Friday 10th July, 2020


Long-time AYO supporter the late Hon. Jane Mathews AO left behind an incredible legacy; both to Australia’s legal profession through her commitment to social justice, and to the musical community through her unwavering love of the classical arts. Jane’s legacy through her giving, passion and lifetime friendship to AYO will support generations of young Australian musicians for many years to come.  

Jane was elected as the first female judge and Crown Prosecutor of New South Wales and made her mark in the district and supreme courts for her judiciary service, which led to her being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2005. With a career spanning over six decades, she inspired countless women to follow her lead and find their place in the legal field.

Outside the courtroom Jane spent much of her time immersed in classical music—a passion that took her around the world as she followed Wagner’s Ring Cycle. AYO’s opera collaborations were highlights for Jane, beginning with the award-winning performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde in 2005. Jane attended numerous performances by AYO musicians every year, from National Music Camp to AYO Chamber Players, AYO seasons, and she became a founding donor of the AYO Conductors Circle. Jane commissioned Carl Vine’s Violin Concerto for the Australian Youth Orchestra and Dene Olding which was premiered in Sydney in 2011.

That first performance of Vine’s Violin Concerto presented a valuable opportunity for the young musicians in the orchestra. AYO violin alumna Natasha Conrau reminisces about her time as an AYO violinist, and how much it meant to her to perform the new concerto at the Sydney Opera House alongside soloist Dene Olding.

“I was particularly amazed by a small passage of artificial harmonics in the slow movement; they’re not the easiest thing for string players to execute, but Dene managed to make it sound incredibly beautiful and very easy. How lucky we are to be premiering a work with a musician like him! Another privilege was having Carl Vine himself at the rehearsals for his work, as well as the Hon. Jane Matthews AO, who commissioned the piece.”

Jane’s philanthropy extended to many music organisations including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Opera Australia and Musica Viva, to name a few.

AYO Council Member and supporter Ian Hutchinson met Jane through law school, and their paths crossed frequently for many years because of their shared interest in classical music, opera and support of the arts.

“All her life she’s been a wonderful woman. She has achieved so much, and was an outstanding leader for women. She made an enormous contribution to our society, particularly to the legal profession, the advancement of women, and of course the arts and her wonderful world of music.”

“She was a firm believer in things, a firm believer in humanity, human rights and fairness, and I think that attracted a lot of support for her. Jane was a great supporter of the AYO and nothing was ever too hard for her when it came to supporting the things that she loved. I think she was so proud of the AYO; it's wonderful at supporting young people and advancing their lives and their careers.”

Left to right: Jane Mathews, Chelsea Li, Mary Vallentine and Ian Hutchinson

Jane’s generous bequest will enable AYO to continue to invest in the best teachers, conductors and programs to continue to nurture, train and connect young musicians well into the future. During this incredibly challenging time of great uncertainty, it is the generosity of donors such as Jane that helps to secure valuable opportunities for Australia’s young musicians.

“The arts get so little support, other than from personal donations,” Ian says. “They’re not supported enough and there’s little appreciation for the value of the arts in our society. It’s people like Jane who saw the need and made the contribution.”

Jane’s passion for great music making combined with her no-fuss, tell-it-like-it-is style inspired so many. We are grateful to Jane for her love and generosity that will live on with AYO and future generations of young musicians for decades to come.