by Peggy Geddes
The orchestra of The National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa, Canada is conducted by Pinchas Zukerman, considered one of the finest violinists in the world.
Conductor Pinchas Zukerman is one of the finest violinists in the world, photo Kenn Taylor
“The orchestra is very active heading their concert series and performing whenever the NAC hosts Broadway musicals or visiting dance companies,” said Rosemary Thompson, of NAC Public Affairs. “The music department also operates an elite education academy open each summer to 100 selected young musicians from around the world and mentored by the NAC musicians. We spot great talent and invite them to the summer boot camp. We’ve become a hub for young musicians.”
Summer Music Institute participants in performance
More recently the NAC has sent its orchestra abroad to China and next year it will go to the United Kingdom. Thompson said, “When we go we don’t just play Beethoven. We play John Estacio, Malcolm Forsyth, Alexina Louie - all Canadian so International audiences are hearing really great Canadian music. When we go we don’t just perform - we teach - all through the music schools and conservatories and universities.”
Pinchas Zukerman conducting the National Arts Centre Orchestra, photo Dwayne Brown
Every year The National Arts Centre hosts 1,200 shows with 60 musicians and a budget of $70 million. It is the largest Performing Arts Centre and Education Institute in Canada. zeebigbang interviewed Thompson, to learn more about this vibrant Canadian treasure.
The NAC has dedicated funds to invest in artistic creation across Canada and is open to partner with artists. Here’s how it works according to Thompson. “For instance a small theatre company may have an idea for a new play or even a play that has started that has had some success. NAC might invest in that play so that it has a longer life. Using another example she explained, “If you are a composer you might be selected as one of the NAC commissioned composers. Right now we have three of them. They are writing music not just for our orchestra but what gets written gets shared with everybody [orchestra]. We do the same thing in theatre - both English and French theatre - and the same thing in dance for say a choreographer to set up on tour at the Toronto Harbourfront Centre, or Montreal or whatever you are working on. We are seen as kind of a catalyst to help propel Canadian artists. “
Scene from “Les Justes,” presented by NAC French Theatre, photo by Brigitte Enguérand
Every two years NAC shines a spotlight on artists across the country through Scene Festivals. A different region is selected each time. “The last one was the North and we had in excess of 300 artists that came from the three territories.” Thompson explains that the festivals embrace all art forms and emerging and established artists.
Aboriginal singer-songwriter and Northern Scene performer Leela Gilday