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National Arts Centre Extends Alexander Shelley's Contract to 2023

The National Arts Centre (NAC) announced today that Alexander Shelley, Music Director of the NAC Orchestra, has agreed to extend his contract for four years, from September 1, 2019, to August 31, 2023.

Since Mr. Shelley joined the NAC as Music Director in 2015, the Orchestra has strengthened its national role and focus on Canadian creation and artists, in addition to receiving acclaim for Mr. Shelley’s exceptional talent as a conductor and communicator.

“I am thrilled to extend my contract with the NAC Orchestra,” said Alexander Shelley. “The past three years have been enormously rewarding, and I’m so proud of what these incredible musicians and I have achieved together. We’ve toured from coast to coast to coast. I’ve hugely enjoyed meeting, working with, and learning from people throughout Canada. As the NAC is reborn inside and out, I’m looking forward to more wonderful projects championing Canadian creation with this superb ensemble.”

This is an eventful time for Mr. Shelley. He and his wife, Zoe, just announced the birth of their first child, a boy named Sasha Felix Shelley, born on August 25.

Since coming to the NAC, Mr. Shelley has worked tirelessly to program outstanding concerts, showcase some of the finest artists in classical music, and develop extensive initiatives in the areas of artistic creation and music education. Highlights of his tenure so far include

welcoming world-renowned guest artists Diana Krall, Emanuel Ax and Joshua Bell for performances with the NAC Orchestra; the recording and release of four albums of new works with Montreal label Analekta, namely Life Reflected, ENCOUNT3RS, New Worlds and The Bounds of our Dreams (to be released in September 2018); the epic Canada 150 Tour which saw the Orchestra visit, perform and engage with communities across Canada; as well as commissioning 13 new Canadian works including Life Reflected and Encount3rs.


In celebration of Alexander Shelley’s contract renewal, the NAC is also announcing today that longtime NAC Foundation donor Elinor Gill Ratcliffe – originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, now living in Kingston, Ontario – has made a $1 million gift in support of Mr. Shelley’s artistic vision. “I am confident that Mr. Shelley will continue to inspire, engage, teach and challenge the NAC Orchestra, audiences, young artists and students in the years to come. I am beyond pleased to provide my support.”

Under the leadership of Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra continues to grow its extensive artistic collaborations with some the most sought-after musicians in the world. For instance, for the 2018-19 season, the NAC Orchestra will welcome to its stages GRAMMYTM award-winning soprano Renée Fleming, homegrown piano superstar Jan Lisiecki and international piano sensation Yefim Bronfman.


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).

Alexander Shelley worked closely with the NAC’s new President and CEO, Christopher Deacon, to create the ambitious multimedia orchestral work Life Reflected, the NAC Orchestra’s largest production ever, produced and directed by Donna Feore. In 2016, the NAC commissioned three outstanding female composers and one male composer – Zosha Di Castri, Jocelyn Morlock, Nicole Lizée and John Estacio – to create works about four exceptional Canadian women:  Alice Munro, Amanda Todd, Roberta Bondar and Rita Joe. The NAC Orchestra presented the work during its recent Canada 150 Tour and is set to take it to Europe as part of its 50th anniversary tour in 2019. Vancouver composer Jocelyn Morlock’s work “My Name is Amanda Todd” won the JUNO Award for the 2018 Classical Composition of the Year.

M. Shelley is passionate about arts education, working each season to nurture the next generation of musicians. He led 1,300 youths in a single concert for Ottawa’s Ignite 150, and worked closely with Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia during the NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour.

Alexander Shelley is Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and recent travels have seen him guest conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.


Canada’s National Arts Centre 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. Formed in 1969, the Orchestra gives about 100 performances a year in Ottawa, across Canada and around the globe, working with diverse artists of international renown. It breaks boundaries with its regular commissions of new creations including the critically-acclaimed, immersive Life Reflected. The NAC Orchestra reaches a wide audience through national and international tours, recordings, extensive educational outreach across Canada and on tour, and via the websites and



Annabelle Cloutier
Executive Director, Communications and Public Affairs
National Arts Centre
613 947-7000 x260

Carl Martin
National Arts Centre
613 947-7000 x560