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$1 million bequest will support music programs for families and children

Performing Arts Editor

Melbourne Recital Centre has received its largest bequest to date, and one of the most significant, from the Betty Amsden Foundation.
$1 million bequest will support music programs for families and children

Ali McGregor at Music Play 2017. Photo credit: Michael Christian

More than a year after her death, the influence of the late Betty Amsden, a Melbourne philanthropist with a particular passion for arts education, community programs, and programs for young people, continues to be felt.

Melbourne Recital Centre today announced a $1 million bequest from the Betty Amsden Foundation, the largest bequest Melbourne Recital Centre has received to date and one of the most significant.


The bequest will help support a dedicated families’ and children’s program at Melbourne Recital Centre, acknowledging Amsden’s commitment to music education.

Betty Amsden AO was a passionate advocate for exposure to and participation in music and performing arts from a young age. She was a seed funder of many Melbourne Recital Centre initiatives including the Music Play Children’s Festival, Music Circle Patrons Program, the Musical Explorations illustrated lecture series, SummerSalt Festival and many more programs focusing on learning and outreach.

Remembered as an ‘arts angel,’ Amsden died in February 2017, aged 90. As well as supporting Melbourne Recital Centre, her philanthropy also benefited numerous other arts organisations including Arts Centre Melbourne and Victorian Opera.

Read: Arts lose an angel

Melbourne Recital Centre Chair, Kathryn Fagg, said programs aimed at families and children were an important focus for the venue, which hosted over 14,000 young people across a variety of events in 2016-2017.

‘Betty was a great friend and mentor to the Centre and she holds a special place in our hearts. It is an honour to be entrusted with the resources Betty intended Melbourne Recital Centre to have to develop music programs that continue her commitment to participation in the arts and strengthen the Centre’s connection with our community and particularly with young people,’ Fagg said.

The bequest will be used to extend the Centre’s current programing to generate both new content and act as an advocate for the creation of new works for young people that have music at their core.

The Betty Amsden Kids & Family Program will include an entertaining program of events for the young and young at heart, aiming to inspire and educate the next generation of music lovers.

The family-friendly program will include Music Play, a four-day annual festival in January; Salon concerts for children during school holidays; regular family performances with Opera Australia; regular touring family programs such as Mister Maker and The Wiggles; and Songbirds – weekly music sessions for the local community and their children aged 0-4. The Centre will also be introducing relaxed performances for children and families.

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said: ‘Betty Amsden was a legend of our creative state with an unrivalled energy for the arts and for giving back to the community. This bequest is part of the enduring legacy she has left on our creative sector and ensures that Betty’s passion lives on through a program that will engage the next generation.’

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