Ms Mary Vallentine AO

Mary Vallentine

Ms Mary Vallentine is one of Australia's most experienced arts managers whose passion for music and theatre have directed her professional life for over four decades.

On completing an undergraduate arts degree in drama (University of NSW), and music (University of Sydney), she gained experience and training in arts management at Musica Viva Australia.

The role of Administrator of the 1980 and 1982 Adelaide Festivals preceded her appointment as General Manager of the State Theatre Company of South Australia for its Lighthouse years (1982 to 1984) under the Artists Direction of Jim Sharman.

She returned to Sydney and took up the position of Managing Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 1986, a position she held for 17 years. During her time with the Sydney Symphony, Mary worked with artistic directors Stuart Challender and Edo de Waart setting the course for the Orchestra’s artistic development and emergence as Australia’s flagship orchestra.

During her stewardship, the Sydney Symphony developed the largest audience at Sydney Opera House of any Australian arts company. Inspired by Richard Gill, the Orchestra’s Education Director, the Sydney Sinfonia was established, a key innovation of the SSO’s renowned education program.

The Sydney Symphony began an active recording, commissioning and touring program and secured its first ever sponsors and philanthropists while Mary was Managing Director. Having steered the course for the Orchestra’s corporatisation as an entity independent of the ABC in 1996, she took a lead role in brokering the multimillion-dollar partnership between Emirates and three of Australia’s orchestras (Sydney, Melbourne and the West Australian symphony orchestras), a powerful multi-organisation partnership that continues today.

A period of freelance arts management and consultancy roles followed which included mentorship of philanthropic programs at a number of Australian arts companies including Western Australia Opera and Desart. During this time, she was a board director of Belvoir Theatre, Currency Press and took up the role of Chair of the Australian Youth Orchestra, a position she held for 10 years.

Mary was appointed Managing Director of Melbourne Recital Centre in 2010, her most recent full-time management role, which she finished in 2016. The Centre established its role as a "home for music” during her stewardship presenting a diverse range of ensembles and music in the acoustically exquisite Elisabeth Murdoch Hall and Primrose Potter Salon.

Recognised for her services to the arts in Australia, Mary was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in The Queen's Birthday 1996 Honours List and received the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Facilitators Prize in 2002. She was appointed a Vice Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow of Monash University from 2017-2020.

Mary lives in Sydney and is a member of the Monash University Philanthropy Campaign Council, a board director of the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, Flinders Quartet, Ukaria Cultural Foundation, Naomi Milgrom Foundation and Malthouse Theatre.