Musica Viva begins search for new arts leader

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Musica Viva, Australia’s oldest independent, professional performing arts organisation, is to launch a worldwide search to replace chief executive Mary Jo Capps, who has announced she will step down at the end of the year after almost 20 years at the helm.

The chamber music organisations’s artistic director Carl Vine will also depart in late 2019 after the launch of the 2020 season, marking its 75th anniversary.

“I’m a great believer in going on your own terms and on a high and it seemed the big projects had been accomplished. It was a good time to take a pause and hand over to the next team but in an orderly and considered way that would cause minimum disruption,” Capps said on Wednesday.

Founded by Romanian-born violist Richard Goldner in 1945, Musica Viva was facing a merger with the Australian Chamber Orchestra when Capps took over in 1999. With Vine, she is credited with turning around its fortunes and bringing Australian music, musicians and composers to the world stage.

Together they were responsible for establishing a flagship program dedicated to female composers and fostering Australian composers and compositions through Musica Viva’s International Concert Season and Coffee Concert programs. The Musica Viva In Schools program brings live music to almost 300,000 children nationally, including those in remote Indigenous communities.

Making quality music education accessible to every Australian child, regardless of their school’s location, size or socio-demographic setting, was among her proudest achievements, Capps said.

Securing the future of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, which had been under threat, was another. It will be held this July. Last September Musica Viva Australia moved into a new home with studio and digital production suite in Green Square.

“I’m enormously proud of putting Australian composition and artists back in centre of our music,” Capps said. “What we are about is conducting high quality programs that celebrate Australian artists in an international context. Rather than a token five minutes of Australian music snuck in the program we have Australian musicians and composers work through a season so the audience know their voice.”

Capps hopes to continue some contact with the organisation but wanted to give her successor space to make their own appointments, including the position of artistic director.

Of the decision to announce their departures the same day, Capps said: “Carl and I have become such a unit and have such enormous respect for the each other and the company, it was a no brainer.”

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