MILDURA District Orchestra has a new Musical Director with the appointment of well known local musician Don Mayne taking over the reins much to the delight of the group’s almost 30 strong membership.

Maestro extraordinaire, probably best describes Don Mayne, who has performed on the international stage and could without a doubt have a successful career overseas, but he has chosen to call Mildura home and has been teaching at Red Cliffs Secondary College for 16 years.

“It’s the river, it’s the sun and the friends I have here. It’s a beautiful place to live and for me it is quite an inspirational place to live for creating ideas for music and composition,” Don said.

“It’s a glorious place and it’s what I call home and I think always will.”

Don’s love of music started at an early age and grew from there into what has turned out to be a stellar career.

“I started playing drums when I was three and then I picked up a cornet when I was about five and I went through high school and onto Adelaide University, where I obtained an Honours Degree in Jazz Performance and a Teaching Diploma and then I returned to Mildura,” he said.

“I have toured the world playing in concert and brass bands and I also performed as a freelance jazz musician.

“When the opportunity came up to take on the role of Musical Director earlier this year, I was happy to be able to take that on,” Don said.

“I have been able to help out in the past and when there was a change in the leadership, I was quite happy to bring my skills and knowledge and history in Mildura to the orchestra and to be a part of the wider group and I hope they will be able to learn and benefit from my experience.

“I’m a local who has come back with experience having performed in different ensembles.

“Everything from brass bands, concert bands, orchestras, to jazz ensembles and so I bring a whole range of skills and I hope that both the younger members and the other members can gain from my experience.

“We are looking to produce some new works to be part of the orchestra’s repertoire.

“I am a composer as well as an arranger and so we will premiere some new pieces with the orchestra being the first to play them, which is a great opportunity locally for us.

“We will also involve some of the other local musicians to join us as soloists and that will give an opportunity to some of the young emerging artists.”

Mildura District Orchestra founding member and violinist, Alison Macgregor said that after two years of not being able to hold their usual number of concerts, it’s exciting to be back rehearsing in advance of the orchestra’s upcoming performances.

“After two years of not being able to play together and not being able to perform, we are excited to be all coming back together again,” she said.

“We have an actioned packed schedule of concerts we are planning to hold during the year in Wentworth, Merbein and Mildura and some of the orchestra’s members are looking at doing some smaller concerts out in the regions as well and so we really want to take our music beyond the band hall and out into the community.”

Alison said that while the orchestra couldn’t meet together at the band hall, they still managed to hold virtual practice sessions online.

“Some people practiced on their own, but we all used the technology available to meet to do some practice – not for full-orchestra rehearsals – that’s just too crazy,” she said.

“The string section of the orchestra did a performance where we all recorded our separate parts and they were all ‘stitched’ together and turned into a performance which was wonderful.”

Despite COVID, the orchestra did manage to hold two live performances in the Langtree Mall and they also held a workshop at the band hall which was a great success.

Mildura District Orchestra chair and saxophonist Terry McGowan is also relishing the opportunity for the orchestra to return to the performance stage.

“In the brass band I used to predominately play the trumpet, but I have been playing the trombone for a few years now and play the saxophone in the orchestra,” he said.

Terry said the appointment of Don Mayne followed the departure of the previous Musical Director Jess Browne, who stepped down to take up a position in the arts in Melbourne.

“Don actually helped out last year at times and worked with Alison in the role and she will continue as Assistant Musical Director,” he said.

“Don has found he has some time available and we are delighted that he has come on board to work with us.

“He is a huge talent and will be a great teacher and mentor to all of our members, but particularly our younger ones.”

The orchestra’s first public performance will be at the Merbein Community Hub on May 29 and details will available soon regarding ticket purchase.

“We are also planning to do our regular Wentworth concert as well, which is traditionally held in October and we are also looking to hold one in Red Cliffs and another two in Mildura, so it will be a busy year and so people can look forward to a number of great performances.”

“The Orchestra welcomes new players and some people fear that they don’t have the skills or they may not have played for a few years and they may be a bit rusty, but that should never be an impediment we are a community orchestra and we love new members and there are a lot of members who have built their skills within the orchestra,” Alison added.

“It’s open to all ages, we have a young member who is aged 11 and they range up to their mid 70s.”