Aspiring classical musicians from across the Maritimes will have their shot at orchestral stardom this week, as the National Youth Orchestra stops by Halifax.
Over 40 per cent of all Canadian orchestral musicians got their start in the National Youth Orchestra, which offers a summer of tuition-free training as well as a cross-country tour for musicians between 16 and 28.
"Making [orchestral music] accessible is always a challenge, and that's why we don't charge tuition," Barbara Smith, the orchestra's executive director, told CBC's Information Morning.
"But there's tremendous talent. I'm always blown away."
'It's very intensive'
The orchestra is visiting Halifax in preparation for its 2017 nationwide tour. It hopes that by meeting with Dalhousie University and other Maritime universities with music programs the orchestra will attract a greater number of musicians from the region.
Auditions will be held in the fall and winter. For an art form with a long history, the auditions will have a decidedly 21st-century twist: musicians can audition by recording their performance and uploading it as a private YouTube link.
The program itself takes place over the summer months, featuring several weeks of chamber music training followed by orchestral practice, as well as mock auditions and workshops on injury prevention.
"It's very intensive," said Smith. "It's exhausting, frankly. But they'll get more hours of orchestral and chamber music playing than they would in a full year at a university program."
Students receive a stipend of at least $1,000 following completion of the program, to compensate for a summer spent not working elsewhere.
150th anniversary celebrations
As part of the celebrations for Canada's 150th anniversary, the orchestra's 2017 tour will go from Charlottetown to Vancouver and the Northwest Territories.
In addition to its regular performances of Western classical music, the orchestra has developed a program called Unsilent, in recognition of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.
Alongside a commissioned film by Vancouver filmmaker Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, the orchestra will be performing work by a Métis composer accompanied by spoken-word artists
"It's going to be very moving — very different from anything else we've done."