The power of music is one that captures hearts and minds. Classical music, in particular, has the ability to move us, spark creativity and even help us harness the power of productivity.

For many, enjoying classical music performed by an orchestra is a rare delight. That’s why Symphony Central Coast is dedicated to bringing this magnificent musical experience to the Central Coast time and time again.

Dr Steven Stanke and Symphony Central Coast

Formed in 1999 with support from the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music, Symphony Central Coast is now one of the largest regional community orchestras in NSW and continuously presents outstanding musical masterpieces to the broader community.

Led by the talented Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander, published composer, Artistic Director and Conductor of Symphony Central Coast, Dr Steven Stanke, the symphony orchestra entertains and inspires a variety of generations through musical excellence. Dr Stanke’s experience in classical music spans back to 1982, where he joined the Royal Australian Air Force Operational Command Band playing trombone and bass. Since then, Dr Stanke has trained and played across the world, including in the Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines across the UK, has rubbed shoulders with royalty as a conductor at the Invictus Games opening and closing ceremonies last year, as well as becoming Director of Music for the Royal Australian Navy in 2015.

We recently sat down with Dr Stanke to discuss his involvement in the Symphony Central Coast, the art of conducting, and why playing as well as listening to music is so important.

First things first, what does a conductor do?

“On the surface, it looks relatively simple. It seems that conductors are just waving hands in time with the music, and indeed, anyone can do this and get a great sense of satisfaction as if they are conducting an orchestra. But, of course, there’s so much more going on behind the scenes.”

Dr Stanke says that to get to the performance that an audience sees, a conductor faces a series of challenges – not only do they need to be well prepared musically and theoretically, but they need to have an academic understanding of the history of music. It’s also important to know the characteristics of every instrument in the orchestra.

“Above all though, a conductor needs to understand people. We don’t work with instruments but rather the people holding them. We need to understand why they want to perform, what their capabilities are and what we can be doing to thrill the audience. Allowing the musicians to give their best, while being a source of inspiration for them, is one of the most incredible feelings a conductor can experience.”

Symphony Central Coast is comprised of locals from around the Central Coast that all share a passion for music. They’re everyday people – your neighbour, your teacher or your local shop owner. As Dr Steven Stanke explains, “understanding the people behind the symphony orchestra makes the role, as well as the music created, so much more rewarding.”

What’s your approach to bringing music to the Central Coast?

“For me, music is a release from the mundane aspects of life. The reason why people go to concerts is so they can be uplifted and entertained, which is why I always try to include music that resonates profoundly with an audience.”

Dr Stanke says there are many new composers that are always looking to have their compositions played. For him, it’s a joy to be the conduit between their many solitary hours of artistic creation and the wonderment of a live performance.

“It might be an old favourite that we just need to hear again, or it might be time to dip our toes in the water and try something new. That’s the beauty of working with Symphony Central Coast – it’s an open, inclusive and collaborative journey.”

What’s your favourite style of music?

“On one hand, that’s easy to answer – it’s whatever I’m conducting at my next concert. However, all types of music have something that speaks to me. It might be a particular rhythm that has been used for millennia or new harmonies of blended instruments.”

Dr Stanke says that in this day and age, it’s important to have something that’s universal, loved and extremely valuable. He understands that the landscape we live in has triggers for all of us, and it’s about being aware of what’s driving everyone apart and finding the antidote.

“At the end of each day, we’re all here to support each other. For me, music has the power of inclusion and participation that seems to be in short supply in our daily lives.”

Who inspires you?

“For me, musical inspiration is a journey. I’m inspired by everyone from Beethoven to the newest member of the orchestra, trying to get their fingers and eyes to coordinate. It’s one of the truly inclusive activities of our species, available anywhere in the world with no shortage of great performances or works.”

What’s next for Symphony Central Coast?

Dr Stanke says his next big dream is to present a huge concert on the Central Coast. He says he’d love to work with a variety of local performers and groups, and ultimately place the Central Coast firmly on the map as an area of cultural importance in our nation’s developing history.

“Until then, it’s four concerts each year with Symphony Central Coast to thrill and enchant audiences with the power of orchestral music and the virtuosity of local talent.”

Delight in Symphony Central Coast

Symphony Central Coast welcomes the delight of the musical stylings of some of the greatest classical composers of all time. The dedicated performers and, of course, Dr Steven Stanke are all a part of the Central Coast’s most valued and prized cultural asset – reflecting the pride of cultural awareness and support by the Central Coast community.

Click here to find out more about the symphony, or to learn more about upcoming concerts.