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Let’s talk about bequests

Let’s talk about bequests

We sat down with Leonie Thompson, the Centre’s new Philanthropy Campaigns & Bequests Manager, to learn more about her music background and her hopes for the Centre’s future.

Pictured with Prof Ronald Farren-Price AM

What is your musical background?

I’m a classical pianist!

I had the great privilege of studying my Master of Music (Performance) with Prof. Ronald Farren-Price AM. Lessons were always so inspiring – I remember Ron standing in the curve of the grand piano, reading over the Brahms F minor Sonata score as I played from memory, singing out the long melody line and conducting the pulse for me as I went. He would often sit down and play certain passages to inspire you to listen more intensely and strive for more. Lessons always honoured the music.

I studied my undergraduate music degree with Dr. Anna Goldsworthy, who opened my musical imagination and lit fires of inspiration in the hearts of all her students. I open my old scores and see her words across the score describing the moods and characters of each moment. It’s wonderful to hear her in concert with Seraphim Trio and more, to read her books, and now to celebrate her as Artist-&-Writer in Residence at the Centre. Beyond this, I have enjoyed quite a diverse range of professional engagements over the years. I’ve performed solo, concerto, and chamber music (which included commissioning and performing new chamber music for piano-violin-clarinet instrumentation) and continue to teach piano. I also really enjoy page-turning for Kristian Chong – best seat in the house!

How did you move into arts philanthropy?

My first step in fundraising was with the Friends of Music Series where I co-founded, curated, promoted and directed a 7-concert series, which fundraised over $12,000 to install a new grand piano and establish a new performance venue in Melbourne's inner North-West.

I joined Melbourne Recital Centre in 2018 after two years in business development in Berlin. As a musician at heart, it meant a lot to find a role that married my interests and experience, and to be able to work in such a beautiful venue, meeting other passionate people, and so close to the music-making magic has been a dream.

How did the Covid-19 closure period affect philanthropy and bequests?

We saw an incredible groundswell of support for artists through our Performer Support Fund in 2020. We were able to disperse over $200,000 in artist fees for cancelled concerts due to Covid-19 closures. As we navigate into 2021, we are seeing a sustained commitment from the community to maintain the Centre’s work programming artists through our Local Artist Appeal. Already over $450,000 raised and over $250,000 dispersed in artist fees!

What I found humbling, was that when I called to thank people for their donations and listen to their motivations, often they told me they wished they could do more. They wanted to support artists and organisations like Melbourne Recital Centre especially during difficult times. They wanted to ‘give back’ in response to the joy they experienced from concert-going.

How will this new role support Melbourne Recital Centre?

I have the incredible opportunity of leading the Centre’s efforts to continue to grow our engaged community of donors as well as expanding our Encore bequest society for those who wish to make the ultimate gift of supporting the Centre through a gift in their Will.

Leaving a gift in your Will is one of the most practical and enduring ways of supporting a cause close to your heart, and it has the potential to secure arts havens like Melbourne Recital Centre well into the future and allow for our musical ecosystem to thrive.

What do you hope to achieve in this role?

I would like people to consider their legacy, to talk to their loved ones and solicitor about writing a Will that reflects their wishes, especially if that includes supporting music programming, artist development or music learning and access programs.

You do not need to be wealthy either. For example, by leaving 90% of your estate to ensure any debts and loved ones are taken care of, and the remaining 10% of your estate to charity, you are making an exceptionally generous gift.

Catastrophic times like these are a good reminder of why it is important to secure the foundations for arts in our community… for artists to thrive, and the Centre’s diverse and life-affirming programs to continue. I hope to inspire more conversation and action in this space.

For any questions or to learn more about the Encore Bequest Circle at Melbourne Recital Centre, or for a confidential discussion around leaving a gift in your Will, please contact Leonie Thompson, Philanthropy Campaigns & Bequests Manager, on (03) 9207 2648 or