Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra

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Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra
Former name Lakehead Symphony Orchestra
Founded 1960
Principal conductor Arthur Post

The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra is a professional orchestra based in the Community Auditorium in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

It was founded on 29 November 1960 as the Lakehead Symphony Orchestra, debuting at the Lakeview High School auditorium.[1] Its first conductor was Rene Charrier, who was on his way to Calgary with Doug Dahlgren when they wrecked their car and became stranded in Port Arthur. Saul Laskin, then mayor of Port Arthur, was impressed by their talent and convinced them to stay.[1]

When Port Arthur and Fort William amalgamated in 1970, the orchestra changed its name to the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. Boris Brott was the Music Director and conductor from 1967–1972, Dwight Bennett from 1974 - 1989. (American child-prodigy conductor James Touchi-Peters served as Associate Music Director under Bennett for one season, 1977-78.) The Thunder Bay Symphony Chorus was formed in 1974 to enable the performance of major choral works and the orchestra became one of the foremost community orchestras in Ontario.. Until 1985, the TBSO played in the Lakehead Exhibition Centre, local schools and churches. With the construction of the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium in 1985, the orchestra found a new home.

Glen Mossop was Music Director from 1989–1994, Stephane Laforest from 1995-1999. During the 1995 season, the orchestra met with significant financial difficulties with the accumulated deficit rising to $140,000. By the summer of 1999, that deficit had increased to $450,000 due to a number of factors: a dispute over musician's pay led to a large retroactive tax bill and the orchestra lost its charitable lottery license. In July 1999 the TBSO laid off staff and went bankrupt.

With the appointment of Geoffrey Moull as Music Director in 2000 the TBSO was able to proceed on more secure footing. In 2003 the Thunder Bay Regional Arts Council presented its Award to Education to Moull and the TBSO for innovative educational and outreach programs. By 2004 it offered 25 main concerts and the position of Conductor-in-Residence was added (Richard Lee 2003-2005, Jason Caslor 2005-2007, Stéphane Potvin 2008-2011). CBC Radio 2 recorded and annually broadcast the TBSO nationally starting in 2001. A self-produced CD recording conducted by Geoffrey Moull titled Variations on a Memory of five contemporary compositions (works of John Estacio, Jeffrey Ryan, Regent Levasseur, Alexina Louie and Aris Carastathis) became the best-selling album of the Canadian Music Centre in 2005, was nominated for a Juno Award and was awarded international distribution to radio broadcasters by the SOCAN Foundation. A second CD recording with blues artist Rita Chiarelli titled Uptown goes Downtown, produced in 2008 and conducted by Jason Caslor, was nominated for two Canadian Folk Music Awards

By 2007 the orchestra's budget had risen to $1.5 million and presented more than 50 concerts annually. The TBSO now employs 30 full-time musicians over a 24-week concert season and additionally hires up to 30 per-service musicians for many concerts. An administrative office staff of four full-time and four part-time people supports the musical activities of the organization. Five different subscription series are called Classical Plus, Masterworks, Cabaret, Pops, and Family. Important education and outreach programs were initiated. The TBSO tours every year throughout Northwestern Ontario to bring concerts to communities that would otherwise not have access to a symphony orchestra. Regular tour stops include Kenora, Dryden, Fort Frances, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Marathon, Manitouwadge and Wawa. Guest soloists of the TBSO have included Measha Brueggergosman, Anton Kuerti, James Ehnes, Janina Fialkowska, Angela Hewitt, Donna Brown, Marc-André Hamelin, Erika Raum, Tracy Dahl, James Parker, and André Laplante.[2]

Geoffrey Moull completed his tenure as Music Director of the TBSO in 2009. On the occasion of his last concert the Lakehead News wrote "Bravo Maestro Moull, you have left your mark and whoever should succeed you in this position will have a lot of work to fill your shoes".[3]

Candidates guest conducting to become Moull's successor included Kirk Muspratt, Christopher Zimmerman, Gisèle Ben Dor, Alastair Willis, Scott Speck and Arthur Post. During the 2009-2010 season, Stephane Potvin assumed the role of Artistic Administrator. American conductor Arthur Post was appointed as Moull's successor in 2010.


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