In 2006, Jan Bowen received a phone call out of the blue. What would she think about becoming Chair of Board of the Sydney Youth Orchestras?

“I said, ‘the what?’” recalls Bowen with a laugh. “We chatted a bit and they said, ‘you’ll want to think about it’ and I said, ‘no, I want to say yes now’.”

In August, after 14 years of tireless, extraordinary service, Bowen stepped down as Chair of SYO, passing the role to Shane Simpson. This month, she left the Board altogether, having taken the SYO from near bankruptcy and a low public profile to its current position as a respected, valued and integral part of Sydney’s musical culture – achievements which the organisation celebrated at a farewell party two weeks ago.

Jan Bowen at her farewell party. Photograph courtesy of Sydney Youth Orchestras

Chatting to Limelightat the Union Club in Sydney, where she was on the Board for five years, chairing its House Committee and Arts Committee, Bowen says that she leapt at the opportunity to Chair SYO because it “brought a lot of aspects together”, uniting her passion for music with her professional credentials.

“I was Chairman...