Global Cultures

Dr Nicholas Milton (AM)

June 2016

World renowned conductor. Mentor for his community.

He is a Grammy-nominated musician and conductor. In demand at orchestras around the world. But the one that is closest to his heart, is right where her grew up- the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. In a continued effort to celebrate the people and the communities of New South Wales, ANZ has commissioned Archibald Finalist Luke Cornish aka ELK to portray Dr. Nicholas Milton. This is part of a series of portraits that will appear across Sydney in the run up to this year’s Archibald Prize, of which ANZ is principal sponsor.

Dr Nicholas Milton (AM)

An internationally acclaimed conductor, Dr Nicholas Milton devotes his time nurturing local musical talent through his work with the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. Born in Chatswood in 1968, he began his career as a violinist by studying at the renowned Juilliard School in New York. On his return to Australia, Dr Nicholas Milton became the youngest person to be appointed as a concertmaster of a major Australian Orchestra, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Despite conducting major orchestras throughout Europe, Dr Nicholas Milton has focused his passions on developing the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra into one of the best community orchestras in the world. “I’ve lived my whole life in this area, I grew up in Lane Cove, went to Chatswood, it’s quite amazing to be at the age I’m at now, to go to work and be with people I grew up with,” Dr Milton says.

“I intend to continue with this orchestra as long as I can keep my arms up.”

Dr Nicholas Milton has worked to break down some of the traditional barriers for young people getting into classical music. His energy, charisma and style has seen the formation of an inclusive community orchestra. “It’s all about making people part of what we’re doing, and for me music is a journey which we don’t do alone on stage. The people who are in our audience feel like they are part of a family, we make an emotional connection,” he says.

Renowned for his dynamic conducting style, Dr Nicholas Milton continues to attract international attention as one of the most sought-after and outstanding Australian conductors working today. But despite his busy international schedule, he still sees his work with the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra as one of his most important roles, saying “the musicians in the orchestra are like family, that’s why I intend to continue with this orchestra as long as I can keep my arms up.”


Luke Cornish (aka ELK)

Luke is a Sydney-based artist who creates unique, powerful images from handmade stencils. His rise within the contemporary art world has been meteoric, becoming the first artist to be nominated for the Archibald Prize with a portrait created entirely out of stencils.

Some of Luke's stencils contain over 80 layers. The subject of his Archibald entry, the infamous ex-priest Father Bob Maguire, contains more than 30 and was influenced by Cornish's association of him with his own grandfather. Atheist, religious iconography can be seen frequently in his work.

He’s enjoyed being part of this ANZ initiative. “I want to be an advocate for people who are genuinely doing good in society and the community. People not just talking about making a difference but making a difference.”

Luke has relished the idea of portraying Nicholas Milton. “This guy could conduct any orchestra in the world. He’s been nominated for a Grammy. Yet he spends his time developing the local community orchestra in Chatswood - the area he grew up in. And that’s really commendable.”

“Nicholas could conduct any orchestra in the world, but he spends time in his community.”

The Process

There are two aspects of his craft that Luke really enjoys, “One one hand you’ve got the meditative side of stencil art- you can just chuck on a podcast and just carve and drift away. That’s one thing that attracts me to it. Another side I like about it is the problem solving. Constantly thinking, how are you going to do it? It’s not a mindless process. It’s constant trial and error.”

It’s the process that gives him a huge sense of pride in his work. “There’s a lot of integrity and honesty in it. I could press a button and machine cut, or I could pay someone else to do it. But that’s not art. That’s just decoration.”

Luke searches for the same two qualities in his work and in his subjects. “What makes a good portrait is honesty and integrity. I’m not interested in painting pretty pictures. I want to make people feel.”

ANZ in the community

ANZ has been a patron of the arts in New South Wales for years through it continued role as principal sponsor of the Archibald Prize, and more recently as principal sponsor of the Spectrum Now festival, a vibrant celebration of the arts, music and culture.