If we continue the adage, it can be said that our village chief for over a decade has been Rob Logie-Smith AM, recently retired Chair.  As Melba Opera Trust prepared to farewell Rob late last year, fellow Director Peter Reilly was planning a surprise of his own to mark the milestone.

Peter warmly greeted guests at his home, Astolat, and spoke about the enormous impact that Rob’s leadership has had on the Melba program over the last 10 years, supported steadfastly by his wife Sue.  To acknowledge their inspiring contribution, Peter announced his $500,000 pledge to endow a fund in appreciation for Rob and Sue’s legacy.  The endowment would be aligned to the Mentor Program, an aspect of Melba Opera Trust’s training that Rob and Peter have championed since its inception in 2010.

Designed as a contributory fund, Peter hopes that others in the Melba community will be inspired to demonstrate their own appreciation for the achievements made by Rob and Sue, by making donations to this Endowment.  Peter also sees the fund as a vehicle for donors who are interested in supporting the Mentor Program specifically, and the opportunities it provides to each Melba scholar.

Peter’s business acumen influences his philanthropic activities.  A generous arts patron over several decades, he supports organisations that operate on sound business as well as artistic principles.  Peter’s confidence in the effectiveness of Melba Opera Trust’s model was fundamental in his decision to make this significant commitment.

The Mentor Program – the only one of its kind in Australia – is the linchpin of Melba Opera Trust, Peter thinks.  He believes that its unique structure and the resources it provides the singers are the secret ingredients to the program’s success:

“The key to the program is that it goes beyond singing.  It supports the whole singer and helps them to develop, not only professionally but also personally.  The scholars are provided with training in operatic skills, as well as business principles and strategies to maintain their health and wellbeing.”

Peter’s own long and successful business career in finance, health care and the wine industry underpins his appreciation for the importance of developing the full range of skills:

“An opera singer’s life requires so much more than simply being on stage.  Anyone involved in business understands that you need to work on ALL aspects of a career to be successful.”

The ethos the program has nurtured over its eight years of existence is something Peter is particularly proud of – a community of singers, mentors and supporters all committed to helping the scholars achieve their potential:

“The scholars receive profound input from experts to whom they wouldn’t otherwise have access, and when you observe these mentors at work, it is obvious they are inspired themselves, and they impart their knowledge with passion and empathy.  These mentors have travelled the journey and can fully appreciate the challenges our scholars will face.  Their confidence in the program is clearly demonstrated by their return year after year.

The mentors also understand the benefits of longer-term mentor scholar relationships, and continue to be approachable and supportive of our scholars beyond their sessions, which offers enormous value for a young artist who is relying on contacts to build their career.   It’s rewarding when you learn, for example, that after a Melba master class with Maestro Guillaume Tourniaire, Daniel Carison was offered an audition with Maestro Tourniaire, which led to Daniel’s international debut earlier in the year as Papageno in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

I think there is also strength in the shared engagement that occurs through the Mentor Program.  Many opera singers speak of this career as a lonely road.  The Melba program balances independent work on career development with group learning in the Mentor Program.  This model builds collegiality and encourages healthy industry relationships.  It’s a self-perpetuating structure where the mentors and scholars learn to look after one another.  I really believe today’s scholars are tomorrow’s mentors.”

Peter recognises that the shared engagement extends beyond the scholar mentor relationships.   Supporters are regularly invited to observe mentor activities, so that they can experience first hand the impact of their support on the progress of the scholars:

“The rewards of observing a mentor session are significant.  It’s inspiring to witness the expertise of the mentor and the efforts of the scholar.  You can’t help but feel involved and engaged; you can see what it really takes to be an aspiring opera singer and exactly where your support is going.”

As a Director, Peter has seen the Mentor Program evolve and grow, especially over the last five years.  He applauds Rob for the profound impact he has had on this journey, from believing in the efficacy of the approach to encouraging and investing in its continued development.

Finally, Peter acknowledges that the achievements of our alumni are the strongest testament to the quality of our program.  He quickly adds that crucial to sustaining this success – the raison d’être of Melba Opera Trust – is building a corpus to fund the organisation’s activities into perpetuity.  Peter’s benefaction reflects a deep desire to help ensure the Mentor Program Endowment reaches the $4 million goal.  The Reilly & Logie-Smith Mentor Endowment is our second named fund dedicated to this end, and Peter hopes there will be others to follow.

If you would like to make a contribution to the Reilly & Logie-Smith Mentor Endowment click here.