The orchestra operated as a non-profit company (Youth Musical Endeavours Ltd – ABN 83 003 756 518). It was funded from membership fees, performance receipts and from any sponsorship revenues it negotiated. The Orchestra has a contract with the Special Broadcasting Service which provides rehearsal space, a small office and access to administration support services. The orchestra has a voluntary Board.
The SBS Radio & Television Youth Orchestra was formed in 1988 by Russian-born conductor Matthew Krel with the help of the Special Broadcasting Service in Sydney. One of its unique aims is to give young musicians experience in performing for national broadcast on television and radio.
Its members are aged 12-24, and travel from as far afield as Wollongong and Newcastle to the SBS Radio and Television studios every Friday night to rehearse. The Orchestra reflects the best principles of multiculturalism, from the composers it plays, the countries it tours, and in the culturally diverse backgrounds of its young players.
In most years since 1993, the Orchestra has toured abroad. Early tours were to New Zealand, Tonga, Taiwan, New Caledonia, Malta and Western Europe. In 1999 it had engagements in Beijing, China; Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn & Tartu, Estonia; St.Petersburg & Moscow, Russia. In July 2000 it performed in Shizuoka, Japan; in 2001 in Spain; and in 2002, in both France and Italy. In 2004 it toured Russia for a second time, and in 2006 travelled to Macau and Hong Kong. In 2008 to Germany and the Czech Republic.
Since its formation the Orchestra has made many Radio appearances, over fifty television programs broadcast nationally, and recorded numerous CDs . The Orchestra has given the Australian premieres of the newly discovered Liszt Piano Concerto No.3 with pianist Roman Rudnytsky, Respighi's "Belkis, Queen of Sheba", and Charles Lennon's "The Famine Suite", involving collaborations with traditional musicians from Ireland - to name but a few. It has also commissioned new Australian works exploring the crossover between classical and jazz music: Julian Lee's "Don Burrows Suite" (1991) and Judy Bailey's "Four Reasons" (2000), which were premiered by Don Burrows and James Morrison respectively, and have since been released on CD.
The SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra was a participant in the Olympic Cultural Festival leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games - "A Sea Change", "Reaching the World" and "Harbour of Life".
There have been numerous success stories within the ranks of the orchestra. Former Concert Master Natalie Chee was the winner of the 1992 ABC Young Performer of the Year Award. She is now working in Europe. Former orchestra flautist Sally Walker was playing with Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and (occasionally) THE Berlin Philharmonic before returning to Australia where she lectures in Newcastle. Ben Hames (viola) is now a permanent member of the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. David Elton is now Principal Trumpet in the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. Rachel Westwood (violin) and Joshua Clarke (Principal Trumpet) are members of the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (AOBO). Trumpeters Greg Flynn, Matthew Dempsey, and James McCrow, French horn as well as many other ex-members work part-time with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the AOBO. Alex Mitchell is a full time member of the SSO...etc etc. This is to name but a few!
The orchestra has had the privilege of working with many international artists including:
Giuseppe Giglio (Italy), Roman Rudnytsky (USA), Jansug Kakhidze (Georgia), Christina Ortiz (England), Dimka Ashkenazy (England), and Liam O'Flynn (Ireland). Australian artists include Horst Hoffmann, Myer Fredman, Katherine Selby, Don Hazelwood, Marilyn Meier, Dene Olding, Don Burrows, Geoffrey Collins, James Morrison, Judy Bailey and Chris Shepard.
The orchestra's founding patrons are Lady Marie Shehadie AO, and (deceased) Sir Charles MacKerras, CBE.