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Music Development Program




To share our love for music with the young musicians of Mudgee by elevating their learning, ensemble playing & performance opportunities, and inspiring them via exposure to world-class musicians, teachers and performances.

We will do this through a number of programs that work hand in hand with the wonderful local music teaching resources, to develop and supplement them by leveraging our access to Australia’s best professional musicians, and the most inspiring and engaging teachers in the country.



Music education is a passion of Nicky Stevens the Festival CEO and General Manager of Huntington Estate. After years of ad hoc work with the community – one-off workshops and masterclasses, invitations to Festival concerts and hosting community concerts, Nicky enlisted Judith James (Mudgee local, festival attendee and Doyenne of Arts Marketing) to help make the program more strategic and its impact longer lasting. Following a year of consultation led by Judith with local families, music students and teachers in 2016, we designed the 2017 Ensemble Challenge.

Irina Morozova from the Goldner String Quartet made the program real in 2016 when it was little more than an ambition by simply but firmly saying ‘we’ll do it’. Her unhesitating commitment made everything possible, and her continued passion, hard work, creativity, network and generosity with hers and Dene Olding’s time has been a cornerstone of the last 2 years.

Local music teachers Mary Mitchell and Rhonda Watts have been fundamental to the program’s successes to date.



The program is funded by the Huntington Estate Music Festival audience via the raffle, plus the exceptional generosity of two very special audience members who have made significant contributions that have allowed us to step this program up to another level in 2018 and 2019.




2017 – Ensemble Challenge 

The program ran from May to November 2017 and had an elite focus, with 8 small ensembles formed by their teachers. A series of workshops and masterclasses were held in Mudgee with visiting program tutors (see below). We presented the most accomplished young musicians at festival in a wonderful and moving concert. All participants performed in an end of year concert at the Prince of Wales Opera House in Gulgong.

Program Tutors: Dene Olding, Irina Morozov, Catherine McCorkill, Rob Johnson

Program Administrator: Judith James


2018 - Ensemble Challenge 

Following a review of 2017, where we identified that 1) the pool of elite musicians was small and 2) the 2017 program failed to engage and inspire the musicians that had the potential to become the elite of the future, we changed direction.

We continued to work with select senior ensembles but focused the vast majority of our resources on the 10 young musicians of the Large Ensemble who are in the early days of learning their instruments (Grade 6 and under, from 10 years old), and our goal is to develop them.

We commissioned a piece of Chamber Music ‘The Huntington Suite’ to suit the diverse skill levels and unique combination of instruments of the group. Mark Walton OA has been our find of 2018, our composer, mentor and ensemble leader - a brilliant and passionate music educator who has inspired and excited our young musicians and their families. To get a group of 10 to 15 yr olds to work without break for 3 hours and love every minute of it - to laugh and joke while they learn and dig deep to find their very best is a great gift. 

Open Strings and Wind Workshops were conducted by Dene Olding & Irina Morozova and Cathy McCorkill respectively to broaden the reach of the program.

Our KPI is that these fantastic young people remain committed to studying their instrument at the end of each year.

Emma who played so beautifully in a small ensemble in 2017 and 2018 worked hard to coordinate the Large Ensemble, under the mentorship of Mark. We are proud to be supporting her music studies in 2019.

2018 - Community / Family Concert by Mara!

A wonderfully inclusive and engaging family concert was held in November at the winery featuring the amazing Musica Viva in Schools group Mara!



Despite the 2019 Festival being our last, we remain fully committed to the program, with funding & tutors / mentors in place for 2019. We will continue our association with Chamber Music, and will find a way to continue after the Festival has ended.

The 2019 program is still being finalised but will include the following 3 workstreams:

1. The Large Ensemble will continue under the tutelage of Mark Walton

2. We will form at least 1 Small Ensemble of our senior musicians

3. We will support and develop new Mudgee Public Strings group