Street closures around the NAC during Ottawa Race Weekend


March 7, 2022 – OTTAWA – The National Arts Centre is delighted to announce the appointment of Nelson McDougall as Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra.

Nelson McDougall has been a crucial member of the NAC Orchestra team for 17 years.  As Orchestra and Tour Manager, he was responsible for the successful planning and execution of some of the Orchestra’s most ambitious and critically acclaimed projects. These include the three-week, seven-city China Tour (2013); the U.K. Tour (2014), Canada’s largest international artistic project to commemorate the start of the First World War; and Life Reflected, an ambitious multimedia production that told the stories of four extraordinary Canadian women, that was performed at the Luminato Festival (2017) and internationally as part of the NAC Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary European Tour (2019). Most recently, as General Manager of the Orchestra, he led UNDISRUPTED, a four-part television series in which four visionary Canadian artists from diverse perspectives use the Orchestra to tell their stories, and which debuted on CBC Gem in the fall of 2021.

“For the past 17 years I have had the honour and privilege to work alongside the dedicated and talented musicians of this world-class orchestra and I am absolutely thrilled to be the NAC Orchestra’s new Managing Director,” Nelson McDougall said. “I acknowledge that we are moving through a time of unprecedented and necessary change and with this in mind I look forward, with an open heart, an open mind and open ears, to help lead the Orchestra to an exciting and bright future.”

“Nelson McDougall has been an integral part of the NAC Orchestra team, playing a critical role in some of its most ambitious projects and greatest successes, for nearly two decades,” said NAC President and CEO Christopher Deacon. “A classically trained musician himself, he is devoted to the Orchestra musicians and has the utmost respect for their extraordinary talents. He also cares deeply about the Orchestra becoming more accessible to a wider range of artists, perspectives and communities. In partnership with Music Director Alexander Shelley, I know he will lead the NAC Orchestra to even greater heights.”

“In Nelson we are gaining a leader dedicated to our orchestra and our audiences, passionate about Canadian artists and Canadian stories and committed to building a resilient, collaborative and forward-looking National Arts Centre,” Music Director Alexander Shelley said. “Over the last few years, he has spearheaded many of our most complex and ambitious projects, developing valuable relationships of trust with key stakeholders throughout the country and across the globe. He brings to the job an almost unrivalled institutional knowledge, a thirst for growth, a love for listening, a passion for the arts, a razor-sharp mind, a deep respect for the perspectives and opinions of others and, perhaps as importantly, a big heart and a wonderful sense of humour. I look forward greatly to his many successful years to come.”

“Nelson brings to this position a depth of experience in all aspects of the orchestral setting, as well as an extensive history with the NAC Orchestra and the National Arts Centre as a whole,” said Principal Cellist Rachel Mercer. “A passionate advocate for the role of the orchestra in our constantly changing world, his energy will carry us forward as we continue to create and support art and artists, at a time when it could not be more essential.”


Nelson McDougall has worked at senior levels of performing arts management for more than 17 years. Born into a musical family, Nelson pursued the trumpet and received post-secondary and graduate degrees in Trumpet Performance from the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia. While studying in Vancouver, he performed frequently with the Vancouver Symphony and was a member of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra. A move to Toronto led to performances with the Toronto Symphony and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony.  

He first joined the National Arts Centre Orchestra as Personnel Manager in 2004. After completing an MBA in the fall of 2011, he became Tour Manager and oversaw the NAC’s first-ever tour to China in 2013, led by Music Director Pinchas Zukerman.  Over 18 days, the NAC Orchestra travelled to seven cities, including Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Fuling, Tianjin, Chongqing, Beijing and Shanghai, where they performed eight major concerts and 80 educational events, reaching an audience of 12,000. In 2014, Nelson was promoted to Orchestra and Tour Manager, leading the NAC’s UK Tour in commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War. With themes of remembrance and healing, the tour included more than 50 education and performance events, and showcased Canadian composers, guest artists and the NAC Orchestra's musicians, both as performers and as educators. 

In 2015, Nelson McDougall worked closely with Music Director Alexander Shelley and with Creative Producer Donna Feore on Life Reflected, one of the most ambitious projects in the NAC Orchestra’s history. The ambitious multimedia production, comprised of new works by the Canadian composers Nicole Lizée, Ana Sokolović, Joe Estacio and Zosha Di Castri, told the stories of four extraordinary Canadian women – Alice Munro, Roberta Bondar, Amanda Todd and Rita Joe. Showcasing Canadian artists across many disciplines, it was performed at the Luminato Festival (2017), and in Paris and Gothenburg as part of the NAC Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary European Tour. In 2017, he oversaw the Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour, which included performances and education activities in every province and territory.  Most recently, Nelson led UNDISRUPTED, a four-part television series in which four visionary Canadian artists from diverse perspectives use the NAC Orchestra to tell their stories. The series debuted on CBC Gem in the fall of 2021.



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 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.

The NAC Orchestra reaches a national and international audience through its online streaming, touring and recordings, and leads a significant Music Education and Community Engagement department, whose volume of activities parallels that of its performance and artistic creation activities. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orchestra adapted NACO at the Fourth, audio and video series (NACO Home Delivery, NACO Lunch Breaks, From NACO with Love), and online interviews led by Music Director Alexander Shelley (Musically Speaking).


The National Arts Centre is Canada’s bilingual, multi-disciplinary home for the performing arts. 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 Anishinaabe Nation.




Mary Gordon

Senior Advisor, Corporate Communications
National Arts Centre
613 601-3877