Trombonist Don Renshaw’s legacy continues in memorial award

The legacy of beloved principal trombonist Don Renshaw continues to resonate within the National Arts Centre as the inaugural Don Renshaw Memorial Award for Brass has been bestowed upon 17-year-old trombonist Constance Prost.

Renshaw, described as a cherished figure within the NAC Orchestra, left an indelible mark with his passion for music and commitment to nurturing young talent before his untimely passing from cancer on December 21, 2022.

Doug Burden, a close friend and colleague of Renshaw’s, reflects on their shared journey spanning 37 seasons at the NAC and beyond. Burden, who recently retired after 50 years as the Orchestra’s bass trombonist, joined a distinguished jury for the 43rd annual NAC Orchestra Bursary Competition; including NACO members Steven van Gulik, Stephanie Morin, Marc-André Riberdy, Leah Roseman, external juror Jo Ann Simpson, and committee chair Christina Cameron, Linda Renshaw, Don’s widow, graced the occasion by presenting the inaugural award to Prost during the Bursary Competition Finals on April 7, 2024.

In a candid interview, Burden shares insights into the selection process, emphasizing the importance of a performer’s comfort and authenticity on stage. Despite her youth, 17-year-old Constance Prost captivated the jury with her debut performance in the NACO Bursary Competition, securing a spot in the finals of the prestigious contest, which welcomes young musicians up to 26 years old with ties to the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Burden fondly recalls Renshaw's infectious energy and passion for music-making, traits he saw mirrored in Prost's performance: “Flair is something that Don had. He had energy in abundance and so much joy and love of performing,” says Burden. “Everything about his performance went beyond the notes on the page.”

Prost’s exceptional talent and passion for music echo Renshaw’s spirit, making her a worthy recipient of the inaugural award. She showcased her prowess with a captivating rendition of Stjepan Šulek’s Sonata ‘Vox Gabrieli’ for trombone and piano during the competition finals.

For Burden and the jury, bestowing the inaugural award represents a poignant moment of closure and renewal. “It’s coming full circle. I think being part of the initiation of this award helped me to work through my grief,” reflects Burden. The jury takes pride in honouring Prost with this award, ensuring that Renshaw’s legacy endures through future generations of musicians.

The Don Renshaw Memorial Award for Brass, valued at $500, will be awarded to a brass player at the annual NAC Orchestra Bursary Competition. When there are no brass musicians participating in the competition, the prize will not be awarded. Please consider applying for future Bursary Competitions if you are an eligible youth with connections to Ottawa-Gatineau or know of someone who fits that bill.

Please join us in remembering our dear friend and colleague by donating to the Don Renshaw Memorial Fund.

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