National Conference

May 20-23, 2020

Orchestras for Tomorrow: The Work Starts Now. McMaster Centre for Continuing Education, Hamilton, ON

Orchestras for Tomorrow: The Work Starts Now focuses on resilience, change, vitality, and relevance. During three days of learning and exchange, we will look at the evolution of our workforce, the art we make, our leadership, our audiences, and our artists in an ever-changing world. The conference will feature a mixture of expert keynotes, provocative presentations, practical tools, and ‘crowdsourced’ content from colleague orchestras. Join us in Hamilton, Ontario for important conversations about the ways that orchestras can prepare for and respond to change-and thrive!

The fee chart for the conference is available here. Complementary registration will be offered for up to 15 musicians (total) from member orchestras who are sending a non-musician to the conference. Selected conference sessions will be livestreamed.

The main conference runs from May 20-22. On Saturday May 23, a day specifically designed for board members, music directors, musicians and management at smaller budget orchestras (annual revenues under $400,000) will take place.


OC has allocated a limited pool of funds to assist qualified individuals with the costs of attending the national conference. The funding is specifically targeted to help representatives from smaller budget member orchestras (annual revenues under $2 million), and additional representatives from larger budget member orchestras that are already sending one delegate to the meeting, but require assistance to bring more people.  Funds are limited: we urge you to seek support from other sources as well.

Guidelines: Bursaries of up to $750 are available for participants traveling between 50 km and 250 km to attend the conference.  Bursaries of up to $1500 are available for participants traveling greater distances.

Deadlines and notification: Requests will be considered on a rolling basis, with deadline #1 set for end of day, Friday, February 28. Any remaining funds will be disbursed on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants to deadline #1 will be notified of their status by Wednesday, March 18.

Other Useful Information

  • Members of the Orchestras Canada board of directors are not eligible to apply for these bursaries.
  • Priority will be given to bursary requests that demonstrate additional investment, be it from another funding body, the applicant’s own organization, or personal resources.
  • Requests for funding for more than one person from the same organization may not be funded, to maximize the number of orchestras that can benefit.
  • OC is making efforts to keep your costs low. We’re offering a significant registration fee reduction for registrants from smaller-budget organizations, and for additional registrants from the same member organization. We’ve negotiated group discounts at the Homewood Suites (good for rooms booked before April 19), and with ViaRail. Early Bird registration prices are available until end of day on April 20.

Two musicians with an audience member close to themOn the evening of May 21, Gemma New and the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra will present the concert, Dragon Unfolding as part of their Intimate and Immersive concert series at the Cotton Factory. This evocative program of works by five living Canadian composers integrates visual and multimedia arts. In this unconventional format, concert-goers are seated around the orchestra only feet from the musicians. Conference delegates will receive a discount code for 25% off tickets upon registration.

Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra logo. Music Director: Gemma New


Via Rail LogoVIA Rail is offering OC National Conference participants a discount of 10% off the best available fare in Economy, Economy Plus, Business, Business Plus, or Sleeper class.  This discount is available from all stations throughout the VIA system to Toronto or Aldershot, Ontario, and return, from May 18-24, 2020. Participants can book online or over the phone (888-842-7245), referencing the event’s discount code: 14092.

West Jet LogoWestJet is offering OC National Conference participants a discount of 5% off Econo and 10% off EconoFlex and Premium fares for travel within Canada and 2% off Econo, 5% off EconoFlex and 10% off Premium base fares for guests travelling internationally into and out of Hamilton or Toronto, from May 14 – 30, 2020. Participants can book online using the event’s discount code: W42FP66.


Orchestras Canada has secured a block of rooms at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Hamilton, 40 Bay St South at the rate of $159 plus taxes per night. This rate is available from May 19-23, 2020. Book your room here by April 19 to receive the discounted rate.


The national conference is Orchestras Canada’s biggest event of the year, bringing together 80-100 orchestra leaders, administrators, specialized personnel and other stakeholders from across Canada for learning and exchange.

We invite your participation as a conference sponsor and registrant. New this year is the opportunity to brand your business as a Green Sponsor 🍃, which means promotion without paper or single-use plastics. We are providing plenty of in-person and digital opportunities for you to participate in this way and welcome your feedback and suggestions of sponsorship options not listed in the prospectus.

Benefits of conference sponsorship for all conference sponsors:

  • logo recognition on OC’s conference website
  • logo recognition in conference digital communications and sponsor slides
  • advance access to the conference delegate list with contact emails
  • recognition in OC’s annual report