The TBSO is a gift

November 2019

“Our TBSO has one of the finest string ensembles of any orchestra anywhere—and in this performance they all but glowed.” That’s what art reviewer Michael Sobota had to say about the opening of the first Masters concert this season. He finished up, saying, “There was electricity in the orchestra, and the hall as they brought this great work to its resounding conclusion. This is what our symphony can do. And do so well.”

Odds are most of Thunder Bay’s music lovers weren’t in the audience that night, which is a shame. Because over the years the TBSO has evolved into a world class orchestra. That’s not just an idle claim. Last year the orchestra was nominated for a Juno Award for its Into the Wonder recording with the internationally famous Gryphon Trio.

When I first started with the orchestra two and a half years ago it was deeply in debt. Working together with our extraordinarly dedicated supporters, we’ve managed to reduce that debt by over $200,000, bringing the deficit to its lowest level in over 25 years. We’ve done that by demonstrating that this orchestra is among the finest in the country, and very much worth preserving for future generations. The board and administration plan to eliminate the remaining deficit in less than two years, making the TBSO completely debt free.

Being debt free is nothing less than a new beginning. The question then becomes, what comes next? The answer is, of course, bringing more people into the classical music experience. Which is why this season is titled “World Class Season 59, Music You Love! If you haven’t been to the symphony for a long time, we’ve been thinking about you—and what you care about.

I grew up in Thunder Bay. People here love our families and our kids. We love our natural environment and geography. We love our distinctive northern culture. We love that we’re not Toronto or New York, as great as those cities may be. We love that we have grit, determination and honesty. These are things we’re building back into the TBSO’s music.

This season we have a Nordic concert and an Outsiders concert and an Earth Day concert in our Masters Series. Our Northern Lights Series features our fabulous local talent like Nancy Freeborn and Zoey Williams in our Women & The Blues concert. We’ve also added a fourth concert to the series. A collaboration with Indigenous artists, Noondaagotoon (“Play it!” in Ojibwa), is now a regular feature of Northern Lights. We’ve also added a fourth concert to the very popular Sunday matinée Family Series at Grassroots Church—because kids really are our future—and because grownups like affordable afternoon concerts too!

Performing the greatest music in the world is the gift the TBSO has been bringing to us for almost 60 years. Our funders, sponsors and donors—and our audiences—recognize this. For example, government funding pays for more than a third of our annual operating costs. Local fundraising covers a whopping 42 percent of our annual operating costs. All that funding means you never pay the actual cost of a ticket. Every ticket is highly subsidized, so we all have the chance to hear an affordable concert.

I have a couple of goals. One is to help us keep on building the greatest small symphony orchestra in Canada. The second is to make sure that as many people as possible take in just one TBSO concert a season—especially if they’ve never been, or haven’t been in years. If ticket price is a factor, there are Family Series concerts, and even the free Symphony Virgins concert we perform at the beginning of every season. But I’m sure that buying one ticket a season to a great concert won’t break most bank accounts. And the personal rewards are simply…priceless!

It’s time to go shopping for one of the finest entertainment gifts available in Thunder Bay. You’ll find all TBSO concerts and specials at You owe it to yourself, your friends and your family to check it out!

In the words of Mr. Sobota, “Thunder Bay has a major cultural asset here, one worthy of our attention, support and attendance …Bravo TBSO.”

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