Ottawa Symphony Orchestra

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The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (OSO) is a full size orchestra in Ottawa including professional, student and amateur musicians.[1] With around 100 musicians,[2] the OSO is Ottawa's largest orchestra, which allows it to perform large symphonic repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by Canadian composers.


In 1944, Ottawa musicians formed an orchestra with Allard de Ridder as the conductor. The 75-player ensemble was officially called the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra until 1952, but it was commonly known as the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra. The Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra was suspended in 1960 because there was not sufficient funding to pay the musicians' salaries. When the National Arts Centre announced the formation of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO), a resident, full-time professional orchestra based in Ottawa, the board of the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra dissolved the ensemble.

In 1965, the largely amateur Ottawa Civic Symphony was formed by former auxiliary Ottawa Philharmonic members, under the baton of Maurice Haycock. The Ottawa Civic Orchestra was renamed the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra in 1976. The annual concert series - four concerts in 1991 - was at first performed in Ottawa high schools. In the early 1970s, the OSO began performing in the large concert hall of the National Arts Centre. Previous conductors have included Thomas Mayer (late 1950s), Clifford Hunt (1965-6), Nicholas Goldschmidt (1966-7), James Coles (1969–75), and Brian Law (1975–91).


The OSO's Mission Statement is "to enrich the life of the community through, and to foster public appreciation for and interest in, symphonic music." OSO activities such as its concert series, educational outreach activities, and its mentorship program help to support this mission statement.

Almost all of the musicians and audience of the OSO are drawn from Ottawa and the local municipalities. The OSO musicians consist of professional musicians (including performers from the National Arts Centre Orchestra), advanced university-level music students from the University of Ottawa, and highly skilled and experienced local amateur musicians.

Support for the OSO comes from the Province of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council, The Ontario Trillium Foundation, the City of Ottawa, the Canada Council for the Arts, the University of Ottawa, and from private donors, foundations, major companies, and season sponsors.

The OSO has a different repertoire from the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The OSO is a larger orchestra than the NACO, which allows the OSO to perform works for large orchestra that would not be possible for the NACO. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, "The Ottawa Symphony Orchestra has co-existed gracefully with the NACO, playing in the same magnificent auditorium (the Opera of the NAC) and planning its program to complement the more complex fare of the full-time orchestra."[3]

The OSO frequently collaborates with other Ottawa-area music ensembles, such as Opera Lyra, the Ottawa Youth Orchestra, the Ottawa Choral Society, the Central Youth Choir and the University of Ottawa Chorale. The University of Ottawa has had a longstanding relationship with the OSO, which includes the mentorship program (which allows advanced University of Ottawa music students to perform in the OSO).

The OSO has premiered music by Canadian composers such as Jan Jarvlepp, Jean Coulthard, Robert Fleming, Andrew Huggett and Colin Mack.

Music director[edit]

In May 1992, David Currie was appointed as music director of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. As music director, his duties include leading rehearsals, conducting the orchestra concerts, and planning the programmes, and engaging in community outreach activities.

Currie is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Interlochen Arts Academy. Prior to joining the OSO, Currie was a double bass player in the National Arts Centre Orchestra from 1971 until 1991, when he retired as Principal Bass.

Currie studied conducting in Siena, Italy and at the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, one of Japan's most prestigious private music institutions, where he studied with Professor Morihiro Okabe and Maestro Kazuyoshi Akiyama. Since 1982, Mr. Currie has also been the conductor of the University of Ottawa Orchestra.


As concertmaster of the OSO, David Stewart leads the first violins and performs violin solos. Stewart is a Professor of Violin at the University of Ottawa. He studied with Oscar Shumsky at Yale University and privately with Camilla Wicks. For many years, he was Concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway, appearing often as soloist with the Bergen Philharmonic and other Scandinavian orchestras.

Principal musicians[edit]


  • Second violin - Laura Nerenberg: a native of Montreal, she holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Ottawa and a Master's degree from the Hartt School in Connecticut.
  • Viola - Rennie Regehr: Professor of Viola at the University of Ottawa School of Music.
  • Cello - David Gardner: A professor in the Biology Department at Carleton University, born in England.
  • Double Bass - Paul Mach (Acting): holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Ottawa.

Wind and brass[edit]

  • Clarinet - Shauna McDonald: holds a Masters Degree from DePaul University in Chicago
  • Flute - Jeffrey Ray Miller: holds a bachelor degree in performance at Lewis and Clark College, Oregon.
  • Oboe - Susan Morris: also a member of l’Orchestre des Concerts Symphoniques de Gatineau.
  • Bassoon - Ben Glossop: Holds a Masters Degree in Music Performance from McGill University in Montreal, is also Principal Bassoon of the Kingston Symphony, works regularly with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and is an active freelance musician and teacher based in Ottawa.
  • Horn - Jill Kirwan: a native of Montreal.
  • Trumpet - John Ellis: a native of Chicago, Illinois, who holds the Doctor of Music degree and teaches trumpet at the Crane School of Music in
  • Tenor Trombone - Angus Armstrong native of ottawa
  • Bass Trombone - Leonard Ferguson native of kanata

Potsdam, NY, USA

  • Tuba - Martin Labrosse: the First Tuba with The Central Band of the Canadian Forces.


  • Harp - Caroline Léonardelli: Born in France, she holds a Premier Prix from Paris' Conservatoire.
  • Percussion - Kenneth Simpson: holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Ottawa.
  • Timpani - Jonathan Wade: holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Ottawa. He went on to obtain a Superior Studies diploma in orchestral repertoire from the University of Montreal.

Educational programmes[edit]

The OSO has three educational programmes: a mentorship programme for young musicians, the Symphony for Schools concert series in local elementary schools and the Students at the Symphony programme of complimentary tickets for high school students.

Further reading[edit]

Gardner, David. Twenty-one Seasons of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra: A Celebration (Ottawa 1986)


  1. ^ Information about the OSO and its connection to University of Ottawa, from the university
  2. ^ Ottawa Citizen story about a performance of the OSO
  3. ^ The Canadian Encyclopedia

External links[edit]