New seasons launch amidst a federal election andCanada votes an ongoing pandemic. Here are stories we're following...  

Federal election platforms

The Canadian Arts Coalition compiled arts and culture platforms from five parties, together with a CPAC debate on challenges facing the cultural sector. The debate is viewable in the original French, and in English translation.


Leadership changes

The Toronto Symphony announced that CEO Matthew Loden will resign as of Sept. 22, Ludwig Van reports. Loden joined the TSO in 2018, and will return to Texas as Dean of the Shepherd School at Rice University. 

The Calgary Philharmonic appointed Marc Stevens as President and CEO, the Calgary Herald reported. Stevens most recently served as General Manager of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. 

The Montreal Gazette reported that the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal's new music director, Rafael Payare, tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-August, as did his wife, cellist Alisa Weilerstein. Both were vaccinated and had minimal symptoms. 


New seasons

The National Arts Centre Orchestra launched its 2021-22 season last weekend with an emotional concert in front of an audience of 300 in Southam Hall, CBC News reported.

The Victoria Symphony will return to the stage on Sept. 19, the Times Colonist reported. CEO Matthew White spoke about the Victoria Symphony's hybrid live/online season 

The Winnipeg Symphony opened its season last weekend with a quartet of WSO musicians performing a Bluegrass Symphony, Global News reported

Most concert halls and orchestras have announced or implemented proof of vaccination requirements for audiences this season, and capacity of 50% or less. CBC News reported on accommodations for the return of live events in Vancouver.


Compiled by Matt Heller, with assistance from the OCSM Editorial Committee. Please send comments, corrections, and ideas for future content to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ruth Budd, OCSM founder

Ruth Budd died on June 30, 2021 at age 97. This interview by Matt Heller was published in Una Voce, April 2013.

Before there was an OCSM or a Symphony Six, there was a school orchestra in Winnipeg with a problem. “The person who was playing the bass either broke his leg or his arm on the football field,” recalls Ruth Budd, who was a 16-year-old violinist at the time. “The conductor said, ‘Who would volunteer?’ and I said I would! He said, ‘Don’t be silly. You know a girl couldn’t play the bass.’”

May 2021: Conductors on the move, musicians host radio, and institutions building back better. Photo: Conductor Nicolas Ellis

 Conductor Nicolas Ellis

It is now almost an entire year since I last played an orchestral concert. I believe this is the longest I’ve gone without playing one in my entire post-pubescent life.

This week, more on how COVID-19 has affected the arts in general and musicians in particular; the streaming wars; the Metropolitan Opera furlough; and the death of James Levine. (Image: from Toronto Symphony/Against the Grain Theatre's Messiah/Complex)

Image from TSO/AGT's Messiah/Complex

by Michelle Zapt-Belanger


In April 2020, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra held two entirely digital, contactless auditions.

by Robert Fraser, OCSM President


It is difficult to believe the OCSM executive last met face to face in Toronto on February 22–23, 2020, just over a year ago.

by Matt Heller, with Tamsin Johnston and Miles Newman


When it comes to Collective Agreements (CAs), there’s one thing to note about notice: it’s everywhere. You could fill a rather large spreadsheet with all the notice requirements from an average CA, (If you do this, please send it to me.) So let’s start by getting more specific.

OSM MD Designate Rafael PayareThis week: taking stock amid the crisis; notable performances; and a new MD in Montreal.

OSM's first return to the stage following shutdownWith 2020 at an end, we sample recent coverage of the pandemic’s economic impacts on the arts industry, as well as the arts industry's size and importance to the larger economy. (Photo: OSM's return to the stage, June 8, 2020)


Unemployment has affected the arts even more deeply than restaurants and other hard-hit industries, the NY Times reports. Even well-known soloists, such as violinist Jennifer Koh, have resorted to public assistance programs. Adam Krauthamer, president of AFM Local 802 (New York City), warns that careers could be lost, potentially leading to a great cultural depression.

Another NY Times report focused on pandemic concessions, including major pay cuts at the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, and National Symphony. Stagehands at the Kennedy Center and Metropolitan Opera are locked out, and Met Opera musicians are in tense negotiations. ICSOM chair Meredith Snow noted many examples of cooperation, however: “There is more of a recognition that we need to be a unified face to the community, and that we can’t be squabbling or we’re both going to go down.

The arts industry contributes more to the US economy than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing, according to a 2019 study by the US Bureau of Economic Studies and the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtsNet reported. The study also found the arts growing slightly faster than the economy as a whole.

Statistics Canada’s most recent Provincial and Territorial Cultural Indicators report (2018) found a similar increase in the Canadian arts sector, even as the publishing industry experienced ongoing losses.

Major think tanks such as Brookings and Center for Strategic & International Studies released reports on the pandemic’s effects on arts and culture, and proposals to rebuild a more resilient creative economy.

European arts institutions, which had begun to rely more on private and corporate giving, have largely weathered the pandemic thanks to government bailouts, the Economist reports. Some see the crisis as an opportunity to move away from a mega-tourism model that turned city centres into “theme parks”.

The Calgary Herald published a year-in-review feature on the local arts scene in 2020, marked by ongoing struggles to sustain and innovate.


Compiled by Matt Heller, with assistance by the OCSM Editorial Committee. Do you have a story or comment to share? Please send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll include them in an upcoming news bulletin. Happy new year and best wishes for 2021!