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!

TSO Principal Education Conductor & Community Ambassador Daniel Bartholomew-PoyserThis week, we delve into recent coverage of diversity in the arts, along with some noteworthy readings and resources.


The New Yorker’s Alex Ross published an essay, Black Scholars Confront White Supremacy in Classical Music (Sept. 21, 2020), tracking missed opportunities and renewed efforts to de-marginalize non-white composers and performers. 


In July 2020, The New York Times published an Arts feature, “How to Change Classical Music”: 


NYC musicians Shea Scruggs and Weston Sprott took a broad look at the symphonic hiring process in a June 2019 article for Local 802’s Allegro newsletter, “Advancing Inclusion: Creative ways musicians can take a lead”


Orchestras Canada has a number of initiatives under the banner of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility):


The Institute for Composer Diversity provides a variety of resources, analysis, and advocacy for diverse programming. Their database is currently being reworked, with plans to relaunch in the next few weeks.  


“Our stages are not reflective of our population - but this moment is an opportunity to elicit change,” writes dancer/choreographer Kevin A. Ormsby in an essay for CBC Arts, “Pause. Reflect. Rebuild. How the dance world can rise from the ashes of 2020”.


Both Ormsby’s article and a 2018 essay in canadianart, “The Great Canadian Amnesia” by Zainub Verjee, examine the legacy of the 1951 Massey Commission Report, which set federal arts and culture policy and granting models still operating today, including the idea of “Canadian content”. 

Compiled by Matt Heller, with assistance from the OCSM Editorial Committee. Please send your comments and suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thank you!

Orchestre Metropolitain, distancedThis week, a quick tour of Canadian orchestras’ current and upcoming performances, live and digital. Many orchestras charge a small fee for digital concerts (often $15-$25); others are free, but donations are always encouraged.


The Calgary Philharmonic has replaced its 20/21 season with a series of virtual concerts; the most recent is a performance of Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale.

The Edmonton Symphony launched its 20/21 season with a concert at the Winspear on October 5th, with limited forces and audience Global News reported. ESO musicians have also performed over 180 community concerts since the shutdown.

The Vancouver Symphony has launched a paywalled online series at; current offerings include their opening night Beethoven 7.

The Victoria Symphony’s virtual season continues Thursday, Nov. 12 with a performance of Grieg and Bach, featuring pianist Angela Hewitt.



The Regina Symphony has re-invented its 20/21 season of live concerts with limited forces; on Nov. 19-21, they feature works by Haydn, Lau, and Shostakovich.

The Saskatoon Symphony is offering a weekly digital series for $15 a ticket -- though they postponed this weekend’s performance due to a major snowstorm.

The Winnipeg Symphony’s paywalled livestream series continues on November 27 with An Evening in Vienna, works by Schubert, Brahms, and Korngold.  


Ontario (non-GTHA)

The next Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony broadcast, premiering Friday, Nov. 20, features symphonies by Haydn and Mendelssohn, conducted by music director Andrei Feher: The Master and the Prodigy.

The London Symphonia’s 20/21 series of limited audience concerts are offered for live stream at a small fee. On Saturday, Nov. 21, they perform with Sarah Slean at London’s Metropolitan United Church.

The National Arts Centre Orchestra premieres a free concert this Saturday, Nov. 14 featuring Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and a world premiere by Kelly-Marie Murphy.

The Thunder Bay Symphony offers a series of live chamber music concerts next weekend, juxtaposing Wonderful Winds with Baroken Strings.

The Windsor Symphony is packaging its digital concert series of 12 varied performances for $100. 



The Hamilton Philharmonic’s latest broadcast premieres Saturday, Nov. 14: Reflections from Russia, featuring members of the HPO string section in music by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Esmail, and Ho.

The Toronto Symphony has also been presenting a paywalled On Demand series, though it is currently paused due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The Canadian Opera Company saw average attendance rise in the 2019-20 season, even as it faced cancellations and a significant operating deficit due to Covid-19. Ludwig Van reports on COC's recent AGM.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) presents a series of Friday afternoon performances featuring artists from the Toronto Symphony, Canadian Opera Company, National Ballet of Canada, and others. 


Quebec & Atlantic

The Montreal Symphony is offering a distinctive series of online concerts, each available for a fee of $20. Their latest features pianist Angela Hewitt and the Ravel Piano Concerto in G.

Orchestre Metropolitain is also offering a paywalled online season. Their latest, available Nov. 6-13, features Fauré’s Requiem.

This Friday, the Quebec Symphony offers a free concert in memory of the tragic events of October 31, featuring works by Barber, Beethoven, Stölzel, Schumann, Faure, Mahler, and Strauss.

Symphony Nova Scotia is offering a varied array of “compact community concerts”, online learning events, and intimate “fusion sessions” with popular local artists. 

Compiled by Matt Heller, with assistance and oversight by the OCSM Editorial Committee. We also welcome your comments, news tips, and ideas for newsletter content as we prepare to relaunch Una Voce (digitally, of course). Best wishes and stay safe.