Our Big Weekend of Music

We ended June with a bang! WollCon scheduled 2 days of music and song for the last weekend of June (29th and 30th). Incredible entertainment for the whole family which was diverse enough for everyone’s musical tastes.

Saturday 29th June saw the first concert – ‘A Classical Journey Around the World’ – for the newly named WollCon Symphony Orchestra. Previously known as the WollCon Community Orchestra, it exists for the benefit of many community-based ‘classical’ musicians in and around the Illawarra Region and South Coast, and has done so for the last 80 years.

Current members have played in the original Illawarra Symphony Orchestra, The South Coast Orchestra, The Wollongong Symphony, Wollongong Community Orchestra and Steel City Strings. There are also members who have never played in orchestras, but learnt to play in their childhood, and are now retirees, teachers, engineers, IT and health workers and even high school students. 

Datu (17) plays the trumpet for WollCon Symphony Orchestra and joined because he loves orchestral music, especially exploring the different composers, and because his school doesn’t offer an orchestra opportunity.

“It’s a really good opportunity to learn about composition, and experience first hand a wide variety of composers ranging from classical to composers like Elena Kats Chernin. It has also helped me to gain a stronger understanding of how an orchestra works and the roles of each instrument. I also just love listening to the orchestra play whether I’m playing or not.”


High School Student & Trumpet Player, WollCon Symphony Orchestra

Viola player for the orchestra Kathy Michelmore joined the orchestra many years ago before it was officially affiliated with the Conservatorium.

“I had recently moved to the Illawarra from Bermuda, and was looking for a group to play with.  There was an article in the Illawarrra Mercury appealing for string players, and I was very grateful that there was no audition requirement!” She said.

“I have a very busy life as a GP, but I always prioritise Monday evenings for orchestra.  It’s important to me to have that time to do something which is so totally removed from my everyday responsibilities.  I have children who are really young adults now and who both play violin, and I’ve especially enjoyed the occasions when their schedules have enabled them to participate in the orchestra with me.”

Kathy Michelmore

Local GP and Viola Player, WollCon Symphony Orchestra

Following her success from last year, Mikaela Johnson (pictured below) remains the Musical Director and Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra and has seen the musicians improve to a standard that is deserving of a town hall concert.


The concert celebrating the relaunch of the Symphony Orchestra began with a programme from WollCon’s Five Islands String Orchestra (FISO) a group which started in 2020 with adult beginner and intermediate string players.

Melanie Makuch, a violin player with FISO thought joining an orchestra would be a good way to start playing again after learning as a young child.

“I have a busy job and a young family so my attention is always divided, trying to juggle everything at once. However, the Wednesday rehearsals offer a precious window where I can immerse myself fully in the music. By the end I feel happy and refreshed. Playing in a group is a joy and much more motivating than trying to play by myself.” Said Melanie Makuch.

Musical Director and Conductor, Adrian Davis says he is amazed at the growth of FISO.

“The players have all come such a long way in the last 3 to 4 years. No matter how challenging the repertoire, they always rise to match it. We were all excited to be performing at Town Hall alongside the WollCon Symphony Orchestra and thrilled to present Robin Hood Variations by local composer, Matthew Hindson.”

Adrian Davis

Head of Junior Strings, WollCon


This Town Hall concert also celebrated the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the first Wollongong City Orchestra which played on the very same stage. In that 1944 orchestra was violin player Stephen Zantiotis who currently resides in Sydney. Aged 96 he was WollCon’s special guest for the evening, along with his family.

According to Stephen the classical music group in Wollongong, started during the war with a few string players from the remnants of the musicians who played during the silent movie days. He is pictured below right, next to Mr Jim Powell (inaugural Director of WollCon).

Jim Powell and Stephen Zantiotis

”It is wonderful to see a group of talented musicians performing in Wollongong and brings back so many great memories of when I first started playing in the orchestra.  It is truly important to continue with these types of events and I wish everyone playing all the best”. Said Stephen.

We Thank Supporters

Increasingly difficult for organisations such as WollCon to hold concerts at this venue due to rising costs, the orchestra is grateful for the support of the Friends of Community Music organisation, a grant from Wollongong City Council, and substantial anonymous donations from two local lovers of high quality classical music. The generosity and commitment from everyone has enabled a quality classical music concert at this venue for the people of the Illawarra.

The concert featured music by Chopin, Gershwin, Haydn, Sibelius, Vivaldi and more.
A Chopin piano solo (Concerto 1) by special guest Matthew Ardern, (based at the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music), also delighted piano music fans.

Sunday 30th June  was our free to attend Winter Performance Day at WollCon.

These music making days occur 3 – 4 times a year and provide our students with an opportunity to perform in a no-pressure environment, with friends and family in the audience.

“We haven’t hosted a Performance Day since the start of the year so we are well and truly due to have one. We want families and friends to see the amazing musical ability of our students.” – Said David Francis (CEO of WollCon).

The day’s schedule was a mixed concert of young piano students, vocal and guitar students, as well as the Ksuci trio chamber group (Cameron Carter, Maeve Bradbury and Levi Calleja).

advanced students

Manager of the Chamber Music program, Piano teacher Jack Mao says the Performance Days give our young musicians to play a variety of music for their families and friends.

“I am putting a lot of thought and effort into our chamber music students groups, and hoping the program continues to grow, particularly in the second half of the year.” Said Jack.

Performance Days are free to attend – everyone is welcome to come and support our next generation of musicians.