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

A second-floor balcony continues to smoulder after a fire extinguisher was used to get a small balcony fire under control at the Washington Inn Apartments. Brian Hayward, who lives on the third floor, was alerted to the fire by the smell of smoke wafting into his apartment. Photo by Brian Hayward.
Courtenay firefighters respond to balcony fire at Washington Inn Apartments

Firefighters were called out to the Washington Inn Apartments Sunday, April 17,… Continue reading

RCMP forensics investigators scour the site north of Highland School in Comox, where multiple people were stabbed during a party Saturday night, April 16. Photo by Terry Farrell
Multiple stabbings at Comox bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault near Highland Secondary

Cumberland is surrounded by trees — and logging. Its council is supporting a call to stop old-growth logging in vulnerable areas of the province such as Fairy Creek. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland backs request to save B.C.’s old-growth forests

The Comox Youth Climate Council is asking local governments to take stand

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

First in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Comox woman on fence books vaccine due to brother’s death

Leela Harrop says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

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

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read