It is a competitive world out there — especially for a symphony orchestra swimming in a sea of arts organizations, competing for the same philanthropic support. And for an orchestra lucky enough to receive it, the question of how they can show their gratitude is not an easy one to answer.
It’s a vital question says, Andrew McCandless, Principal Trumpet with the Toronto Symphony.
In 2015 McCandless noticed the TSO musicians never had the opportunity to express their gratitude to donors directly. So he set out to create an opportunity for donors and musicians to come together through an award. They call them “Honorary Musicians”.
“I think the two most important words we have in our vocabulary are “thank you,” McCandless said. “We’re not just people in tails and tuxedos, but real people who are very aware that we are only performing due to their generosity of time and financial support.”
This past Tuesday, former Premier of Ontario Bob Rae and well-known Toronto businessman Wilmot Matthews received the musicians’ acknowledgement in front the entire orchestra during an afternoon rehearsal at Roy Thomson Hall. McCandless introduced each of them, and on behalf of the musicians, explained exactly how much their support means to them.
They were each given a painting by visual artist Paula Arciniega and a framed photo signed by the entire orchestra. As Honorary Musicians, they were also invited to take a seat directly inside the orchestra and experience the rehearsal from the perspective of a musician.
According to McCandless, Matthews was selected for his service as a board member, donor, and dedicated concert-goer. His journey to the TSO started when he first moved to Toronto, to study. He lived with his Aunt, Mary Boyd — an ardent symphony supporter who would regularly take him to concerts. This was where his love of music was born, particularly for the work of Brahms. McCandless described Wilmot and Judy Matthews as “among the most loyal to the orchestra; They’re totally invaluable to our wellbeing.”
Bob Rae was honoured not only as a donor, but for his vital role in stabilizing the orchestra during a tumultuous period in 2002, when the orchestra was in serious crisis. “The executive director resigned suddenly, and the board was at a loss as to what to do,” McCandless recalled. “It was Bob Rae that stepped in and used his leadership to get everyone on the same page. He really pulled it all together.”
“As a musician, I never think of myself as anything other than just a guy who owns a Trumpet and got lucky playing in a city that I love with an orchestra that I love,” McCandless asserts. “Personal relationships are everything.”
Bob Rae and Wilmot Matthews join previous Honorary Musicians, including Renette Berman, Bob Corcoran, Billie Wilder, Thomas H. Beck, and Cheryl Kerr.