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INTERVIEW | Music Toronto Artistic & Executive Director Roman Borys Talks About An Exciting Season

By Albert Wong on May 2, 2024

L: Music Toronto Artistic & Executive Director Roman Borys (Photo: Shayne Gray); R: Past Celebration of Small Ensembles (Photo courtesy of Music TORONTO)
L: Music Toronto Artistic & Executive Director Roman Borys (Photo: Shayne Gray); R: Past performance at Celebration of Small Ensembles (Photo courtesy of Music TORONTO)

With one year in the role of Artistic and Executive Director of Music TORONTO under his belt, Roman Borys is more excited than ever for the upcoming season.

It has been a flurry of activity for Borys that included the announcement of Music TORONTO’s 2024-25 season, the first concert of the Celebration of Small Ensembles (COSE) series, and, on top of all that, performances with the Gryphon Trio.

Most will know Borys as the cellist of the famed piano trio. He is equally passionate about his role as an Artistic Director. Having served that role for the Ottawa Chamber Music Society for over a decade, Borys is ready to take Music TORONTO through its next chapter.

“Music TORONTO has a distinguished history that began in 1971. It is an important part of the musical fabric of Toronto,” he says.

Borys goes on to list the important musicians that Music TORONTO presented in the early years, such as Jessye Norman and Frederica von Stade, and the groups that have developed long relationships with Music TORONTO, such as the Tokyo String Quartet, and of course, the Gryphon Trio. “It’s all about the relationships with the artists,” remarks Borys.

Borys has tremendous respect for the venerable organization, and his predecessor, Jennifer Taylor, but he’s not afraid to innovate.

“What it needs aligns with what I want to do.”

Three pillars guide the programming of Music TORONTO: concert series, artistic development, and community engagement and education.

Music TORONTO is probably best known for its concert series, but Borys is interesting in making all pillars equal. In fact, “they all work together.”

Borys conceived of COSE — the Celebration Of Small Ensembles — to give early-stage career small ensembles more opportunities. He saw a need for small ensembles to learn how to put together a program, which is not a skill most musicians develop during their studies. They need to learn how to tell their story. COSE allows small ensembles to take risks, and mentors provide feedback to help refine ideas.

Audience interaction is also an important aspect of COSE. “We encourage the audience to talk to each other during intermission.” COSE is about “creating experiences in interesting spaces.” The concerts are intended to be social events, hearkening back to the origins of chamber music when it was performed in intimate settings rather than in concert halls.

It is clear that Borys is passionate about community engagement. Listen Up! is a project that brings together multi-disciplinary artists and educators to work with school children. “This is an opportunity for the kids to express themselves.” This is not merely a one-day workshop. It is a process that occurs over months that results in a final performance.

Part of the education component of next season includes Rob Kapilow’s “What Makes It Great?®” series of events. One of the two offerings will include Kapilow and the Gryphon Trio exploring Beethoven’s Archduke Trio. It will be a deep dive, a guided tour, as it were, of the music. Then, a complete performance of the piece will take place.

Even with exciting programming and plans ahead for Music TORONTO, it does face challenges. The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, where concerts have been held in the Jane Mallett Theatre, will undergo redevelopment. Although this will be a challenge, Borys seems unphased. “Constraints create opportunities. […] Whereas orchestras are big ships to turn around, chamber music ensembles are agile.”

As Music TORONTO forges ahead, Borys believes that the organization will be an enduring part of the musical ecosystem of the city. Music TORONTO will continue to underscore the impact of chamber music.

  • The second concert of COSE for this season is May 4 with Gentileschi Baroque and Rilian Trio. Find more details and tickets [HERE].

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Albert Wong
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