Marley Mullan, a grade 12 student at Canterbury High School in Ottawa, walks onto the stage at École secondaire publique De La Salle and sits down next to Yosuke Kawasaki, Concertmaster of the NAC Orchestra. The whole day has been a wonderful learning experience for Marley and everyone in her ensemble and now it’s time for the concert.
“I told Yosuke I was feeling pretty nervous and he proceeded to tell me a funny story that took all my nerves away,” Marley recalls. “Yosuke has been my idol since he joined the NAC Orchestra and I still can’t believe I got to share a stand with him.”
The opportunity came last February when the string orchestras of Canterbury High School and De La Salle sat side-by-side with members of the NAC Orchestra’s string section in a special concert conducted by Music Director Alexander Shelley. Each school also spent an afternoon rehearsing with and getting advice from the string players of the Orchestra.
“When Alexander Shelley was appointed the NAC Orchestra’s Music Director in 2015, he sought to develop a deeper connection with our local community, especially with the youth in the National Capital Region. To that end, it’s become the Orchestra’s practice to dedicate one week during its regular season for side-by-side workshops and performance opportunities in the community,” explains Geneviève Cimon, Director, Music Education and Community Engagement at the NAC.
Simply Strings was an unforgettable experience for the young musicians who took part and a dream come true for Marley. “I don’t think I stopped smiling once throughout the rehearsals and the concert,” she says. “We got a taste of what it’s like to be professional musicians and all the work that has to be put into each and every performance.”
By all accounts, the young musicians rose to the challenge. As Geneviève says, “Working with Alexander and alongside their NAC Orchestra stand partners, the students were pushed sometimes beyond their comfort level. It was incredibly inspiring to hear them rise to the occasion and play at their very best while Alexander conducted them. The students’ music teachers and our NAC Orchestra Artist in Residence Donnie Deacon did a wonderful job preparing them.”
The Simply Strings concert may be over but Marley says being given the chance to participate in the event will continue to inspire her for a long time to come. She’s deeply grateful to NAC supporters who helped make the opportunity possible.
“I made connections with the professional music industry and had my passion for classical music re-instilled,” she says. “I can’t thank the supporters enough for making life-changing opportunities like this happen and helping keep classical music alive.”