Guest Blog: Ontario Resonance Mentorship Program at Esprit Orchestra

Esprit Orchestra’s Ontario150 Community Celebration Program, Ontario Resonance, engaged, nurtured, and promoted a young group of composers, musicians, and students in a project that created awareness of Ontario as a vibrant place to live through new orchestral compositions combined with innovative explorations in sound. Esprit engaged a group of Ontario emerging composers and partnered them with different student groups, fostering new relationships with and between locales and communities. The emerging composers mentored students to create pieces – often their first compositions for orchestra – which celebrated and reflected Ontario’s places and spaces, environments, and communities. At the same time, the mentor composers composed their own new works, creating a cascade-like process wherein writing their own works was taking place at the same time as guiding young student composers in their composing. Ontario’s heritage was highlighted by music portraying human activity, ethnic cultures, natural environments, cityscapes, and historic buildings. Esprit Orchestra musicians were hired to act as mentors with each student group, providing valuable one-on-one mentoring with student musicians and composers and their teachers, as well as performing alongside student musicians to enhance the experience for the program participants.

Esprit Orchestra in concertOntario Resonance ran from September to November of 2017, culminating in seven performances in schools and venues across the GTA, with student compositions performed by a combination of student performers and professional Esprit musicians. The mentors’ works were showcased in an all-pro finale concert at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre on November 23, 2017 – a high energy ending to the program with a full audience in attendance.

The Ontario Resonance program created a way for artists to serve the province’s population in an imaginative, meaningful, and lasting way. It encouraged recognition of and reflection on the places where people live and environments and communities they are surrounded by. Newly created compositions by high school students and mentoring composers, all written and premiered throughout the program, now exist as souvenirs of their experience. Inspired young composers and student musicians, with their pieces having real purpose, are now encouraged to continue pursuing projects of similar nature as they navigate their studies and move forward into adult life.

All participating parties in Ontario Resonance – mentoring composers, teachers, student composers and musicians, Esprit staff and musicians, recording engineers, volunteers, and audience members – have commented on what a creative, and engaging way the project celebrated Ontario’s 150th anniversary year. Esprit is grateful to the Government of Ontario for their support of this enriching, unique project.

Thank you to Amber Melhado at Esprit Orchestra for guest blogging for us.

Arts Day on Parliament Hill

Arts Day on Parliament Hill 2018 image

On October 2, the Canadian Arts Coalition organized a highly successful Arts Day on Parliament Hill, where arts advocates from across the country came together to meet with Members of Parliament and to promote the arts. OC’s Executive Director Katherine Carleton was one of more than 100 advocates who took part.

The participants in this event were put into teams, and each team met with MPs, Senators, staff and key officials over the course of the day. Katherine, along with colleagues (Cathryn Gregor, Canada’s National Ballet School; and Steven Smits, Volcano Theatre/Peggy Baker Dance Company) had the opportunity to meet with four MPs or staff: Wayne Easter (Malpeque, PEI), Larry Miller (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, ON), Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, ON) and Anthony Rota (Nipissing Timiskaming, ON)

The Canadian Arts Coalition prepared participants for their meetings through a training webinar, as well as a series of downloadable materials in English and in French, including a meeting script and documents to leave behind, customizable for each MP.

“MPs are keen to know about the impact that federal investment in the arts has in their ridings,” Katherine says. “By and large, they are very aware of the artists and arts organizations in their ridings, but the connection between federal policy and those wonderful individuals and organizations is not always so clear.”

Arts Day on the Hill is an opportunity for beginners and experienced arts advocates alike. “It’s for anyone who might benefit from thoughtful federal arts policy and funding,” Katherine says. The Coalition removes a lot of the stress surrounding these meetings by setting them up for you, and providing sound research, statistics, and infographics. They also pair up people of differing levels of advocacy experience so that you can also learn from the team who go into the meeting with you.

While there is a lot of value in the wide scope of the arts messaging that the Coalition prepared, there is also much value in advocacy work that is specifically related to orchestras. “I tended to speak to the positions that specifically addressed orchestras’ needs, while my colleagues addressed “asks” that more directly affected their sectors,” Katherine explains. “Still, the feedback that we received during meetings – and the discussions we started – will make it easier to return with more orchestra-specific messages.”

We asked Katherine how the orchestral community might participate in this advocacy work on its own behalf.

“Orchestras Canada’s advocacy committee is planning an Orchestras in the Ridings Week in January that we’d like all our members to take part in. We’re preparing orchestra-specific messages that we’d like you to discuss with your MP, and we’ll provide a training session, downloadable templates and leave-behind materials to help get you prepare. The Advocacy Committee will be testing these materials with their own MPs this November, and committee members and the OC team are there to support you along the way.”

Last year, OC ran its own Orchestras Day in Ottawa, and our intrepid teams met with over 20 MPs and Senators.  We’d like to triple that number this year, and with your help, we’ll make it happen!

Meet Cheryl McCallum

Cheryl McCallum imageCheryl is currently the Manager of Community Sport Development at Sask Sport Inc. and resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She oversees a number of projects using a community-based approach that has been effective in contributing to health and well-being in communities throughout Saskatchewan. She joined the Orchestras Canada board in June, 2018 and is currently a member of our Governance Committee, and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) Committee.

Cheryl came to be involved in the Canadian orchestral scene through being part of an advisory committee that works with the Regina Symphony Orchestra to prioritize diversity in the orchestra’s mandate. This volunteer committee and the RSO are currently working closely with Indigenous communities throughout Southern Saskatchewan. “It has certainly been a value to me to be a part of an orchestral community with the intent to bridge the gaps that can create an inclusive organization,” Cheryl says.

With more than twenty years of experience in both the corporate and non-profit sectors, Cheryl’s work has allowed her to “support strategies that intentionally gauge collaboration amongst diverse individuals. This is something that can certainly be applied to Orchestras Canada and the diverse range of communities that it serves.” Cheryl is passionate about developing community through sport, culture and recreation, and sees opportunities in the way that each of these endeavours bring people together to celebrate diversity. She also believes that OC has the opportunity to provide a foundation to orchestras that will ensure that they create an inclusive environment for the diverse communities that they serve. We are very fortunate to have Cheryl join our busy, hard-working and talented board of directors, and are thrilled to have her experience and track record of success at the board table.

Introducing: Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser

Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser comes to the Orchestras Canada board from a varied career as a music director, performer and music educator. He is currently the Artist in Residence and Community Ambassador with Symphony Nova Scotia, conducting ballet, pops, family and outreach concerts with the orchestra. Prior to this he also held assistant positions with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. We had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel recently to talk about his experience, and some of the challenges Canadian Orchestras are currently facing.

How did you come to be involved with Orchestras Canada?

I had just finished a conducting workshop in Winnipeg and was preparing to go back to my wonderful job teaching… and yet and yet. I knew that I wanted to conduct professionally. I was somewhat flummoxed. One of the contacts I made was an agent in New York. I emailed him and asked him how to get started. He said: “Do you know about Orchestras Canada?” I replied that, sadly, I didn’t, and he said “That’s where you go to find jobs in Canada”. I went to the Orchestras Canada website, clicked on “Jobs” and, days later, applied for what would become my first professional conducting job. Now, years later, it is my pleasure to serve on the Board of Orchestras Canada, linking Orchestras across our country with their audiences, communities and each other.

How has your background as a conductor prepared you for serving on the Orchestras Canada board of directors?

As a Conductor, I regularly transit multiple worlds, those of administration, artist and audience. I work on behalf of the people in these areas, often negotiating between them, meaning I have become intimately acquainted with their unique needs and perspectives. This awareness of the realities transpiring in the office, on the stage and in the lobby and the daily work of bringing them all together gives me an excellent standpoint from which to serve Canadian orchestras through Orchestras Canada.

What do you see as some of the major challenges presently facing Canadian orchestras?

We have tremendous opportunity ahead of us; people are re-valuing group and communal social experiences as a respite from the solitude often imposed by technology. Nevertheless, they expect technology to be essentially integrated into entertainment experiences both in terms of content and form. This requires a shift.

Additionally, the opportunity represented by growing awareness and desire for diversity bring us to the cusp of an almost revolutionary change in content, in the way we do collaboration, and in orchestral culture. These are incredibly exciting times and I am thrilled to be serving with Orchestras Canada, helping orchestras chart the course forward!


Advocacy Update: August 2018

As summer draws to a close, we are writing to update you on OC’s recent advocacy work with the federal government. In July, we surveyed members to affirm the sector’s main federal public policy priorities. Not surprisingly, ensuring that the Government of Canada follows through on its full commitment to increased funding to the Canada Council for the Arts topped the list for respondents. Other high priorities? Sustained and increased funding to the Endowment Incentives component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund and better training opportunities for emerging arts professionals.

These priorities formed the basis of Orchestra Canada’s pre-budget recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The annual pre-budget process provides organizations like ours the opportunity to put forward its main policy priorities to the federal government. They also form the basis of our year-round advocacy activity. Orchestras Canada has consistently participated in this process, on behalf of its members, for over ten years.

Specifically, Orchestras Canada recommended that the federal government:

1. Ensure that the five-year $180 million investment for the Canada Council for the Arts announced in Budget 2016 be sustained and fully realized in Canada’s long-term fiscal plan.
2. Update the guidelines for, and enhance the budget of, the Endowment Incentives component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund, to help arts and culture organizations raise private sector contributions and develop stable, long-term revenues through the growth of endowment funds.
3. Increase the investment in the arts administration and arts practice component of the Young Canada Works program by $500,000 per year, to expand the number of funded positions, help emerging cultural workers gain valuable training and early work experience, and enable strong succession planning in arts organizations.

Several of our recommendations are shared by other organizations in our sector, including and a consortium of large arts organizations – including several orchestras – focused on securing support to the Endowment Incentives program.

What next?

Orchestras Canada staff, together with the Advocacy Committee, will be working this fall to meet with MPs and their staff in key ridings to share our recommendations and increase awareness of the impact of orchestras in our towns and cities.

Over the course of the fall, we will also be preparing for an Orchestras in the Ridings Week, tentatively scheduled for January 2019, during which we’ll be encouraging all our members to meet with their MPs in January. We’ll be in touch with more details as soon as possible.

Canadian Arts Coalition Update

The Canadian Arts Coalition, a collaborative non-partisan movement spearheaded by a group of national arts service and membership organizations – of which Orchestras Canada is a member – is preparing for Arts Day on the Hill, 2 October 2018. If you’re interested in participating, you can find out more, and register on their website.

Advocating on behalf of its broad membership base, the Canadian Arts Coalition put forward these two recommendations in its pre-budget brief:

  • to increase the funding to the Canada Arts Presentation Fund for performing arts presenters and festivals by $30 million in order to create synergies with other federal investments and to enable Canadian productions to be competitive both on the domestic market and on the world stage.
  • to recognize the professional status of Canadian artists by implementing fair taxation in order to establish a more coherent and predictable support and fiscal ecosystem.

The full brief can be found at

Orchestras Canada selects VSO Music Director Bramwell Tovey for Betty Webster Award 2018

The award recognizes Tovey’s long history of leadership in the Canadian orchestral community

Bramwell Tovey is the winner of the Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award for 2018. Maestro Tovey will receive the award at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s June 30th outdoor concert, the first of three performances at the Olympic Plaza on the Canada Day long weekend. The annual appearances of the VSO and the Whistler Institute Orchestra are presented by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Province of British Columbia.

The Betty Webster Award is presented each year to an individual or organization that has made a sustained and significant contribution over a number of years to the Canadian orchestral community, with an emphasis on leadership, education and volunteerism. It was established in 2002 to honour Orchestras Canada’s founding Executive Director and is a tribute to Mrs. Webster’s visionary leadership and her extraordinary contributions to the health and vitality of orchestras right across Canada.

Bramwell Tovey is concluding his tenure as the Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra he has led since 2000. In this time, he was relentless in his pursuit of excellence for the orchestra, programming works that would challenge, engage and inspire the musicians and the audience. His trademark charisma and charm, as well as his willingness to conduct a wide range of concerts (from classical to pops to education) have seen the VSO attract new audiences and retain a loyal following among the concert-going public of Vancouver. Tovey also takes an active role in the education initiatives of the VSO. He currently serves as the Artistic Advisor to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute at Whistler and was a driving force behind the 2011 opening of the VSO School of Music.

Before his arrival at the VSO, Maestro Tovey was the Music Director at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for 12 years, where he started the Winnipeg New Music Festival. Between his appointments with the WSO and the VSO, he has dedicated almost 30 years to the advancement of orchestras and symphonic music in Canada. Throughout that time, he has been committed to promoting Canadian artists and composers and has demonstrated his belief in music accessibility for all. Alongside those appointments, Tovey served as for 11 seasons as conductor and host of the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics and has as held titled positions with the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl, and guest conducted across Canada, the US, Europe, Australia and Asia. He now serves as Director of Orchestral and Conducting Studies at Boston University, and is the Principal Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The national jury was chaired by Waterloo-based conductor Matthew Jones (Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra, Etobicoke Philharmonic), and included arts manager Ardyth Brott (Brott Music Festival/National Academy Orchestra—and winner of the 2017 Betty Webster Award), conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser (Artist in Residence and Community Ambassador, Symphony Nova Scotia), arts manager Margot Holmes (Vancouver Island Symphony and Caline Arts Management), and violinist Adriana Lebedovich (Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra).

Speaking about the Award, jury chair Matthew Jones noted, “Once again, the Betty Webster Award jury was greatly impressed by the thoughtful and powerful work being accomplished by individuals and organizations across Canada. The jury was particularly inspired by the impact Bramwell Tovey has had on the cultural landscape of British Columbia, Manitoba and, indeed, all of Canada. It is an honour for us to be able to recognize Maestro Tovey’s commitment to excellence, leadership on and off the podium, advocacy on behalf of music and musicians, volunteerism, and sustained commitment to music education at the VSO School of Music and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute at Whistler.”

In response to the award, Bramwell Tovey said, “I’m deeply honoured to receive the Betty Webster award from Orchestras Canada. Betty Webster was a remarkable woman whose tireless devotion to Canadian orchestras was inspirational. I was lucky enough to fall within her orbit on arriving in Canada in 1989 and to be one of her legion of friends and supporters. I’d particularly like to pay tribute to the orchestra musicians with whom I’ve worked most closely in Vancouver and Winnipeg these last thirty years. It’s been a privilege and honour to make music with them all. Sincere thanks to Orchestras Canada for this award and for continuing to represent Canada’s wonderful orchestras across the country.”

Other recent winners of the Betty Webster Award include arts managers John Gomez in 2016 (Music Director, Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy), Annemarie Petrov in 2014 (President & CEO, Edmonton Symphony), and Jeff Alexander in 2009 (former President & CEO, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), double bassist Alison Mackay in 2013 (Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra), and several organizations such as Tafelmusik (2009), the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra (2008) and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada (2007).

Orchestras Canada makes recommendations to the Federal Standing Committee on Finance

In early August, Orchestras Canada submitted a brief to the federal Standing Committee on Finance as part of the committee’s annual pre-budget consultation process.

Informed by a member consultation, our discussions with advocacy partners, our sense of the current political climate, and discussions with OC’s Advocacy Committee, OC made four recommendations to the Committee this year:

Recommendation 1: Ensure that the five-year $180 million investment for the Canada Council for the Arts announced in Budget 2016 is sustained and fully realized in Canada’s long-term fiscal plan.

Recommendation 2: Acknowledge the fundamental importance of digital capacity in the arts by ensuring there are comprehensive, integrated, accessible, and forward-thinking federal programs and policies in place.

Recommendation 3: Enhance the Endowment Incentives program (part of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund), to help arts and culture organizations develop stable, long-term revenues through the growth of endowment funds.

Recommendation 4: Help arts and culture organizations provide full-time, career-oriented work opportunities to recent graduates of post-secondary institutions by expanding the Young Canada Works program.

You can find the entire brief HERE.

We urge Canadian orchestras to read the brief, and share it with their Members of Parliament, as an attachment to an email, as a hard copy inclusion in a letter on orchestra letterhead, or through discussion in a face-to-face meeting in your riding. Whether your MP is an opposition backbencher, or a member of the federal Cabinet, we’d like them to be aware that federal policy and investment decisions can have significant local ramifications.

Driving Creative Force for Music in Canada Wins National Award

Ardyth BrottArdyth Brott, Executive Director for the Brott Music Festival, is the winner of the Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award for 2017.

Ms Brott will receive the Award at a Brott Music Festival concert during the 2017 festival.

The Betty Webster Award is presented each year to one individual or organization that has made a sustained and significant contribution over a number of years to the Canadian orchestral community, with an emphasis on leadership, education and volunteerism.  It was established in 2002 to honour Orchestras Canada’s founding Executive Director, and is a tribute to Mrs. Webster’s visionary leadership and her extraordinary contributions to the health and vitality of Canada’s orchestral community.

The award includes a plaque along with a donation to an orchestra of the winner’s choosing.

Ms Brott has asked that this year’s donation be directed to the Hamilton-based National Academy Orchestra, an organization with a 29-year track record of training emerging professional orchestral musicians through intensive work with guest concertmasters and mentors from across the country, guest conductors, and internationally-renowned soloists, and performance opportunities ranging from full orchestra to opera to chamber music.  To date, over 1400 young musicians have graduated from the NAO, and many of them are now working throughout Canada and around the world.

Ardyth Brott has served as Executive Director of the Brott Music Festival 30 years, and the National Academy Orchestra for 29 years.  A graduate of Western University’s Faculty of Law, she was called to the Ontario Bar in 1995; in addition, she is a best-selling author of children’s books (including the musically-inspired “Jeremy’s Decision”, “The Loneliest Piano”, and “Pepe’s Magic Bow”), and a valued community volunteer (serving in key roles at the Hamilton Club, and the National Gallery of Canada, among others).  She has applied her literary gifts to the creation of scripts for ground-breaking music education programs (including “Beethoven and the Bully”, “Isabella Tarantella”, and “The Inuit Spirit”), connecting contemporary issues and orchestral music through story-telling.

Coincidentally, Ardyth Brott is the daughter of Betty Webster.  Although she was as surprised as Ardyth was to hear the news, Betty of course is absolutely delighted!

This year’s national jury was chaired by Waterloo-based conductor Matthew Jones (Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra), and included Vancouver arts manager Leanne Davis (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), Ottawa violinist, conductor, educator (and 2016 winner of the Betty Webster Award) John Gomez (Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy), Montreal arts manager Barbara Scales (Latitude 45 Arts Management), and Charlottetown’s Bruce Craig (PEI Symphony Orchestra).

Speaking about the award, jury chair Matthew Jones said, “The jury saw Ardyth Brott as a prima inter pares:  someone whose exceptional contributions to the Canadian orchestral community are seen most clearly in the context of the other remarkable individuals and organizations shaping Canada’s lively and diverse orchestral culture. The jury was struck by Ardyth’s depth of involvement in the organizations she has served, her sustained support for youth involvement in music, and the lasting impact her work has had for numerous generations of professional orchestral musicians in Canada and beyond.  It is an honour to be able to acknowledge this work.”