What's Involved?

Program elements

Orchestral experience: You will rehearse and perform in the NAC Orchestra during select Main Series weeks from August 28 to October 14 of the 2017-2018 season.

Individual coaching: You will receive individual instruction and coaching on orchestral repertoire from NAC Orchestra musicians, and may have the opportunity to perform in mock auditions and public masterclasses.

Other: You will be coached in concert preparation, orchestral deportment, as well as career development.

We encourage accepted applicants to become members in good standing with the American Federation of Musicians.

IOS for Credit

Does your university or conservatory encourage exchanges or practicums in the professional world to prepare for your orchestral career?  If so, the IOS is an ideal program for you. In addition to having all expenses paid, the six-week Institute for Orchestral Studies can complement your studies as a practicum or placement opportunity. The IOS offers a challenging opportunity to play at an international professional level by apprenticing in Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra. Following a full six weeks outlined below, apprentices will receive a certificate for presentation to your educational institution.


Apprentices accepted to the Institute for Orchestral Studies will play in section with the NAC Orchestra in 14 performances and an average of 5 x 2.5 hour rehearsals per week for 6 weeks. In addition to the rehearsals and concerts, the apprentices will be mentored by NACO Musicians both on stage and off. Orchestral deportment and etiquette, score marking skills, several private lessons, sectionals and mock auditions provide a rounded program of training. There will be preparation work in the first week before the first NACO rehearsal to ensure the apprentices are ready to play at the highest level and maintain the standards of the NAC Orchestra. The first and most important priority for the apprentices throughout the program is to always be prepared for our conductors and the challenging variety of repertoire. 


An application fee of $50 CDN is the only fee, payable in the application process.  Apprentices accepted to the IOS have tuition, travel, room and board provided.

Audition Requirements

  1. Submit an unedited recording of your audition (see Application Process).
  2. Prepare each of the following:
    1. one movement of solo Bach
    2. one movement of a concerto of your choice, AND
    3. five contrasting orchestral excerpts of your choice, including at least two from the NAC list of excerpts that are available for download below.

Please note:

  • We do not require that you perform the concerto with accompaniment.
  • The five orchestral excerpts must be recorded IN ONE TAKE.
  • NAC Orchestra musicians comprise the selection committee.

list of excerpts

Violin (1.07 MB)
Viola (1.17 MB)
Cello (830.51 KB)
Bass (766.38 KB)

Considerations Before You Apply

1. If you are invited to apprentice in the IOS you must be available for the duration of the Institute. To that end, we ask Apprentices to sign an agreement of commitment upon acceptance.

2. If you are a Non-Canadian accepted to the IOS, you will require a valid passport and all other necessary documents as required, including Visas. It is your responsibility to obtain all necessary papers. If you do not have a valid passport, we urge you to apply for one IMMEDIATELY.

3. Regarding School Studies: Apprentices in the IOS who are enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs must make arrangements with their schools and teachers to obtain leaves of absence allowing them to participate for ALL WEEKS of the Institute as listed in the schedule.

4. The main form of communication for this program will be by email. It is your responsibility as an applicant/participant to check email on a regular basis for communications including audition results.

Rehearsal and Performance schedule

NACO pre-season week – August 29 – September 1
IOS Apprentices will arrive in Ottawa Monday, August 28. In this first week, apprentices will meet key personnel at the NAC, as well as their NAC Orchestra mentors. Apprentices take private lessons and ensemble coaching sessions.
NACO Week 1 – September 4 – 8, 2017
               NAC Orchestra rehearsals
               Schedule to be determined
NACO Week 2 – September 11 – 15, 2017
               Main 1 Itzhak Perlman’s Cinema Serenade – September 13 & 14
               Alexander Shelley, conductor
               Itzhak Perlman, violin
               Program: Film music, Strauss and Ravel
               Gala – September 16
               Alexander Shelley, conductor
               k.d. lang, Canadian Superstar, and her band
               Program: TBC
NACO Week 3 – September 18 – 22, 2017
               Main 2 Beethoven’s Ninth – September 20 & 21
               Alexander Shelley, conductor
               Layla Claire, Soprano
               John Tessier, Tenor
               Combined Ottawa Choruses
               Program: Copland and Beethoven Symphony No. 9
NACO Week 4 – September 25 – October 1, 2017
                The Rite of Spring – September 28, 29 & 30
               Joana Carneiro, conductor
               Tanztheater Wuppertal
               Pina Bausch
               Program: Café Müller, The Rite of Spring
Ideas of North Festival  Oct 3 – 14, 2017
NACO Week 5 – October 2 – 8, 2017
Festival Main 3A Sibelius’s First Symphony – October 3
Alexander Shelley, conductor
Yosuke Kawasaki, violin
Jonathan Crow, violin
Andrew Wan, violin
Program: Sibelius and Louie
Festival Main 3B Lintu and Hewitt – October 5
Hannu Lintu, conductor
Angela Hewitt, piano
Program: Sibelius and Whittall
NACO Week 6 – October 9 – 14, 2017
Festival Main 4A Finnish Legends –October 11
John Storgårds, conductor
Anu Komsi, Soprano
Program: Sibelius
               Casual Fridays 1 – October 13
               Alexander Shelley, conductor
               Karen Gomyo, violin
               Program: Sibelius and Gould (orchestrated by Zosha Di Castri)
Festival Main 4B Shelley and Storgårds –October 14
Alexander Shelley, conductor
John Storgårds, violin
Program: Sibelius and Saariaho