Jim Montgomery now wields the baton for the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra.

Jim Montgomery now wields the baton for the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra.

New leader at the helm of Strathcona Symphony Orchestra

Jim Montgomery takes over the baton from Pippa Williams

  • Sep. 23, 2015 10:00 a.m.

Mark Allan

Special to The Record

 

The Strathcona Symphony Orchestra begins its second decade with Jim Montgomery holding the baton, not Pippa Williams.

After seven years with Williams as conductor and music director, Montgomery succeeds her by drawing on 35 years of professional, orchestral and educational experience.

Although he looks forward to the challenge, Montgomery had not planned to lead the SSO.

“This came up … due to serendipity,” he said in an interview. “I moved to the Comox Valley to initiate my retirement. I was drawn by the climate and the water.”

After receiving a PhD from the prestigious Indiana University School of Music in 1987, the B.C. native was a professor at the University of Western Ontario and the University of Prince Edward Island for 15 years.

Most recently, he was director of the music program at Ardrossan Junior-Senior High School, just outside Edmonton.

“We’ve been working our way back west,” he said of he and his wife Amanda, who is on sabbatical for a year from her job in Alberta. “It’s taken 35 years but we’ve finally moved back to God’s country. It just seems right.”

Montgomery landed the SSO position after answering a newspaper ad.

He inherits a situation that Williams and other community orchestra conductors have faced – striking a balance between not overwhelming less-experienced players while not boring veteran musicians.

“That’s always the challenge of a community-based organization,” Montgomery agreed. “It’s a challenge that I really enjoy. I’ve always found it to be extremely rewarding, working with individuals who are in their seats for the right reason.

“It’s sometimes different in a professional group. It can be treated as a job. Along with the job come certain responsibilities and expectations. “Enjoyment of the music might not be the most important one.”

Working as a teacher or with community orchestras has a different dynamic.

“In many cases, you’re introducing music to these individuals for the very first time. It’s a rare opportunity to touch them in a very special way, to open their eyes to wonderful music that has existed for hundreds of years.”

He said striking that aforementioned balance is something he prides himself on.

Montgomery’s jazz and concert bands have won top honours at music festivals around Western Canada.

A trombone player, Montgomery gave private lessons on trombone, trumpet and tuba to young musicians in the Edmonton area. Time permitting, he expects to do the same in the Comox Valley.

He has conducted orchestras and taught conducting “every step along the way.”

While planning what the SSO might perform this season, Montgomery is also starting to build the SSO’s own music library “of good, representative quality music that can carry the orchestra in whatever guise it develops into in years to come.”

The SSO previously had access to music from the Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra through Williams, the VISO’s principal oboist.

Montgomery is making progress locating sheet music with the help of local people.

“Just having been here a short time, I found that everyone in the Valley is extremely helpful, friendly, co-operative…”

The Comox Valley Youth Music Centre has helped a lot and Montgomery is also exploring “a vast collection” of classical music at the West Vancouver library.

Montgomery met orchestra members at a meet and greet earlier this month, followed by a first rehearsal Sept. 14.

His diverse experience will allow him to succeed with the regional orchestra, said John Heintz, an SSO board of directors member for five years.

Montgomery, said Heintz, inherits a “fairly solid group of string players and wind players who have been with the orchestra for several years.”

Heintz admitted Montgomery has big shoes to fill.

“Losing Pippa presented a real challenge to the board,” he said. “She really brought the orchestra so far in terms of the performances they’ve been able to give.”

Williams decided not to accept a contract the SSO offered to her in the spring, said Heintz.

He praised her for the seven years she guided the SSO after relieving founder Blaine Waldbauer, now the SSO concertmaster.

“When Pippa was recommended to the orchestra, she brought not only a tremendous enthusiasm, but a very considerable knowledge of orchestral music,” Heintz stated.

“She was able to find pieces that would challenge and stretch the less-experienced members of the orchestra … but the orchestra could still perform to the standards that the audience could enjoy.”

Williams was “very imaginative in the programming,” Heintz said, recalling a Russian program including some Stravinsky, a Spanish program that included a Spanish dancer and a Gilbert and Sullivan program.

Other notable concerts were inspired by Broadway musicals and film scores.

Williams helped to expand the SSO’s audience, Heintz indicated.

“We began getting an audience that really enjoyed the music, not just because they were related to someone in the orchestra.”

Still, Heintz believes the SSO was lucky to have found such a worthy replacement.

“It looks as if he has exactly the right set of skills and experiences to make it work.”

The SSO will open its season with seasonal music in December supporting the Rotary fundraiser Basics for Babies. Concerts will follow Jan. 22 and 23, March 13 and May 28 and 29.

For more information, visit the SSO’s Facebook page.

 

Mark Allan is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Comox Valley Record.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Jim Holyoak’s installation “Quagmire.” Holyoak will be the first speaker for the Artist Talk Online Winter 2021 series. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College Artist Talk goes online for winter 2021

The series invites contemporary Canadian artists to speak about their professional practice

Colin J.D. Crooks has published his debut novel, a fantasy titled “The Shards of Etherious: Arisen.” (headshot photo courtesy Joslyn Kilborn Photography)
Cumberland author delves into fantasy world with debut novel

The Shards of Etherious: Arisen is the first book of a five-book series

Cathy Browne is very proud of her new front door. All the new doors are lovely and create an individual look for each room. Photo submitted
Courtenay’s Glacier View Lodge dressing up its doorways for residents

Glacier View Lodge’s vision of ‘feels like home’ has been enhanced this… Continue reading

Ginette Matthews shows off some of the wares at The Local Refillery. Photo by Femke Overmaat
Pandemic meant going digital quickly for Courtenay’s Local Refillery

Owner Ginette Matthews says system keep business open in its early months

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read