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© Photo: John Arano

Two-year residency program gives emerging, culturally diverse or Indigenous composers the chance to “live inside” the NAC Orchestra

One of the things Ian Cusson will remember most about Carrefour, his two-year residency with the NAC Orchestra, is sitting on a bus on the way to performances in Kingston and Montreal.

During those hours the emerging Métis, French Canadian composer had unlimited access to the musicians of the NAC Orchestra. “They were so generous in answering my questions,” says Ian. “I had a lot of specific, technical questions about how their instruments work, what is feasible, what is challenging.”

Travelling with the NAC Orchestra was part of Ian’s learning experience which began in 2017 when he was one of the first two composers selected for Carrefour. A joint initiative of the NAC and the Canada Council for the Arts, Carrefour supports the advancement of unique voices in orchestral composition through commissions, rehearsals and performances, collaborative projects and new media initiatives.

“For me, the biggest component of Carrefour was having access to a major orchestra, the musicians and the Music Director as well as the administrative team,” Ian explains. “I’ve seen how everything works together to make programming happen. You only get this opportunity when you’re inside an orchestra in this capacity. As a result, I learned how to write for an orchestra in a comprehensive, deeper way.”

One of the first works Ian wrote for a subsection of the Orchestra premiered at Music for a Sunday Afternoon—a chamber music concert held at the National Gallery of Canada last November. “Looking back, it was the best performance of my work I’ve ever heard,” says Ian. “When your work is in such capable hands you’re hearing it in the best possible format.  It was a very encouraging and informative experience.”

Ian is deeply grateful for the Carrefour experience and feels professional development opportunities specifically for culturally diverse or Indigenous composers are important.

“As a culturally diverse person there are very few role models—examples of people who have gone ahead of me and done work at a high level or with organizations like the NAC. Programs like Carrefour will help change that for future generations,” says Ian.

Carrefour has already opened doors for Ian.  He received an offer from the Canadian Opera Company to be their composer in residence beginning this summer. “Carrefour helped to elevate my profile and provided the opportunity for others to see my work on a larger scale,” Ian says. “I’m very grateful to NAC supporters who helped make this experience possible. Your support matters so much.”

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