Ottawa Symphony, Carleton team up for educational opportunities

Monday’s Ottawa Symphony Orchestra concert will not only mark a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in Dominion-Chalmers United Church and a return engagement with the violin virtuoso Kerson Leong playing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor.

It will also kick off a deepening relationship between the OSO and Carleton University’s school of music.

The orchestra has made the church its home base and it is only natural that the relationship would develop, said the OSO’s music director Alain Trudel in an interview with ARTSFILE.

This will be demonstrated with the creation of new ‘experiential learning’ opportunities for Carleton music students, the orchestra has announced. 

For Trudel, this “is a unique opportunity to bring people together. There are opportunities for students in arts, not just in performance, but also recording, for example. The university will build a recording studio there. How else do you learn how to record live music on stage?

“Carleton had a vision of bringing music downtown into Dominion-Chalmers. People didn’t believe we could fit the orchestra but I knew right away it would work very well,” he said.

The collaboration will not only help train a new generation of arts managers and performers, it will enhance the OSO’s own operations, Trudel said. “We benefit also, so it’s a win-win.”

Students will have a role on the artistic and performance side. But they will also be able to participate in the crucial administrative and business side of a large orchestra. That means internships in the development of philanthropy and non-profit leadership, for example, or in curatorial studies, marketing and communications, digital programs and other arts management and production. 

He said he expects he will be explaining his vision of arts management to the students. “This is what they don’t teach you in Harvard.”

He believes the entire program will help young arts managers get a leg up on their careers and not have to spend time learning on the job. They will be able to hit the ground running.

The longstanding relationship with uOttawa’s music school, which is focussed on performance, will continue and the door is open to expansion.

In fact, the connection to uOttawa is influencing how Trudel programs. He is including more standard repertoire so the young musicians can perform Mozart and Beethoven in concert. He will also keep programming Canadian works and the large pieces that the OSO is known for.

“The idea is to give as much opportunity as possible to everybody.” Carleton will also have young players performing who will get their chance through an audition process, he explained. He said is always willing to hear a young performer.

“The OSO is a free zone where it is OK for everybody to participate. We are a land of opportunity,” he said.

Two universities working with a professional orchestra as is happening here is pretty rare. “I’ve never seen another,” he said.

That’s not the only initiative the OSO is announcing.

The orchestra will also increase its presence in the education system in Ottawa. 

The orchestra has for many years worked with the University of Ottawa providing places for talented players from the school. And the OSO has also partnered with the Ottawa Youth Orchestra Academy, which was led for many years by an OSO member, John Gomez.

The OSO has been in Ottawa-area schools performing concerts. Now, with the help of the Ottawa office of Gowling WLG, various ensembles of the OSO will visit schools in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the Ottawa Catholic School Board, and the Conseil des Écoles catholiques du Centre Est.

The idea is “to tell the story of the orchestra and how musical sections within the orchestra support and complement each other,” the OSO said in a media release. The ensembles — strings, brass, wind and percussion players — will play for and teach kids in Grades 5-7. And the young students will also go to Dominion-Chalmers to see an OSO concert or dress rehearsal.

“This is what we found would be able to reach more students.” The OSO did consult with the boards about what they needed, Trudel said.

Monday’s concert will also feature an award winning piece by the Canadian composer Alexina Louie called Songs of Paradise.

Ottawa Symphony Orchestra presents CU at the Symphony
Where: Dominion-Chalmers United Church
When: April 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets and information:

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.