Sydney Symphony appoints Craig Whitehead as interim CEO


The board of directors of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has announced the appointment of Craig Whitehead as the company’s interim CEO, following Emma Dunch’s surprise resignation last Friday.

Whitehead will begin his duties immediately, with the board saying he will make a permanent appointment after performing an international search in 2022. Dunch’s contract had two more years to run.

Craig Whitehead immediately took over as interim director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, following Emma Dunch’s resignation.

Whitehead was most recently CEO of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra from 2019 to 2021. Prior to that, he was CEO of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra for ten years from 2008 to 2018, and was also Managing Director of WA Opera and Managing Director of The Boite Theater Company of Brisbane.

In a statement, Geoff Wilson, president of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, said: “The Sydney Symphony is delighted to have recruited Craig as interim CEO. Craig is well known in the culture industry as a CEO who has successfully led large organizations through periods of renewal.

“As CEO, Craig has always enabled organizations to achieve their core artistic goals and aspirations. “

“Craig fully understands that an orchestra is a unique partnership between a conductor, musicians, an audience and supporters.”

In the same statement, Whitehead said: “The appointment of Simone Young and the reopening of the Sydney Opera House is an important moment for the Orchestra as it emerges from the long hiatus in performances.

“None of these opportunities can be realized without the support of internal and external stakeholders, and I look forward to building strong and productive relationships with the board, musicians and staff of the Sydney Symphony, the government partners of the Sydney Symphony, the Australian Council for the Arts and the Government of New South Wales, as well as the donors, corporate partners and members of the public whose support has made the Sydney Symphony Orchestra what it is today. hui.

References to partnerships and building strong relationships with internal and external stakeholders are particularly emphasized given the circumstances of Dunch’s resignation, which follows two external reviews – including one commissioned by the Australian Arts Council of Federal and NSW government arts policy and the fundraiser Create NSW – who were very critical of his management style.

2022 will be a big year for the SSO, with the appointment of Simone Young as conductor and the return of the orchestra to the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall after its $ 275 million renovation. This renovation and the six-month delay in its reopening has been a major source of contention between Dunch and the NSW government, which has pledged to give the orchestra $ 10 million, paid in two installments, to cover lost ticket income and moving expenses. , but to date has only paid half that amount, citing the $ 7.8 million SSO surplus in 2020.

In addition to this complication – which, according to Dunch in the press release announcing his departure, would create “further losses of several million dollars for the Orchestra in 2022” – Dunch has indicated that she will take her case to government channels. anti Corruption.

“In dealing with this highly sensitive political situation, I have maintained a reluctant professional silence while enduring the continued slander and harassment behind the scenes that were accurately described in the media last week as ‘personal blood feuds’. It has been a dirty business and I will take appropriate action through the government corruption channels available to me, ”she said.

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