Renowned Canadian conductor Boris Brott killed in hit and run in Hamilton

Renowned conductor Boris Brott, the artistic director of the Orchestre classique de Montréal and a motivational speaker, died Tuesday after a hit and run in Hamilton that led to the driver's arrest a short time later and three officers being injured.

'He will be sorely missed by all who appreciated his unsurpassed talent,' says Brott Music Festival

Celebrated conductor Boris Brott, artistic director of the Orchestre classique de Montréal, died Tuesday following a hit and run in Hamilton, according to the Brott Music Festival, which was founded by its namesake and launched in 1988. (Brott Music Festival/Instagram)

Boris Brott, the artistic director of the Orchestre classique de Montréal, died Tuesday after a hit and run in Hamilton that led to the driver's arrest a short time later and three officers being injured.

Brott, a renowned conductor and motivational speaker with deep ties to Hamilton, was 78.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the sudden and tragic passing of the one and only musical genius and Canadian artistic visionary Boris Brott," the Brott Music Festival said in an afternoon statement on its Instagram account.

The conductor founded the festival and his wife, Ardyth, serves as its executive director.

"He will be sorely missed by all who appreciated his unsurpassed talent and by those who loved him.... As family and staff process this unthinkable news, we ask for privacy at this time," the festival statement said.

SIU investigating

Hamilton police reported a hit-and-run incident earlier Tuesday in the city's Durand neighbourhood, later saying a 78-year-old man had died. They did not confirm the identity as Brott, but told CBC there were no other fatal pedestrian collisions in the city Tuesday. 

Police said someone called 911 at 10 a.m. ET about a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road on Hamilton Mountain.

"Dispatchers issued an all-car broadcast requesting patrol officers to look out for the vehicle," a police media release said.

At roughly 10:20 a.m., a man was hit on Park Street South at Markland Street.

Police said he was taken to hospital, but later died.

A police chase following the incident has spurred an investigation by Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), after three officers and the driver were hurt.

Police said the driver left the scene, but was arrested at Elmwood Avenue near Garth Street.

The three officers and the accused were taken to hospital, according to police.

Hamilton police's reconstruction unit is investigating the collision and police were using a drone at the scene.

CBC Hamilton is awaiting more details from police and the SIU.

Tributes pour in

Reaction and tributes to Brott's death began pouring in soon after news of his death.

"I'm so very sorry to hear about the tragic passing of Boris Brott. He was a great musical ambassador for the City of Hamilton. A great loss," wrote the Hamilton-based band Junior Boys on Twitter. 

"Absolutely shocked and saddened by the news of the passing of Boris Brott. His was a Canadian treasure and his visionary, musical talent made all Hamiltonians proud," said Sandy Shaw, a Hamilton member of provincial parliament. 

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger posted a message Tuesday evening on Twitter, saying: "I am struggling to find the words to express my grief at the passing of Maestro Boris Brott tragically today. I will provide a more fulsome statement soon. Right now I want to send my deep & sincere condolences to Ardyth Webster Brott & family."

The Brott Music Festival was launched in 1988 in Hamilton. It said Brott developed six Canadian orchestras, including the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, where he was music director there for 23 years. In 1987, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

The Orchestra classique de Montréal issued a statement, saying it was in "shock and disbelief" and Brott was the "heart and soul" of the orchestra.

Orchestra board chair Deborah Corber and executive director Taras Kulish told CBC Hamilton on Tuesday evening Brott had a special ability to make classical music relatable to just about anyone while helping young musicians start their careers.

"Being in Boris' presence, whether he was making music or talking about music or telling a story about music, it always made the music come alive and seem like it really was for everybody," Corber said. "He was young at heart."

Kulish said despite his musical success and acclaim, he remained humble and never lost his passion for the art.

But Boris was more than just a master of music. He was a man of many languages, speaking English, French, Italian, Spanish and a bit of German.

He was also witty and "an encyclopedia of jokes," according to Kulish.

Kulish and Corber said there will be a memorial concert at a later date.

The hit and run Tuesday marks Hamilton's seventh crash leading to the death of a pedestrian this year.

This incident is among a string of collisions that have killed seniors.

Police say anyone who saw Tuesday's incident or has video can contact Det.-Sgt. Catherine Lockley at 905-546-3833.

With files from Dan Taekema