Robert van Gend, Musical Director
Members of Blue Mountains Orchestra are excited to have a new conductor at the helm for their 50th year of making music in the Blue Mountains. Robert van Gend is a talented musician and capable musical director who completed his LMusA in violin and later went on to play viola with the Australian Youth Orchestra between 2015-2019. In 2011 he was a recitalist at the National Youth Concerto Competition, and he has been awarded the Harmer Memorial Scholarship for Viola three times.
He has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, graduating in 2014 with majors in Philosophy, History and Latin. In 2018, he completed a Master of Philosophy degree, and is currently undertaking a PhD.
Robert describes himself as a violist, philosopher, teacher and gardener.
History of the Orchestra
The Blue Mountains Youth Orchestra (BMYO) was founded by Springwood violin teacher Kathleen Stokes in the early 1970s. When she retired in 1981, Richard Bournes became the conductor. He first conducted the orchestra on 12th June 1981 in the Uniting Church Hall, Springwood - a building which no longer exists. In 1982 the BMYO was wound down and the Blue Mountains Orchestra (BMO) was formed. Under the structure of the BMYO more mature musicians were not allowed membership.
In 1985 the Blue Mountains Training Orchestra was formed with Suzanne Hodge as the Musical Director. In 1986 Suzanne Hodge became Musical Director of the training and senior sections of the orchestra. The orchestra was incorporated in October 1995 under the Associations Incorporation Act 1984 and became the Blue Mountains Orchestra Inc. Suzanne stayed as Musical Director until her retirement in 2013. Mal Hewitt was Musical Director from 2014 to 2019.
A number of orchestra members have made professional careers as music teachers and/or musicians.