The inaugural NAC Orchestra Mentorship Program runs from May 31 to June 17, 2022

December 21st, 2021 – OTTAWA (Canada) – The National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) and Music Director Alexander Shelley announce a bold and innovative new professional development initiative, the bilingual NAC Orchestra Mentorship Program, for talented pre-professional and early career professional orchestral musicians from around the world.

The program is accepting applications from Canadian and international orchestral musicians. NACO will also invite select conductors, composers, arts administrators, and stage technicians to take part in one-on-one mentorship to complement the NAC Orchestra Mentorship Program.

Successful instrumental candidates will be invited to Ottawa for the three-week program designed to simulate a real working orchestral environment. Participants accepted to the program will be provided with free lodging, a meal allowance, travel subsidies and an honorarium.

"Creative partnerships are part of the NAC Orchestra’s DNA and we are especially passionate about working with the next generation of classical musicians. This ethos is what inspired the program’s banner, ‘Play it Forward’. Our new three-week Mentorship Program is the first in our history to see every participant paired one-on-one with a NACO mentor from start to finish. This close personal mentorship, alongside intense, fully side-by-side rehearsals, coaching and main stage performances will provide topflight professional development. Together, we will hone the skills needed for a successful and fulfilling career.” - Alexander Shelley, NAC Orchestra Music Director.

Each instrumental participant will be paired with a dedicated NAC Orchestra musician who will follow them through every activity. This three-week one-to-one mentor relationship offers each participant a high level of focus in the crucial growth areas that will propel their careers to the next level.

NACO Creative Partners Adrian Anantawan and James Ehnes will be involved throughout the program duration, connecting directly with participants to support and enhance learning outcomes. Additional guest artists will be announced in the coming months. Participants will also have the opportunity to perform as part of the NAC Orchestra in the NAC’s Southam Hall for two concert programs.

Applications are open from December 21st, 2021, to February 1st, 2022, and the program runs from May 31st to June 17th, 2022, in Ottawa. The program will be held in person, public health measures permitting, and can be adapted to a virtual format if necessary.


The National Arts Centre Foundation would like to thank the RBC Foundation, Presenting Partner of the NAC Orchestra Mentorship Program. Thank you also to Dasha Shenkman, OBE, Hon RCM, The Crabtree Foundation, The Vered Family, and The Azrieli Foundation for their lead philanthropic support.

“Orchestral musicians, in early stages of their career, will have an amazing opportunity to connect with world-class musicians and mentors and members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra,” said Marjolaine Hudon, Regional President, RBC. “RBC Emerging Artists Projects like this are an investment in artists, at a pivotal time in their career. It’s our way of supporting the arts and the role they play in building vibrant communities and strong economies all across Canada.” – RBC Foundation

The National Arts Centre Orchestra led by Music Director Alexander Shelley reaches a national and international audience through touring, recordings and extensive educational programs. Since its debut in 1969, the NAC Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. The Orchestra, under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, performs a full series of subscription concerts at the NAC each season, featuring such artists as Joshua Bell, James Ehnes, Stewart Goodyear, Angela Hewitt, Jan Lisiecki, Gabriela Montero, and Xian Zhang, along with Principal Guest Conductor John Storgards.

National and international tours have been a hallmark of the National Arts Centre Orchestra from the very beginning. The Orchestra has toured 95 times since its inauguration in 1969, visiting 120 cities in Canada, as well as 20 countries and 138 cities internationally. In recent years, the orchestra has undertaken performance and education tours across Canada as well as the U.K. and China. In 2019, the Orchestra marked its 50th anniversary by showcasing the work of six Canadian composers in a seven-city European tour that included performances and education events in England, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Since its inception, the Orchestra has commissioned more than 80 works, mostly from Canadian composers, and its commissions and recordings won JUNO awards for Best New Composition in 2018 and 2019.

It is the National Arts Centre’s goal to be an inclusive organization that engages and welcomes all Canadians. We believe that the basis of this inclusivity requires a socially and culturally diverse workforce and therefore actively seek to recruit candidates who identify as women, Indigenous, Black, Persons of Colour (IBPoC), persons from the LGBTQ2+ community and persons with disabilities.

Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director of the NAC Orchestra in 2015. He is Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009-2017). Among his many invitations to conduct worldwide are stints with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Stockholm Philharmonic, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.

The National Arts Centre is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. As part of its strategic plan, the NAC’s vision is to lead and support the renewal of the performing arts sector. The NAC presents, creates, produces, and co-produces performing arts programming in various streams —the NAC Orchestra, Dance, English Theatre in collaboration with Black Theatre Workshop, French Theatre, Indigenous Theatre, and Popular Music and Variety — and nurtures the next generation of audiences and artists from across Canada. The NAC is located in the National Capital Region on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation.