Past Conductors

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Thomas Tsai

Thomas Tsai is a very active and highly regarded music educator, teaching cello at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at both tertiary and secondary levels. He also coordinates the Conservatorium High School Chamber Music with his wife Felicity Tsai, in addition to tutoring the elite ensembles. Thomas has taught cello and chamber music at the Newcastle Conservatorium, The Australian Institute of Music, Conservatorium Foundation Department (University of Sydney) and Conservatorium Access Centre, and in 2013 was named Chief Conductor of the SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra as well as guest conductor of the North Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, he became the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the North Sydney Youth Symphony, and was the first conductor of the NSWYO.

Thomas’ students have been prizewinners of numerous awards such as the Ku-ring-gai Concerto Competition and Sydney Symphony Sinfonia, before continuing their post-graduate studies internationally. His students also excel at secondary level, having won scholarships to all the prestigious Sydney private schools: PLC Pymble, PLC Croydon, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, MLC Burwood, Newington College, Sydney Grammar School, Shore Grammar, Trinity College, Barker College, Meriden, Tara, Ravenswood and Roseville College.

Thomas graduated at the University of Southern California, where he was selected for the internationally acclaimed Gregor Piatigorsky Cello Class upon invitation by American cellist Lynn Harrell. He has performed in masterclasses with André Navarra, Raphael Wallfisch, Eleonore Schoenfeld, Siegfried Palm and Lynn Harrell. He was the first recipient of the American Symphony Scholarship for outstanding musical performance, performing solo recitals and as soloist with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra and Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra.

He has recorded for the ABC Classic FM and Fine Music FM, as soloist and in chamber ensembles for broadcasts and recordings. He is held in high regard both as a soloist and chamber music performer, performing regular recitals, and was a co-founder of the Apollo Piano Trio with Daniel Herscovitch and Maria Lindsay, touring from 2005 to 2009 with chamber music recitals and solo appearances with orchestras performing Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. A CD recording of Australian Piano Trios was released in 2013 on the Wirripang label.


Steven Hillinger


Steven Hillinger graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1992 from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music studying French Horn with Anthony Buddle and received the Richard Merewether Memorial Scholarship for French Horn in 1991. Steven has performed with orchestras including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra.

In 1993 Steven completed a Graduate Diploma in Conducting at the Sydney Conservatorium, studying with Henryk Pisarek. In 1994 Steven was offered a place in the Master of Music course, graduating in 1997, with John Hopkins as his teacher. This was the first time a Masters in Conducting had been offered. In 1993 and 1994 Steven was awarded the Alan Bellhouse Memorial Scholarship for Conducting.

Steven has guest conducted many orchestras including the Willoughby, Penrith, Mosman and University of New South Wales Symphony Orchestras, the Ku-ring- gai and East-West Philharmonic Orchestras, the Cove Chamber Orchestra, The Occasional Performing Sinfonia, the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. Steven has worked with the Australian Youth Orchestra and in 1994 was shortlisted to audition for the position of Assistant Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In 1995 Steven participated in a conducting masterclass given by David Porcelijn, and in that same year conducted at the Sixth Sydney International Spring Festival. Steven was a finalist the 1997, 1998 and 2000 Westfield Young Conductor of the Year Awards with the Queensland, Adelaide and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras respectively and was awarded a TOAN Conductor in the Community Fellowship on each occasion.

In 1998, Steven was awarded a Queen’s Trust grant to visit Europe to continue his research into music repressed by the Nazis. Steven was the conductor of the Lane Cove Youth Orchestra (1998), Fisher’s Ghost Youth Orchestra (1998-2000), Sydney Youth Brass (2000), Shore School Symphony Orchestra (2005-2006), Burwood Girls High School Senior Concert Band (2010-2011), St. Aloysius College Senior Concert Band (2012), Ascham School Symphony Orchestra (1997-2014) and was Musical Director of the City of Sydney Wind Ensemble (2001-2006). Steven also worked extensively with the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s Association between 2001 and 2007, conducting the Sydney Youth Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphonic Wind Orchestra, was the Musical Director of the University of New South Wales Concert Band from 2006 to 2012 and the Associate Conductor of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Wind Symphony (2013-2014). Steven has also worked as Assistant Conductor with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

From 2003-2012, Steven has conducted the annual fundraising ‘Opera Night at Rivendell’ performances for Concord Hospital. In both January 2003 and 2009, Steven toured to Eastern Europe with the North Sydney Girls High School Symphony Orchestra and in March 2005 took the Symphony and Wind Orchestras on a tour of China. In September 2005 he undertook a tour of Eastern Europe with the Ascham School Symphony Orchestra and in 2008 took them on a tour of China.

As well as a large amount of guest conducting, at present, Steven is conducting the North Sydney Girls High School Symphony Orchestra and Wind Orchestra, the North Sydney Symphony Orchestra, University of New South Wales Symphony Orchestra and in 2016 was appointed Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Youth Orchestra.