Hearty congratulations to Musica Viva CEO Mary Jo Capps who last week was awarded the degree of Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts honoris causa by the University of Melbourne, in recognition of her extensive contribution to music and the University. This is the highest honour that the university can bestow.
Professor Barry Conyngham, Dean of the Faculty of VCA&MCM said, “The Honorary degree acknowledges Mary Jo’s immense contribution to music through her leadership of Musica Viva. It also signals the impact and value of her many other roles, which for the University of Melbourne include her more than ten-year membership, including as Chair, of the Faculty Advisory Board.”
The recommendation was put forward by the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (VCA&MCM), supported by the Governance and Nominations Committee and the University Council.
In her occasional address during Friday’s ceremony, Capps urged graduates to “use their art to rise above the depressing chatter” adding “Society as a whole is searching for deeper meaning, a sense of purpose, something beyond pursuit of wealth and power. The arts offer a key component in that search. Each one of you today needs to be an inspirational advocate for the fact that the arts are essential because they are, not because of what they might be traded for in the marketplace.”
“Let’s just consider for a moment the whole issue of economic analysis,” she continued. “Has everything become so commoditised that we need to measure human endeavour in terms of its direct market value? I’m a firm believer in acknowledging loudly the huge economic impact the arts have… but how has that become our first line of defence?”
“My wish is for you to be the person standing here decades from now, and able to say: ‘I took this gift of the arts to the world – the skills that I have honed here at the University of Melbourne. I have treasured this gift and used it to open up new opportunities for myself and for others.”
Awarded the inaugural Arts Leadership Award by Creative Partnerships Australia in 2016, Mary Jo Capps graduated with an MA in Musicology from the University of Toronto in her country of origin, Canada. She has worked in the Australian cultural industry for more than 30 years, after she began her professional career in Australia, working with symphony orchestras and ABC Radio production.
In 1987 she established her own consultancy practice, working with several major Australian arts companies including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Company B Belvoir Theatre, Bangarra Dance Theatre, National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Subsequently she became Deputy Managing Director and Director of Development for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Mary Jo Capps was appointed CEO of Musica Viva in 1999, where she has worked to broaden access to and understanding of music throughout Australia, supported by strong community partnerships. She is particularly concerned with arts education, both live and digital, and providing professional development for emerging musicians, composers, classroom music teachers and arts administrators. She works nationally as a professional mentor with McCarthy Mentoring, with a particular focus on arts philanthropy, and is actively engaged in supporting emerging talent on both a formal and informal basis.
Beyond her role at Musica Viva, Mary Jo became the first female President of the Sydney Business Chamber since it was founded in 1825. She is currently Chair of the Advisory Board of the Faculty of the VCA and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, Chair of the Peggy Glanville Hicks Composers Trust, a Board Director of the Community Council of Australia, and of Green Music Australia, and a Council member of the Centre for Social Impact. She was also awarded a full scholarship by the Harvard Club of Australia to attend Harvard Business School in Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management in 200.4.