Welcoming a new maestro to the podium: Alexander Shelley begins his tenure

Alexander Shelley et l'Orchestre du CNA

Alexander Shelley, Music Director and the NAC Orchestra

Alexander Shelley et l'Orchestre du CNA

Alexander Shelley conducts the NAC Orchestra

Fred Cattroll

It’s like visiting an old friend.

That’s how Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra’s new Music Director, describes the joy we feel when we listen to live classical music.  “There’s nothing that compares with revisiting pieces you know and love, and the enjoyment of having them performed freshly, with an emphasis on something you haven’t heard before,” he says.

As a great artist who comes from a family of classical musicians, Alexander understands this firsthand.  He’s deeply committed to performing the core repertory of the NAC Orchestra – Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms – in the 2015-16 season.  And the new Music Director has an equally strong commitment to new creation.

“The other element of engaging with music is listening to something we don’t already know.  It’s like meeting new people.  It reminds us of how much innovation there is already in the pieces we think of as standard works,” Alexander explains.  “By being involved with creation, we gain a new perspective on the pieces we know and love.”

Whether it’s the great classics or new works he’s commissioned, Alexander is looking forward to performing with the NAC Orchestra, who he describes as “some of the finest musicians you’ll ever meet.”  He credits his predecessors, specifically Pinchas Zukerman, for placing the NAC Orchestra at the forefront of orchestras around the world and says his first intention as Music Director is to support that legacy. 

“I want to build on and develop the burgeoning international reputation of the Orchestra,” says Alexander. “And I’m excited for us to build a reputation as a cutting-edge centre for new work where the greats co-exist happily with the newest creation.  We’re in a strong position to do that because the NAC Orchestra has a heritage of great quality and style in core repertory, and as a national institution we have a responsibility to offer a forum for creativity.”

Alexander admits it’s an ambitious plan, and he’s grateful to NAC donors who share his vision and passion for the music. “To fulfill our plan to be a catalyst for creativity throughout the country, we count on donor support,” he says.  “It’s humbling to meet people who invest their hard-earned money in this vision.  I feel a responsibility to give donors a clear idea of what the vision is and to show them that they’re investing in something enduring.  Because that’s what the arts are all about.”

In fact, Alexander has already met with many valued NAC donors and hopes to meet with many more at the beginning of his tenure.  “This is a community of brilliant, visionary people,” he says of NAC’s supporters.  “I am deeply grateful for their support.  From a musical artistic point of view, I’m looking forward to the NAC being my home.  I already feel this is a home I’ll be proud of and take great pains to care for.”

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Diana Boehm