Mark Tetreault  

Canadian Perlustration

Mark Tetreault
November 17, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

What exactly are the similarities and differences between Canadian and U.S. orchestras? Ensembles in both countries employ musicians to perform classical music via a collective bargaining agreement while performing in large dedicated or multi-purpose concert venues.

Nevertheless, there are some fundamental differences in how organizations in each country operate that have influenced how they develop. Mark Tetreault, Director of Symphonic Services for the AFM Canada and Toronto Symphony Principal Tubist, serves as your guide while wandering through the Canadian orchestral scene.

- Drew McManus

In my relatively brief tenure as Director of Symphonic Services for the AFM Canada, I have had the opportunity to visit orchestras from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Victoria, British Columbia, and I have to say that the Canadian orchestral community represents the diversity of the national culture. We have internationally renowned major symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, baroque ensembles, opera and ballet orchestras, contemporary music ensembles, training orchestras, youth orchestras, and community orchestras. As in the U.S., symphonic music here is thriving and slowly moving forward despite a challenging funding environment.

For example, as many of you may be aware, one of our fine orchestras, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, has been in crisis this past month. I am happy to report that the threat of bankruptcy has been averted and operations will continue.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Board of Directors and musicians ratified a new four-year collective agreement in September 2006. Shortly afterwards, the KWS musicians were told that the accumulated deficit, combined with poor ticket sales, had brought about an immediate cash-flow emergency. If ignored, this would force the organization to cease operations at the end of October.

As a result, the orchestra embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign to raise CA$2.5 million by October 31st. The city rallied behind the orchestra, and to date CA$2.3 million has been raised, mostly through individual donations, and the campaign continues. Consequentially, the musicians have agreed to take an immediate 15% pay-cut.

It is worth noting that KWS is a unique situation. The problems there go back to the acrimonious dismissal of Music Director Martin Fischer-Dieskau in November 2003. The controversy garnered significant media attention, including front-page stories in the regional daily newspaper, The Record, for over a year.

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