New amphitheatre for student performances in Royal Botanic Garden

31 August 2023
Sydney Conservatorium of Music students to play outdoors
Music students will be invited to perform in a new amphitheatre in the Royal Botanic Garden as part of a generous gift from a donor who wants to share his combined love of music and tranquil gardens with the general public.
student musicians are playing drums and saxophone in an outdoors theatre in the sun

Con students performing in the new amphitheatre in Royal Botanic Gardens.

An 80-seat amphitheatre has opened in the Royal Botanic Garden just behind the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on Macquarie Street. The open-air venue will be a space for music students to perform for the general public in a series of lunch-time concerts, made possible by a generous donor to the Garden, a patron of the arts and a University of Sydney alumnus.

The benefactor, Robert Constable, was a student at University of Sydney, studying Economics in his youth. He developed a love of gardens in England, where he was working after graduating, alongside a passion for music with many visits to Albert Hall and Festival Hall to enjoy orchestral music.

“I really fell in love with music and gardens at the same time and I thought it would be wonderful to combine those two things with this amphitheatre in the Royal Botanic Garden,” Mr Constable said.

photo of a plaque with the words "inspired by gardens and a love of music"

Donor Robert Constable was "Inspired by gardens and a love of music".

“I was driven by a desire to leave an important legacy, to create a connection between the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and to inspire the next generation of musicians and gardeners alike,” Mr Constable said. “The plaque really says it all ... ‘inspired by gardens and the love of music’.”

Mr Constable’s love of music was cemented in 2009 when he met flautist Emma Sholl, a graduate of Sydney Conservatorium of Music and now Associate Principal Flautist at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, in the Green Room of the Sydney Opera House. He was so inspired, he and his wife Janet became sponsors of Ms Sholl and have supported her impressive career.

jazz students playing in the new amphitheatre

A saxophone quartet in the new amphitheatre donated by Robert Constable. 

“That meeting really added considerably to my lifestyle as a patron of music,” Mr Constable said. “I become a lot more involved with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra after that.”

Ms Sholl is one of Australia’s finest flautists and Senior Lecturer in Flute at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Ms Sholl attended the opening of the amphitheatre, as did Mr Craig Whitehead, the CEO of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

two opera singers performing outdoors

Opera and vocal studies students perform at the launch. 

Mr Constable sees the amphitheatre as another investment in talent: “I hope the students at the Con can enjoy playing in the beautiful atmosphere of the Garden with all the trees and shrubs and the tranquillity, for many years to come.”

Amphitheatre donation

The amphitheatre is a donation to the Royal Botanic Garden from Mr Constable and his family, supporters of the Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Garden.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music Dean, Professor Anna Reid, said the remarkable donation represents an enduring testament to the profound impact of music on our lives.

“We are truly humbled and overjoyed by the donor’s vision, which not only offers our students invaluable performance practice but also spreads the joy of music far beyond the walls of our Conservatorium,” Professor Reid said.

“Our students' talents have long resonated through the Royal Botanic Garden, and this generous gift will elevate that connection to new heights."

a group of officials at the amphitheatre launch smiling

Minster Paul Scully, Dean Anna Reid, Janet and Robert Constable and Denise Ora, Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust. 

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said the amphitheatre will allow Sydney Conservatorium of Music students to perform free public music concerts inside the Garden.

“The new 80-seat amphitheatre will bring new life and music inside the Garden where people can gather to enjoy free performances,” Mr Scully said.

“The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney attracts millions of visitors each year with its stunning array of plants, flowers, and trees. Now there is another attraction providing an improved public space for CBD workers, and visitors to rest, reflect and listen to wonderful music.”

Free music performances

The new amphitheatre is set to be a hub of creativity and harmony, providing an extraordinary opportunity for Sydney Conservatorium of Music students to showcase their talents while delighting the public with performances amidst the natural beauty of the gardens during lunch hours.

“I love the idea of office workers coming into the Garden to listen to beautiful music in their lunch breaks, or tourists or other groups who might not be able to attend night-time performances,” said Mr Constable who is also a patron of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and a life-time audience member for Opera Australia. “I want the music and this amphitheatre to be accessible for everyone.”

The student performances will reflect the diversity of learning at the Con, including classical music, jazz, opera and vocal studies, music theatre and new Australian compositions of all genres.

All photos by Anna Warr/University of Sydney. 

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