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Orange's OCTEC donates $350,000 towards new conservatorium fitout

June 7, 2023

(L-R) Andrew McDougall, Pam Ryan, Jeff Whitton, Donna Riles, Pat Harvey and Tom Harvey in front of a computer generated image of the new conservatorium. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

About 2,000 years of life experience - give or take a few centuries this way or that - was standing on the stage at Orange Regional Conservatorium, belting out Bobby Day's 1958 hit Rockin’ Robin with joy, accompanied by conservatorium director Donna Riles on piano, and under the direction of conductor Sam Bartholomeusz.

This was the Come Together Choir, mostly made up of people in their retirement. All welcome, every Tuesday from 10am-12pm ($5 suggested donation).

Parts of the small audience, some with carers, joined in.

Unbeknownst to the Come Together Choir, a momentous announcement was imminent.

The Come Together Choir before the announcement. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

As the choir belted out the sunny melody, senior conservatorium staff and volunteers were in the building’s foyer, busily greeting three men from OCTEC, a non-for-profit provider of job and youth services, education and training, founded in Orange by Andrew McDougall in 1976.

The choir finished a tune, its members walked from the stage to join the audience, and the three guests made their way into the auditorium and onto the stage.

Conservatorium chairperson Pam Ryan introduced OCTEC board member Jeff Whitton, who is a local businessman and an Orange councillor.

He didn’t muck about, announcing that OCTEC would gift $350,000 to the conservatorium. There were gasps in the audience, followed by spontaneous and sustained applause.

“It is a great pleasure and a great honour,” Whitton added.

“[The conservatorium] has done so much for Orange for many, many years. In our small way we’d like to be a part of your journey and your continued effort to bring magic to the community.”

OCTEC’s donation followed a recent $250,000 donation from the Cadia mine.

A lyric sheet for the Come Together Choir. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Orange Regional Conservatorium has outgrown its premises on Hill Street, and will one day move to a purpose-built, $25 million facility alongside the Orange City Council offices, Orange Regional Gallery and Orange Regional Museum. Construction is due to begin this year.

The $25 million - coming from all tiers of government - is for the buildings, but the conservatorium is looking to raise $1.5 million to fit them out.

The combined $600,000 from OCTEC and Cadia, plus other donations, has already raised about half the amount.

In return for its $350,000 gift, the building’s foyer will be named after OCTEC, as will two of the smaller rooms.

Two pages from the brochure. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Naming rights - explained in a 16-page brochure - are being offered for many of the building’s spaces, including the stage store ($5,000), recording studio ($20,000), piano studios (five at $15,000 each), the greenroom ($10,000) and the percussion studio ($20,000).

OCTEC co-chair Tom Harvey also spoke, explaining the genesis of the donation. Harvey’s wife Patricia is a member of Come Together Choir and a few weeks ago she left one of the con's brochures lying around the house.

Tom Harvey happened upon it, studied the information, and wondered whether OCTEC might be able to assist.

“I went to Andrew [McDougall] two weeks ago and said this is something we ought to think about.”

At a board meeting last Wednesday the motion to donate the money was passed unanimously.

Following the announcement McDougall, Whitton and Hardy were invited to join the Come Together choir for another round of Rockin’ Robin.

We reproduce a section of it here for posterity.

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