Alexander Shelley succeeded Pinchas Zukerman as Music Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in September 2015. The ensemble has since been praised as “an orchestra transformed … hungry, bold, and unleashed” (Ottawa Citizen) and Alexander’s programming credited for turning the orchestra “almost overnight … into one of the more audacious orchestras in North America.” (Maclean’s magazine).
Born in London in October 1979, Alexander, the son of celebrated concert pianists, studied cello and conducting in Germany and first gained widespread attention when he was unanimously awarded first prize at the 2005 Leeds Conductors' Competition, with the press describing him as "the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award. His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality”. In August 2017 Alexander concluded his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Nürnberger Symphoniker, a position he held since September 2009. The partnership was hailed by press and audience alike as a golden era for the orchestra, where he transformed the ensemble’s playing, education work and international touring activities. These have included concerts in Italy, Belgium, China and a re-invitation to the Musikverein in Vienna.
In January 2015 he assumed the role of Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he curates an annual series of concerts at Cadogan Hall and tours both nationally and internationally.
Described as “a natural communicator both on and off the podium” (Daily Telegraph) Alexander works regularly with the leading orchestras of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australasia, including the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin,, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Gothenburg Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Sao Paulo Symphony and the Melbourne and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. This season’s collaborations include debuts with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orchestre Metropolitain Montreal, Orquesta Sinfonica de Valencia, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; alongside returns to MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg and the Tasmanian symphony orchestras. He will also embark on an extensive tour of Europe with the National Arts Centre Orchestra performing in cities such as London, Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen
Highlights of the previous season include debuts with the Helsinki and Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestras and Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, as well as at the Aspen Festival in Colorado. Re-invitations include Konzerthausorchester Berlin, RTE National Symphony Orchestra and a return to the Tivoli Festival with the Copenhagen Philharmonic.
Alexander’s operatic engagements have included The Merry Widow and Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Den Kongelige Opera); La Bohème (Opera Lyra/National Arts Centre), Iolanta (Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen), Così fan Tutte (Opéra National de Montpellier), The Marriage of Figaro (Opera North) in 2015 and he led a co-production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel in 2017 with the NACO and Canadian Opera Company.
Alexander was awarded the ECHO prize in 2016 for his second Deutsche Grammophon recording, “Peter and the Wolf”, and both the ECHO and Deutsche Grunderpreis in his capacity as Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s “Zukunftslabor”, a visionary project of grass-roots engagement, which uses music as a source for social cohesion and integration. Through his work as Founder and Artistic Director of the Schumann Camerata and their ground-breaking “440Hz” series in Dusseldorf, and through his leadership roles in Nuremberg, Bremen and Ottawa, inspiring future generations of classical musicians and listeners has always been central to Alexander’s work. He has led the German National Youth Orchestra on several tours of Germany and works with many thousands of young people a year in outreach projects. He regularly gives informed and passionate pre- and post-concert talks on his programmes, as well as numerous interviews and podcasts on the role of classical music in society. He has a wealth of experience conducting and presenting major open-air events - in Nuremberg alone he has, over the course of nine years, hosted more than half a million people at the annual Klassik Open Air concerts - Europe’s largest classical music event.
The Music Director role is supported by Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LL.D. (hc)
Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate (Born in 1968)
Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, is a classical composer, citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma and is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition. A Washington Post review states that “Tate is rare as an American Indian composer of classical music. Rarer still is his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism.” Tate is Guest Composer/Conductor/Pianist for the San Francisco Symphony’s Currents program Thunder Song: American Indian Musical Cultures, and was recently Guest Composer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar program Home with ETHEL and Friends, featuring his commissioned work Pisachi (Reveal) for String Quartet.
Recent commissions include Shell Shaker: A Chickasaw Opera for Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra; Ghost of the White Deer, Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra for Dallas Symphony Orchestra; and Hózhó (Navajo Strong) and Ithánali (I Know) for White Snake Opera Company. His music was recently featured on the HBO series Westworld. He is a three-time commissioned recipient from the American Composers Forum, a Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning Program recipient, a Cleveland Institute of Music Alumni Achievement Award recipient, a governor-appointed Creativity Ambassador for the State of Oklahoma, and an Emmy Award winner for his work on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority documentary, The Science of Composing.
Tate was the founding composition instructor for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy and has taught composition to American Indian high school students in Minneapolis, the Hopi, Navajo, and Lummi reservations, and Native students in Toronto.
Mr. Tate’s middle name, Impichchaachaaha', means “his high corncrib” and is his inherited traditional Chickasaw house name. A corncrib is a small hut used for the storage of corn and other vegetables. In traditional Chickasaw culture, the corncrib was built high off the ground on stilts to keep its contents safe from foraging animals.
Vivian Fung (Born in 1975)
JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung has a unique talent for combining idiosyncratic textures and styles into large-scale works, reflecting her multicultural background. NPR calls her “one of today’s most eclectic composers.”
Fung is currently at work on a new flute concerto for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, a piano trio for L’arc Trio, and a piece for the UK’s Tangram Collective. The Metropolis Ensemble commissioned (Un)Wandering Souls for Sandbox Percussion to premiere at the Bongsokol Festival in December 2020. In July 2020, the CBC Virtual Orchestra gave the online world premiere of Fung’s Prayer, led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He led The Philadelphia Orchestra in a virtual performance of Prayer in fall 2020.
Recent highlights include the UK premiere of Birdsong, performed by violinist Midori; the premiere of a trumpet concerto by Mary Elizabeth Bowden and the Erie Philharmonic; The Ice Is Talking, commissioned by the Banff Centre, using ice blocks to illustrate the fragility of our environment; A Child Dreams of Toys, commissioned by the Winnipeg New Music Festival; and String Quartet No. 4 “Insects and Machines,” commissioned by the Red Bank Chamber Music Society and premiered by the American String Quartet.
With a deep interest in exploring different cultures, Fung has traveled to Cambodia, Southwest China, North Vietnam, Spain, and Bali to connect with her roots and collect research for her compositions. Passionate about fostering the talent of the next generation, Fung has mentored young composers in programs at the American Composers Forum, San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players, San Jose Youth Chamber Orchestra, and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
Born in Edmonton, Canada, Fung received her doctorate from The Juilliard School. She currently lives in California and is on the faculty of Santa Clara University.
Ian Cusson (Born in 1981)
Ian Cusson is a Canadian composer of art song, opera, and orchestral work. Of Métis (Georgian Bay Métis Community) and French Canadian descent, his work explores the Canadian Indigenous experience, including the history of the Métis people, the hybridity of mixed-racial identity, and the intersection of Western and Indigenous cultures.
He studied composition with Jake Heggie and Samuel Dolin and piano with James Anagnoson at the Glenn Gould School. He is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Chalmers Professional Development Grant, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation Award, and several grants through the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council. Ian was an inaugural Carrefour Composer in Residence with the National Arts Centre Orchestra from 2017 to 2019. He is currently the Composer-in-Residence for the Canadian Opera Company for 2019 to 2021. He is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers.
He lives in Toronto with his wife and four children.