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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Q&A | 14 Questions For Peter Oundjian

By Michael Vincent on May 9, 2015

TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian Photo: Sian Richards
TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian Photo: Sian Richards

Every so often, MT poses 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A kind of Rorschach personality test, if you will.

For those in Toronto, conductor Peter Oundjian needs little introduction. He has served at Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for the past eleven seasons, and is credited with helping revive a once financially strapped organization into one of the most profitable orchestras in Canada.

As a Toronto native, he first started studying music at the London Royal College of Music and later at the Juilliard School, with Itzhak Perlman and Dorothy DeLay. It was at Juilliard that the conducting bug first hit, and where he received much encouragement from reputed Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan to consider pursuing this path seriously. After a number of conducting engagements with Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam (now the Amsterdam Sinfonietta), Caramoor International Music Festival and Colorado Symphony Orchestra, he was appointed Music Director of the TSO in January 2003, and assumed the post in 2004. Throughout his tenure with the TSO, he has extended his contract three times though to 2016-2017.

A staunch supporter of contemporary music, Oundjian established the annual New Creations Festival, which showcases some of the most important upcoming  compositional voices. In May 2009 Oundjian received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Conservatory. In 2012 he was appointed Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Fun Fact: The British comedian Eric Idle of the famed Monty Python is his cousin!


What are three things that Toronto doesn’t have but should?

A winning hockey team, mild winters, and $100M endowment for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Name the musical equivalent to junk food.


Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere?

Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

Is there a local music store that could sell you anything?


If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?

A beach in Croatia.

The three books you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, Voltaire’s Candide, and Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by Karl Jung.

Your three favourite films?

Annie Hall, Holy Grail, Autumn Sonata.

What is the worst thing about your work?

Being away from my family.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

Roger Federer’s!

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?

Electric guitar.

What sport did you give up and why?

Soccer – because I was better at the violin!

Your first memory?

Answering these questions!

The best way to die?

Quietly and quickly.

The piece of music you want played at your funeral?

Slow movement of the Schubert Cello Quintet.


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Michael Vincent
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