Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy Founder Wins National Award

John Gomez, founder and music director of the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy (OYOA), is the winner of the Orchestras Canada Betty Webster Award for 2016.  Mr. Gomez was the unanimous choice of a national jury.

Mr. Gomez will receive the Award at an OYOA event in the 2016-17 season.

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.

Mr. Gomez has asked that this year’s donation be directed to the OYOA, to assist with the cost of lessons for beginning students of “rare” instruments of the orchestra, including bassoon, double bass, French horn, and harp.

John Gomez is entering his 35th year as founding Music Director of the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy (OYOA) and conductor of the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, the academy’s flagship group.  He is an active leader in the Canadian orchestral scene who has dedicated his career to preparing young musicians for successful careers in music, and through his commitment to collaboration, has formed many partnerships in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world.  He is an educator with a passion for teaching, and sets exceptionally high standards for himself and the young people he works with.  He is a visionary and a strategist, who has devoted countless hours to the cause of engaging young people in music, starting with a strings program in the early 1980s, and culminating in today’s OYOA:  a program that now boasts two full orchestras, and eighteen (nineteen next year) additional ensembles, made up of over 350 students who meet every Saturday morning to make music.

The national jury was chaired by Waterloo-based conductor Matthew Jones (Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra), and included Edmonton arts leader Annemarie Petrov (Edmonton Symphony/Frances Winspear Centre for Music), Ontario-based solo bassoonist and teacher Nadina Mackie Jackson, Montreal musician and volunteer Louise Richard (Association des orchestres de jeunes du Québec), and Moncton’s Ken Macleod (New Brunswick Youth Orchestra and Sistema NB).

Speaking about the Award, jury chair Matthew Jones noted that “John Gomez’s win is all the more impressive considering the exceptional calibre of his fellow nominees, representing a cross section of the Canadian orchestral community: educators, conductors, managers, and individual musicians. The jury responded to the excellence of John’s work, his unstinting and sustained commitment to youth involvement in music, his leadership, and the impact that he’s clearly had on more than a generation of Canadian professional orchestral musicians.  It is an honour to be able to recognize this work.”