In praise of Musical Chairs

I stepped up to the podium to conduct Nova Scotia’s orchestra for the first time on October 16, 2001. We played Schubert‘s Symphony No. 3.

I think back to how my own experience started that year… I was a guest conductor, not even really aware of the fact that Symphony Nova Scotia was looking for a Music Director. Katherine Carleton, the Managing Director, had heard me conduct in Kitchener and asked my agent for a date in Halifax.

I had been travelling a lot in the weeks before – from Germany to Cape Town to America to Australia and back to Cape Town before coming here. The jet lag was never far away and I was really only focused on the programme. I remember I had lunch with Sherry Porter who was heading up the Music Director Search Committee. It was a lovely lunch and that, I thought, was that.

A few months later, we were in Finland. I was in my hotel room trying to work; Shirley was watching Jamie Oliver on Finnish television, memorizing a recipe for salmon. The phone rang. It was my agent.

He said, “They’ve appointed a new Music Director in Halifax.

“Really? Who?” I asked. The answer… “You!”

Well, his next question was, “Do you want it?” You know the rest.

I knew that this orchestra was a good fit for me. It felt good from the first rehearsal and that was my main reason for accepting. I immediately got the feeling that the musicians likedmore than liked – loved what they were doing. They were flexible then as now, and ready to follow. It was a really satisfying experience.

The first paragraph in my Annual Report that year began, “Having really settled into Halifax and my first full year as Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia, I can justify the pride I felt earlier in the musicians and what they can achieve.

Sixteen years later, it continues to be an honour to work with these talented and dedicated musicians.

Musical Chair donors, like you, were already an important part of Symphony Nova Scotia when I agreed to become Music Director. In my early years, the Symphony Board Chair at the time, Paul Kent, was working on a plan for the Symphony to become completely deficit free. Musical Chair donors generously rose to the challenge to retire a significant part of an accumulated deficit. You made a difference in the life of the Symphony back then and you continue to do so. Thank you.

Today, you are even more vital to what the musicians and I are able to create together.

As Musical Chair donors, you have gotten to know the musicians. You value, as I do, the time and dedication it takes to perform to high professional standards. Together we see the artistry evolving and reaching new heights. We feel how the music enhances our lives.

I am convinced that music is the first of all arts. Music is the medium which comes from the most inner parts of your soul. Music can grab you and you can be absolutely blown away. Do you believe this too?

I hope that people who are future donors will have some of these experiences. I want to tell them that it is all wonderful but it needs money.

We must come forward to support the organization that brings the musicians together as an ensemble.

You have heard me mention the appreciation I feel to the CEO, Chris Wilkinson, and the Board for giving me the great opportunity to program the selections this year. Large works require large symphonic forces and large budgets! Donations make it possible.

As we come to the end of my farewell season, please step up to the podium with me once more. Be the philanthropic leaders of the orchestra in our community. You will enable us to create exciting new programmes and continue to challenge these talented musicians. You will enjoy beautiful music and the experiences of watching the orchestra live up to their boundless potential. You too will feel the pride of being a part of this wonderful family called Symphony Nova Scotia.

Wir sehen uns,

Bernhard Gueller
Music Director