Craig Whitehead – CEO – Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Arete Podcast with Richard Triggs

Apr 09
Craig Whitehead - CEO - Queensland Symphony Orchestra - Arete

In this episode, I delve into the arts sector with Craig Whitehead, CEO of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) to learn more about the business and leadership of a large orchestra.

Craig’s love for the performing arts sector began at a young age, despite being brought up in a “sports-focused” family in Stafford. He went on to become a freelance actor in London, UK, and saw an opportunity to start a theatre education company.

After completing a Diploma in Business and an MBA in Business, Craig completed an Advanced Management Program at INSEAD, ‘The Business School For The World’ in 2015.

Over the years, Craig has served as General Manager of Queensland’s second largest theatre company, CEO for West Australia Opera and CEO of Western Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) - a position he held for 10 years.

Now, his work as CEO of QSO focuses on changing people’s perceptions of an orchestra and targeting new markets. QSO is the largest performing arts company in Queensland , with a turnover of around $22 million, 120 employees and a schedule of over 200 performances each year to audiences of more than 200,000.

In this episode: 

  • Craig’s responsibilities - manages a staff of 115 people including 80 full-time musicians, manages day-to-day artistic program
  • Orchestras are a microcosm of society - an interesting study on communication and leadership
  • Creating a good ‘business culture’ for orchestras
  • Having variety as a musician - is it important or do more musicians tend to stick with an orchestra for life?
  • Craig’s childhood - born in Brisbane, 2 siblings, sports-focused upbringing
  • How Craig fell into the arts sector - trained as an actor, worked as a freelance actor in London, UK, and started a theatre education company
  • Doing a diploma in business and an MBA, managing restaurants and moving on to become General Manager of La Boite Theatre Company
  • Moving the family to Perth to work for Western Australia Opera
  • Being headhunted by Western Australia Symphony Orchestra (WASO) and appointed as chief executive
  • Building a strong culture at WASO over 10 years
  • The mission of WASO - 'to touch lives and souls with music’
  • Craig’s biggest achievements as chief executive of WASO - working to make the orchestra more accessible to the wider WA community
  • Running a music education program in primary schools in Aboriginal communities in WA
  • Craig’s thoughts on building a strong culture - it all comes from the top and you need to have clear values
  • When people have a say in what the business culture looks like, they’re more likely to help shape it
  • Craig’s mandate at QSO
  • The challenge of changing people’s perceptions of an orchestra and targeting new markets
  • QSO’s work with the regional community - community concerts, workshops in schools
  • Craig’s motivation for going to INSEAD in 2015 - an opportunity to learn more about being a CEO
  • The future of QSO and Craig’s career
  • What Craig likes to do outside of work - family time, watching the Brisbane Lions

“I think orchestras are a fascinating microcosm of society in some ways and a really interesting study on communication and leadership.” - Craig Whitehead #Orchestra #Leadership #Communication

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