MCO Appoints New Executive Director

Adele Schonhardt OAM joins Artistic Director Sophie Rowell at helm of leading ensemble

Following an extensive recruitment process, the Board of Melbourne Chamber Orchestra is pleased to announce that Adele Schonhardt OAM has been appointed as the organisation’s new Executive Director.

Board Chair Fran Thorn says: “We are delighted with the appointment of Adele as our next Executive Director – she brings to the role drive and deep knowledge of classical music. Her absolute commitment to music in Australia has recently been shown through her co-founding of the ADCH, which was a literal lifeline for our sector during a difficult period. We are looking to a great future with Adele Schonhardt and Sophie Rowell at the helm of the MCO.”

Adele joins Melbourne Chamber Orchestra fresh from the Australian Digital Concert Hall – a multi-award-winning startup that she and Chris Howlett launched to support professional musicians during the pandemic. Having generated over $4 million for Australian artists, ADCH was acquired by a larger streaming provider in early 2024.

Before ADCH, Adele spent two decades honing her arts leadership skills at the Melbourne Conservatorium, through Musica Viva Australia, with the orchestras and venues of Germany, with the League of American Orchestras in New York, as Chair of 3MBS, and through an Executive MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management (UNSW). She shares in several major awards and was honoured to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia for Service to the Arts in 2024.

Schonhardt says: “I’m so proud to join Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, and to build on the remarkable 11-year legacy of my predecessor, Richard Jackson. I’ve long been a huge MCO fan. It’s an ensemble that’s dear to my heart and deeply familiar thanks to our close collaboration through ADCH and my years hosting Sunday-night MCO broadcasts on 3MBS radio.
“I’m particularly excited to be working with Artistic Director Sophie Rowell, who I greatly admire for her skill, generosity, and vision. Under her leadership, the future is bright, indeed – a fantastic lineup of musicians at the top of their game, presenting some of the most exciting repertoire around.”

Sophie Rowell adds: “I am thrilled to welcome Adele into the MCO fold and I look forward to exploring where our shared visions for this fabulous orchestra will take us.

“Having known Adele through her pivotal work with Chris Howlett that gave such light to so many artists on the ADCH platform, I am delighted to have the opportunity to work much more closely with her into what I am sure will be a very exciting future for the MCO, creating new and invigorating platforms on which our organisation will flourish.”



Directed by celebrated Australian violinist and concertmaster Sophie Rowell, the MCO is Victoria’s preeminent professional chamber orchestra.

In more than 50 performances each season, the orchestra brings leading Australian musicians together in inspiring programs of uncompromising artistic quality, finesse, and passion.

The MCO’s mainstage season is presented at Melbourne Recital Centre and broadcast on ABC Classic and 3MBS FM. The ensemble also hosts A Feast of Music, an annual spring chamber music festival in Daylesford, as well as a range of chamber programs that tour extensively across Victoria and beyond.


Adele Schonhardt OAM has spent 25 years connecting people through music – a skill honed working in arts management and corporate PR in Australia, Germany and the USA.

She joins Melbourne Chamber Orchestra from the Australian Digital Concert Hall – a livestreaming startup that she co-founded with Chris Howlett to support Australian musicians during the pandemic. ADCH has since gone national, broadcasting over 1,000 performances and generating more than $4 million for Australian performers and arts workers since its inception in March 2020. The company was a finalist in the Telstra Best of Business Awards in 2024.

Together with Chris Howlett, Adele was named one of the country’s Top 100 Arts & Culture Leaders by The Australian in 2022. She also shares in a Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award (2021), the 2021 Arts Leadership Award from Creative Partnerships Australia, the 2021 Australian Artist of the Year Award (People’s Choice) from Limelight Magazine, a 2021 APRA AMCOS Art Music Award, a Green Room Award (2021) and a National Live Music Award (2020).

Adele’s mission to amplify creative impact through good business practice has previously taken her from Musica Viva Australia to Germany’s largest opera house in Baden-Baden and the League of American Orchestras in New York.

A graduate of the Melbourne Conservatorium, she completed an Executive MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management (UNSW) in 2018. She was honoured to receive the University’s Anita Prabhu Women Leaders in Business Award in 2021.

For over a decade, Adele was a proud volunteer with 3MBS radio, where she hosted the Sunday night program before joining the Board of Directors in 2016 and serving as Chair in 2020-21.

Adele was deeply honoured to be awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for Service to the Arts in January 2024. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and two daughters.


Sophie Rowell became Melbourne Chamber Orchestra’s Artistic Director in 2023. She joined MCO from being Co-Concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and an extensive performing career as a soloist, chamber musician and principal orchestral violinist both in Australia and abroad.

After winning the ABC Young Performer’s Award in 2000, which resulted in solo performances with all the major Australian symphony orchestras, Sophie founded the Tankstream Quartet which won string quartet competitions in Cremona and Osaka.

Having studied in Germany with the Alban Berg Quartet, Sophie moved back to Australia in 2006 and was appointed to the Australian String Quartet. During Sophie’s six seasons with the ASQ, they performed and recorded at chamber music festivals all over the world. Highlights of their time together include participation in the QuartetFest Bonn as part of the Beethoven Festival and giving performances for remote communities on Cape York in Far North Queensland.

Before being appointed to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sophie played in principal violin positions with orchestras including the Scottish and Mahler Chamber Orchestras, and the Vancouver, Sydney, Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras.

Sophie studied with Beryl Kimber in her hometown of Adelaide, then with Alice Waten in Sydney. She has participated in numerous masterclasses with eminent musicians such as Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Norbert Brainin (Amadeus Quartet) and Walter Levin (LaSalle Quartet).

She is the Head of Chamber Music (Strings) at the Australian National Academy of Music, having previously taught at the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide and the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney. She has also given masterclasses in the UK, France, Singapore and throughout Australia.