Alexander Shelley, Music Director
The NAC Orchestra is a world class ensemble of outstanding classical musicians from across Canada and around the world, under the inspiring leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley. Since its debut 50 years ago at the opening of Canada’s National Arts Centre, the Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its groundbreaking educational programs, and its leadership in nurturing Canadian creativity.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. In addition to a full series of subscription concerts at the NAC, each season has featured world class artists including James Ehnes, Evelyn Glennie, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Stewart Goodyear, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Jan Lisiecki and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds, the Orchestra regular tours throughout Canada and around the world. In 2019, for the first time in its history the Orchestra played on Parliament Hill for the Canada Day noon concert, which was broadcast live on CBC.
The Orchestra has toured widely and regularly throughout its history, across Canada and including China, the US, Mexico, and Israel. In May 2019 it championed Canadian artists and six Canadian composers across Europe, in London, Paris and other major cities, including a live radio relay from Copenhagen which was rebroadcast on CBC and Radio-Canada. An ambitious cross-Canada tour in 2017 marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation, presenting concerts and outreach events for thousands of Canadians. The full Orchestra took its multi-media interpretation of the late Mi’kmaw poet Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk home to her community in Eskasoni First Nation.
The Orchestra is also dedicated to fostering the next generation of musicians and classical music fans. The NAC Summer Music Institute was founded by Pinchas Zukerman in 1999 and provided advanced training to an elite group of student musicians until 2019, and the Music Alive program brings musical education to children of all abilities and backgrounds in rural and remote communities across Canada. NAC musicians perform for schools and families, in care homes and hospitals, and teach students around the world via videoconferencing through the cutting-edge Hexagon Studio. Partnerships with local and national youth orchestras have seen young musicians enjoying close collaboration with their NAC Orchestra mentors.
Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 80 new works, acting as a catalyst for Canadian musical creation. It experiments to create new modes of bringing great music to audiences, such as the multi-media, immersive Life Reflected (2016), which uses music, live and recorded visuals, and words to tell the stories of four exceptional Canadian women; and Encount3rs (2017), which paired composers with choreographers and their dance companies over the course of two years to create three original one-act ballets.
The NAC Orchestra has recorded many of the 80+ new works commissioned since its inception, for radio and on over 40 commercial releases. These recordings include Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos; the groundbreaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by Jocelyn Morlock, winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year; and from the 2019 JUNO nominated New Worlds, Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year.
Alexander Shelley succeeded Pinchas Zukerman as Music Director of Canada’s NAC Orchestra in September 2015. The ensemble has since been praised as being “transformed… hungry, bold, and unleashed” (Ottawa Citizen) and Shelley’s programming credited for turning the orchestra into “one of the more audacious in North America” (Maclean’s).
Shelley is a champion of Canadian creation; recent hallmarks include the multimedia project Life Reflected, and three major new ballets in partnership with NAC Dance for Encount3rs. He and the NAC Orchestra have made four recordings with Montreal label Analekta: Life Reflected, ENCOUNT3RS, the JUNO-nominated New Worlds, and The Bounds of Our Dreams.
He is passionate about arts education and nurturing the next generation of musi-cians. He is an Ambassador for Ottawa’s OrKidstra, a charitable social development program that teaches children life skills through making music together.
Alexander Shelley is also the Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He recently led a tour of Germany and South Africa with the German National Youth Orchestra, and in the spring of 2019 he led the NAC Orchestra on its critically acclaimed 50th Anniversary European tour, with stops including London, Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen.
The Music Director role is supported by Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LL.D. (hc)
Joanna G’froerer, principal flutist of the NAC Orchestra since 1992, enjoys an exciting career as orchestral player, soloist, chamber musician and educator. Her discography includes recordings of Mozart’s flute quartets, Rodrigo’s flute concerto, and the chamber music for winds by Saint-Saëns. G’froerer has been featured in chamber music festivals across Canada and at Brazil’s Campos do Jordão Festival. She has been on faculty at the University of Ottawa, the NAC Summer Music Institute, Domaine Forget and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. She currently is a visiting professor of flute at McGill University.Read full NAC bio ›
Charles “Chip” Hamann was appointed to the principal oboe chair of Canada’s NAC Orchestra in 1993 at age 22. He is also Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa School of Music. Hamann has been guest principal oboe with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Les Violons du Roy. He released an acclaimed solo recording, Canadian Works for Oboe and Piano, with pianist Frédéric Lacroix in 2017. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, he studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Eastman School of Music.Read full NAC bio ›