NAC Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley Contract Extended to 2025-2026 Season

The National Arts Centre (NAC) is pleased to announce a three-year contract extension for Alexander Shelley as Music Director of the NAC Orchestra, from September 1, 2023, to August 31, 2026.

Since taking on the role of Music Director in 2015, Alexander Shelley has led the NAC Orchestra through transformational initiatives and major tours, highlighting the ensemble’s national role and positioning it as a creative and collaborative space for Canadian composers, conductors, artists and partners.

“I continue to be energized by the individual and collective brilliance of our musicians and inspired by the vision at the heart of Canada’s National Arts Centre,” said Alexander Shelley. “Over the last few tumultuous years, we have engaged in tackling the big issues of our time, pioneered new formats for symphonic music on stage and screen, vigorously championed Canadian creative artists, composers of our time and historically underrepresented voices, toured through Europe and to Carnegie Hall, grown our recording catalogue and inaugurated a flagship mentorship program.

He added: “Our plans for the coming seasons are no less ambitious. It remains a privilege and a joy to lead this wonderful orchestra and to serve our vibrant audiences both here in Canada’s capital, across the country and around the world.”


“Alexander Shelley provides exceptional artistic leadership to Canada’s NAC Orchestra,” said Christopher Deacon, NAC President and CEO. “Season after season, the Orchestra has continued to develop in terms of repertoire, collaborators, and level of excellence. I’m delighted that he has renewed his contract.”

“Since his arrival, Alexander has helped to cement the Orchestra’s reputation as a world-class ensemble.  As well, he constantly inspires and pushes us all to rethink and redefine the orchestra’s role in society,” said Nelson McDougall, Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra. “Through his vision and passion, the NAC Orchestra is increasingly acclaimed for its daring programming and powerful storytelling, as exemplified by the recent tour to Carnegie Hall, entitled Truth in Our Time, which featured the premiere of an NAC Orchestra commission from Philip Glass, his Symphony No. 13. We are so fortunate to call him our Music Director and I look forward to our continuing partnership.”

“It is always a pleasure to make music on stage with Alexander when he is conducting,” said Yosuke Kawasaki, NAC Orchestra Concertmaster. “I’m equally impressed by his collaborative leadership in his role as Music Director. Since his arrival he has championed not only this Orchestra, but also Canadian creation and artists. His dedication and commitment to nurture our next generation of artists and audiences is truly inspiring.”



  • Alexander Shelley and the NAC Orchestra have recorded and released several albums, some of which were nominated or won Juno Awards. They include standard and infrequently performed classical works, as well as newly commissioned works, from Canadian composers. Albums with Montreal label Analekta include: Life Reflected, ENCOUNT3RS, New Worlds and The Bounds of our Dreams. Also Darlings of the Muses and Lyrical Echoes, two of the first albums in a four album series featuring the work of Clara and Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Albums with Decca records include: The Moon and the Forest featuring classical guitarist Milos.
  • Since the start of the COVID pandemic, Alexander Shelley has also led the production and performance of the NAC’s first-ever livestream concert series.


  • Alexander Shelley has led  highly successful NAC Orchestra tours, including the Cross-Canada 150 Tour in 2017 and the 50th Anniversary European Tour in 2019, which featured dozens of performances and extensive educational outreach to diverse communities.
  • Earlier this year, Alexander led the Truth in Our Time Tour to Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto and, for the first time in 30 years, to New York’s City storied Carnegie Hall. Repertoire featured the world premiere of Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 13, an NAC Orchestra commission in tribute to the late Canadian American journalist Peter Jennings.

Diverse Voices 

  • Alexander Shelley has championed new works and showcased diverse voices and stories during his time at the NAC, notably as part of programming for Life Reflected, Encount3rs, Reggae Roots, and the upcoming Songs for Murdered Sisters
  • In 2019, as part of Mòshkamo: Indigenous Arts Rising, the NAC Indigenous Theatre’s opening festival, the NAC Orchestra showcased Indigenous composers during six performances in the Southam Hall.
  • During the 2020-2021 season, Alexander led UNDISRUPTED,, the ground-breaking television series that invited four Canadian visionary women to each curate a 30-minute episode with the NAC Orchestra. (Streaming on CBC Gem).
  • A recent triumph was this year’s NACO Live: Marsalis & Mahler featuring Alexander and the Orchestra performing the Canadian premiere of a tuba concerto co-commisioned by the NAC Orchestra and composed by Wynton Marsalis featuring NACO principal tuba Chris Lee

Mentoring Young Canadian Artists

  • Throughout his time at the NAC, Alexander has sought to showcase and mentor young and diverse Canadian classical music artists, such as the soloists from CBC’s “30 under 30”. He also led the development and recent launch ofl the NAC Orchestra Mentorship Program, a unique side by side opportunity for diverse young professional musicians to rehearse and perform alongside the NAC Orchestra, with excellent early results.


As Alexander Shelley’s relationship with the NAC Orchestra is extended for years to come, the NAC is pleased that NAC Foundation has also confirmed that generous and longstanding donor Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L. – a proud Newfoundlander with roots across Canada – has committed another $1 million gift, following one made in 2018, in support of Mr. Shelley’s artistic vision. “I have seen how Alexander inspires, teaches and creates with the NAC Orchestra, audiences, young artists and students and I am honoured to be able to support the work of the NAC, its Orchestra and the engaging Alexander Shelley.”


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).

Alexander 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.” 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.  In January 2015 he assumed the role of Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

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.

The Music Director role is supported by Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LL.D. (hc)


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.  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, as well as reaching national and international audiences through touring and recordings.

The Orchestra has a rich touring history and 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 travelled across Canada, the United Kingdom 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; and in April 2022, it made its long-awaited return to Carnegie Hall.  The Orchestra breaks boundaries with its regular commissions of new creations, including the critically acclaimed Life Reflected (2016) and UNDISRUPTED (2021).   Its commissions and recordings have won JUNO Awards for Best New Classical Composition in 2018 and 2019.



Annabelle Cloutier
Executive Director, Strategy and Communications
National Arts Centre
613 301-2764

Julia Bacic
Communications Strategist
NAC Orchestra



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