Inspired by the NB Youth Orchestra

From a recent column in the Telegraph-Journal.

If you want an aspirational vision for our future as a province look no further than the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.

I had the opportunity to watch the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra perform this weekend in Bathurst. My daughter is one of the four young musicians who play the clarinet so I get the chance to attend several performances during the course of the year. While analyzing the artists and the repertoire, I can’t help but think the youth orchestra represents a microcosm of a future prosperous and vibrant New Brunswick.

First, the orchestra represents where we will need to be demographically over the next 20 years. By my count, the orchestra is made up of about one-third new immigrants or the Canada-born children of first generation immigrants. This impressive cultural dynamic is a demonstration of how immigration will enrich our society and strengthen economic opportunity.

Second, even as it embraces multiculturalism the youth orchestra shows a strong commitment to New Brunswick’s two language heritage. The orchestra is made up of a good mix of young people with English or French as their mother tongue. During the performance the microphone was passed from one young person to another and each spoke in fluent French. This also should be our aspiration for the future.

Third, the youth orchestra is globally-oriented. The leadership brought in a rising star, Antonio Delgado, from Venezuela as Musical Director and Conductor. His unique style weaves a variety of influences including Latin American music which brings a little flair to the performance. As Delgado conducted Mexican composer Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No.2 in Bathurst, I glanced around the audience to see more than a few normally reserved New Brunswickers tapping their feet.

Fourth, the youth orchestra is focused on excellence. These young women and men are impressive. They individually work hard at their craft and come together under Delgado with beautiful and inspirational performances.

Fifth, the young musicians come from across the province. A prosperous future New Brunswick will similarly need to build on strengths and economic opportunities from one end of the province to the other.

Finally, the leadership is ambitious. The kind of ambition we need across our society in business and government. President and CEO Ken MacLeod wanted to project the youth orchestra on the world stage. They periodically tour through Europe and have played in world famous venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City.

MacLeod’s ambition for the youth orchestra took a big leap forward several years ago when he brought the El Sistema program to the province. Sistema NB is an after school orchestral music program meant to “inspire children and youth to achieve their full potential and to acquire values that favour their growth and have a positive impact on their lives and society”. Sistema NB now operates four centres, in Moncton, Saint John, Richibucto and the Tobique First Nation, and engages more than 600 children daily.

Dynamic, ambitious, multicultural, focused on excellence, growth-oriented and globally connected. To me that sounds like the kind of New Brunswick I could get excited about.

If you get a chance to go see the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra you are in for a treat. They will be playing in Saint John on January 25th, Moncton and Sussex in February and the season finale will be held in Fredericton on March 29th.

You will witness young talent at its finest. You might also get a glimpse of the New Brunswick that could be waiting for us just over the horizon.