount an orderly search for Emma’s successor in the coming months and we wish Emma the best in her next professional chapter.”


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