'Transformative' funding music to the ears of orchestra

A million dollars of federal budget money may not sound like much, but for some arts organisations it's transformative.

A $1 million boost for the Darwin Symphony Orchestra announced in the budget means it can pay all of its 13 principal musicians for the first time in its 35-year history.

"This whole orchestra and all the associated people are buzzing with the news, it's a real tangible expression of where we're at, it's a significant increase for us," artistic director Jonathan Tooby told AAP.

Four principal string players are paid an award wage for rehearsals and concerts, an income of about $20,000 a year, while other principals, such as flute and oboe players, have never been paid.

Darwin Symphony Orchestra
Darwin Symphony Orchestra is made up of a range of professions such as doctors, pilots and teachers.

It should not come as a surprise, said Tooby, that there are about 25 doctors playing in the orchestra - but it is made up of a wide range of professions, such as pilots and teachers.

The orchestra, which was otherwise comprised of about 90 volunteer musicians, would now be able to attract talent from the rest of Australia, he said.

The orchestra attracts an enviable amount of support from the Territory capital: 10 per cent of the city's population can attend its outdoor concerts.

"There's a really strong feeling of opportunity and optimism and incredible support for arts and culture in Darwin, so our concerts are absolutely punching well above their weight," Tooby said.

It doesn't change the fact the Northern Territory is a terrible place for string instruments, which can be de-tuned and damaged within hours in the humid climate and the memory of an outdoor rehearsal at Uluru in 2013 lingers with the orchestra.

"A lot of the instruments actually were really badly damaged ... you do have to be careful with stringed instruments," Tooby said.

The money will also be used for community partnerships across the Territory and regional touring to places such as Timor.

The funding is part of a $5.2 million budget allocation that will also go to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

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