Symphony Nova Scotia reports strong sales and donations, successful Youth Orchestra operations at AGM


For Immediate Release
October 1, 2019

Halifax, NS – Symphony Nova Scotia’s 2018/19 Annual General Meeting, held September 30, 2019 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre, reported a highly successful season with strong ticket sales and donations, increased community outreach activities, and a positive merger with the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra. It also reported on the orchestra’s ongoing search for a new Music Director, with two finalists set to return in fall 2019.  

“Symphony Nova Scotia’s 2018/19 season was an exciting success story,” says Gail Morris, Chair of the Symphony’s 2018/19 Board of Directors.

“Building on 36 years of past accomplishments, our internationally recognized orchestra delivered an aggressive program of outstanding performances, and continued to deliver a rich variety of education and community outreach programs to thousands of Nova Scotians across the province. We’re very grateful to our audience, subscribers, donors, community partners, and volunteers for making such a spectacular season possible.”

For the upcoming 2019/20 season, Gail Morris will move into the role of Past Chair of Symphony Nova Scotia’s Board of Directors, after serving as Board Chair since 2017, and a member since 2010. In her place, Nancy F. Barteaux, Q.C., managing partner and co-founder of Barteaux Durnford, will take the role of Chair for a two-year term.

At the AGM, Symphony Nova Scotia also welcomed one new member to its Board: Patricia Lawrence, a longtime property manager and active local volunteer, who will fulfill the role of liaison with Women for Music. The orchestra also will assume a leaner 20-member Board for 2019/20, saying thank you and farewell to departing Board members Jennifer Angel, Catherine Campbell, David Hastings, Varqa Mirzaagha, Ian Nason, Chris Smith, and Cate Weis.

2018/19 Activities and Highlights

At the AGM, Symphony Nova Scotia reported on some major highlights in 2018/19, including:

Audience support: In 2018/19, Symphony Nova Scotia ticket sales revenue increased by 4% over 2017/18, following two consecutive annual increases of 14%. Throughout the 2018/19 season, which ran from September through May, the orchestra sold almost 45,000 tickets and presented a record 62 ticketed performances, with 36 concerts at over 90% capacity. The season’s most popular shows included highlights like David Myles, Port Cities, a Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot with J.P. Cormier, A Celtic Tenors Christmas, The Nutcracker, Handel’s Messiah, The Piano Men, Ashley MacIsaac, and Mozart’s Great Mass.

Private sector support: Donations from individuals to the Symphony also saw continued strength in 2018/19. Thanks to the generosity of the Symphony’s many supporters, as well as thoughtful stewardship from the Symphony’s fundraising team, private sector donations increased to 30% of the Symphony’s annual revenue. The orchestra also welcomed 15 new members to its Legacy Circle, a group of committed donors who have indicated their wish to leave gifts in their estate plans.

The Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra: After receiving a proposal from the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra (NSYO), Symphony Nova Scotia assumed full management of the NSYO in fall 2018. This merger ushered in a highly successful 2018/19 season for the NSYO – annual attendance nearly tripled, a free “Black Is Beautiful” concert in North Preston engaged with an underserved and enthusiastic community, and Symphony Nova Scotia doubled its youth programming, while increasing its connection and commitment to local young musicians. The NSYO transfer also came with a number of assets, including musical instruments, which contributed to a significant one-time surplus for Symphony Nova Scotia in 2018/19. The NSYO’s assets have been restricted, and will only be used to fund the NSYO into the future.

Music Director Search: Throughout the 2018/19 season, Symphony Nova Scotia continued its ongoing search for a new Music Director, welcoming seven guest conductors to its flagship Masterworks Series. With guidance from a dedicated Search Committee, led by Chair Cynthia Robertson, two finalists for the position were announced in May 2019: New Zealand-based Holly Mathieson and Quebec’s Jean-Michel Malouf. Both candidates will return to work with the orchestra for a second time this November. Throughout this transition, Bernhard Gueller, Symphony Nova Scotia’s previous Music Director of 16 years, has continued to provide artistic guidance and insight in the role of Music Director Laureate.

In Memoriam: With the passing of Peggy Corkum in December 2018, Symphony Nova Scotia lost one of its most enthusiastic and generous supporters. In Peggy’s memory, Symphony Nova Scotia partnered with the Scotia Festival of Music and Cecilia Concerts in April 2019 to present a moving concert with legendary Canadian violinist James Ehnes and acclaimed pianist Andrew Armstrong. Throughout the 2018/19 season, the orchestra also mourned the loss of longtime volunteer Hugh Creighton, former staffer Kathy Heaney, local music reviewer and musician Stephen Pedersen, and the former President of both the NSYO and the Atlantic Federation of Musicians, Peter Power.

Summer season: In summer 2018, Symphony Nova Scotia presented its second annual summer season, featuring free performances for all ages throughout Nova Scotia. As part of the summer season, the orchestra and its Artist in Residence and Community Ambassador Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser also created and premiered a brand-new show with star drag artist Thorgy Thor, sparking a social media sensation and launching encore performances with orchestras across North America.

Education and community outreach: Symphony Nova Scotia continued to expand its wide variety of community outreach programs throughout Nova Scotia, including its popular student matinees, the Classical Munchkins program, and free community concerts. The free Family Series saw another highly successful year, with over 3,000 attendees across nine performances in Halifax and Dartmouth, and the free Berkeley Seniors’ Concert series also expanded, welcoming over 1,000 seniors to free performances on Tuesdays.

Symphony Nova Scotia Foundation: The orchestra’s arms-length Foundation continued to grow, and is currently valued at over $15 million. Thanks to careful management by the Foundation Board, including Chair Dale Godsoe, treasurer Alan Barkhouse, and secretary Tim Matthews, the Foundation’s transfer of $632,083 in 2018/19 was a crucial factor in the overall financial success of the season.

Musicians and staff: In 2018/19, the orchestra welcomed Rachel Desoer in the role of Principal Cello and Gabe Azzie as Principal Bassoon, and said a fond farewell to Principal Clarinet Dominic Desautels. The office staff also saw the retirements of two excellent fundraising professionals, Anne Laybolt and Rose Spicer, and in September 2019 welcomed Elizabeth Smith as Director of Development. Other new office staff in 2018/19 included Communications Manager Cassie Dresch, Patron Services Manager Kayleigh Sheehan, Orchestra Personnel Manager Anne Simons, and NSYO Manager Kyrie Robinson. Finally, together with the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia also celebrated its longtime friend, conductor, and composer Dinuk Wijeratne, who moved to Toronto after 13 years of strong leadership as the NSYO’s Music Director.

Symphony Nova Scotia looks forward to another exciting season in 2019/20, with record ticket sales to date, many performances already sold out, a hugely successful summer lineup, and continued support from its many generous partners, donors, sponsors, and volunteers. Symphony Nova Scotia would particularly like to thank the Government of Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, Arts Nova Scotia, and the City of Halifax for their ongoing support.

Symphony Nova Scotia’s full 2018/19 Annual Report and financial statements are available for viewing on Symphony Nova Scotia’s website at

About Symphony Nova Scotia
Symphony Nova Scotia is Nova Scotia’s orchestra. With a home base in Halifax and performances across the province, Symphony Nova Scotia is proud to be a vibrant, vital part of Nova Scotia’s rich cultural community. From sold-out orchestral concerts to free family events, youth and seniors’ activities, and educational partnerships, Symphony Nova Scotia creates unforgettable experiences with truly great music. Visit to learn more, listen online, or get tickets today!