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As you”ll see on the “next rehearsal” tab, we will start rehearsing Pax Universalsis this Sunday. Unfortunately, the recording I’d posted on my blog has since been taken down. There is no free recording of this piece available anymore. If you hadn’t previously been able to listen to it, that is ok. I know that we are all going to enjoy working on it and performing it in April.

There is a Youtube video we listened to in string sectionals last week that I will talk about in rehearsal this Sunday as it relates to the Dvorak New World Symphony. Please take 8minutes and watch it:

Check out this link below for info about Squawk’s bass oboe day on October 20th starting at 12pm in Quance Theatre. The link below has all the info you need!

bass oboe day


Thank you for a great first rehearsal! As I’d mentioned, due to an oversight on my part the Dvorak Slavonic Dances are without bar numbers. Could you take the time, please, to write in bar numbers at the beginning of each line? This will only take a few minutes. (NOTE THAT WHEN THERE ARE FIRST AND SECOND ENDINGS, DO NOT INCLUDE THE FIRST ENDING BARS IN YOUR COUNT)

Also, here’s the YouTube video with the “delay” I was talking about in rehearsal. Remember to also click the tab at the top to see what we are working on at the next rehearsal.

The music for Pictures at an Exhibition has finally arrived! As you know, the music was delayed because it was on back order and despite repeated attempts to contact the publisher we didn’t find out why the music hadn’t arrived until Fraser and I basically spammed their email inbox and voicemail. (On the off chance that anyone from Kalmus is reading this, I’m still waiting for the phone call from a supervisor that I was assured would happen to explain why it took over a dozen emails and phone calls to get a response to find out why music we’d ordered at the beginning of November hadn’t arrived in January and how we were never even told it was on back order until my 12th phone call was picked up………but i digress).

Here’s the plan moving forward. Fraser has been amazing at getting this music ready for us on a very short timeline. The coaches are just getting their score this evening. So part assignment might take some time to sort out. Provisional assigning of parts will happen at this rehearsal, but please keep in mind that this could change as the coaches were not able to have any lead time with the scores.

Also, we are going to suspend our work on Danzon at the present time to focus on Frenergy and Pictures at an Exhibition. Should there be time at the end of the semester, we will return to it.

Thank you all for the great concert and welcome to our Open House guests last week. And as I sit here writing this, I’m looking forward to our combined concert with the SSO tonight.



I have a little writing book that I keep beside the sofa I read on at home. In it I jot down quotes from books that I want to remember. I’ll often note the source it comes from in order to go back to it later. Here is one that I found while leafing through the book this morning. I neglected to write down where I found this, so I’m not sure of its origin, but it is the point of departure for this blog post:

“The more powerful a person truly is, the less they need to promote it. And the stronger a leader is, the less they need to announce it.”

Traditionally, orchestras (and I’m speaking mainly about professional orchestras here) are very hierarchical. The conductor is in charge, followed by the concertmaster, and then principals and assistant principals. Section players then follow. Now, I’m not for the complete dismantlement of this system. It is in place partially to prevent the too many cooks in the kitchen syndrome. Rehearsals with an orchestra as big as ours would be difficult without some sense of order.

Before I moved to Saskatoon, my teacher had me over to his house for what he called ‘a lesson on how to be a principal bass’. It was essentially just us hanging out and having dinner, but at the end of the evening he said:

“The best principals don’t say too much and what they do say only helps their section play better.”

It’s the best job description I’ve ever heard of a principal orchestra player. That is the job: sound as best as you can, as a section, as an orchestra, as a team. It can sometimes involve pointing out a mistake but always with the aim of making the section sound its absolute best.

So here’s some thoughts, and similar to the SYO Values I shared with you recently, I think this is something we are already good at. If you find yourself in one of the traditional leadership roles in the orchestra, challenge yourself by imagining being in the shoes of your section mates. If you offer constructive criticism, is it truly aimed at elevating and encouraging everyone? And I would challenge the section as well. Hopefully the feedback coming your way is communicated with this kind of good intent and empathy, but however it feels, be open to suggestion. Whether a suggestion is coming from a fellow player (and maybe not always the one playing principal*), a coach, or myself, I hope that it is being given only with the intent to lift up and not to cut down. I think everyone needs to be open in an orchestra; kindness and empathy go both ways.

The orchestra is a team with no opponent. We are not trying to beat another orchestra. And while music is filled with competition, I always find I’m happiest when I limit that to being competitive with myself- trying to be better than I was yesterday.

*One caveat here about giving suggestions to fellow players. The SYO, like many youth orchestras, practices rotational seating. The string players rotate and the wind, brass, and percussion players often do to. I’m refraining from giving hard fast guidelines as to who is supposed to give direction within a section. Traditionally it is always those playing in the principal chair in the strings and those playing the first part in the winds and brass. But can a really experienced player offer some suggestions to section when they happen to be rotating and playing a 2nd or 3rd part? Sure and this all depends on context, but I’d advise such a player to privately discuss it with the player who is playing 1st for that piece.

Basically this long blog post can be boiled down to “be nice and imagine yourself in the other players’ shoes”, whether you are making a suggestion or a suggestion is being made to you. For players in positions of leadership, empathy in your leadership will inspire younger players; you can end up having an impact that will last many years after you move on from the SYO.

Thank you to all of you in the SYO who lead in ways both seen and unseen, on and off the stage. As noted in the remarks for the SYO player in last week’s post, leadership doesn’t only come from “the recognized face of leadership”.

In orchestras you win or lose as a team. Let’s keep winning! I’m tempted to making a Charlie Sheen reference here, but I’ll wrap up my comments here.

As I mentioned at last rehearsal and in the blog post below, I was curious to have members of the SYO share their thoughts on leadership. I asked two questions:  What kind of leader do you want to be? And what kind of leader do you want others to be?  I only received one submission. And I don’t say that because of a disappointment in not receiving more because that isn’t the case. I just wanted to be clear that in sharing what the player wrote below I wasn’t excluding other players’ voices. I would happily share anything this coming week if anyone wants to contribute. And that would be the case whether the opinions or values you have are ones I agreed with or if they are outside my world view.

I had a blog post planned this week about leadership that would incorporate player comments, but I stopped my draft after reading what was sent to me below. It gave me pause and will inform Part 2 of this post which I will write this coming week. But for now I hope you’ll take the time to ponder what is written below. I think it describes perfectly the kind of leaders our world needs right now. Rather than launch into my thoughts on leadership, I’d like to let these words stand on their own (something they do with ease):


“For a long time I thought leaders were exclusively people with power: the organizers, the elected, the authority. These people can give us guidance, direction, and encouragement. Although they are usually the recognized face of leadership, they are definitely not the only kinds of leaders we have. More and more I began to recognize the people I knew who I wanted to be around because of their positivity and personality. I recognized the people who I respected because they maintained their own values, even if they were different than my own. I recognized the people who supported their peers and made every effort to be inclusive. Even without titles of leadership, these people were influencers.  Positivity, moral integrity, and supportive may not be the typical qualities of a leader, but I believe they are qualities we all could embrace to become unassuming leaders or people who lead by by example.”

Thank you for a great first rehearsal of the year last night. As I mentioned in rehearsal, I’m interested in having members of the orchestra share their thoughts on leadership. Not just about leadership in music or in an orchestra, but in the world at large.  If you are interested in participating, please email me at with your answers to the following questions. I will be incorporating responses into a blog post I’ll be writing. If I quote you, I will not do so by name…..

What kind of leader do you want to be? And what kind of leader do you want others to be?

Happy New Year SYO!

I spent some time over the holidays reflecting on new year’s resolutions. So often they are about things that we want to change. But I think there’s also a place for resolutions which affirm things that you are already doing well and then resolve to continue in those habits. That is part of the genesis of what follows below. It is a reflection on what values I hope everyone (players, coaches, and myself included) can continue to bring to our youth orchestra community. I believe that these values not only help make the music better, they are a primary ingredient in our success. From our dedicated Players’ Executive to the newest players to join our orchestra, I see these values play out every week we gather. I list these values here not because I think we need to change our behaviour, but to affirm that when we lean into these values, we bring out the best in ourselves and our community. I’m excited for this new year; through the lens of focus, friendship, and fun I look forward to making great music together.


The SYO values…

  • Focus

To that end, constructive criticism is a part of the rehearsal process. Whether being offered by a director, coach, or player, constructive criticism will aim to foster growth and self-confidence. Put downs or comparisons to specific players would not only inhibit growth, but would be an action that stands in opposition to our value on focus

  • Friendship

The SYO is a place where life long friendships are forged. While not every member of the SYO community will become a close personal friend, all members of the community will embrace this value in their actions towards one and other. Friends are kind in their words with each other. Thus, any gossip about another member of the SYO community or of the musical community at large would be a betrayal of this value of friendship.

  • Fun

It’s not a coincidence that the verb we use to describe the act of music making is ‘play’! Great music making at every level embraces and celebrates the concept of play and fun. The fact that we value fun does not negate the value on focus. The SYO will always strive towards performing at the highest possible level of which we are capable. But we can’t forget to have fun along the way. Focus and fun run side by side in developing excellence in the SYO. As a community, let’s embrace those opportunities to have fun and put a smile on each others’ faces. Genuine and positive reinforcement from everyone in the SYO community will fuse focus and fun. Sometimes we have to leave our warm houses in -40 weather to get to SYO rehearsal. For all that effort it better be fun!

Hi SYO, I’m looking forward to a great concert this Sunday. Remember that the dress rehearsal is from 1-3:30 at the Hilton Garden Inn (NOTE THE DIFFERENT LOCATION THIS YEAR). Paul will be sending you info about the call time for the concert.

Rep (in concert order) is: Gershwin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Christmas Festival