National Arts Centre – Careers in Music

Dancing Owl spoke to Stefani Truant, the Assistant Artistic Administrator at the National Arts Centre (NAC) Music Department, about her musical experiences and about career opportunities in the music industry that you may not have considered.


What has your experience been working at the National Arts Centre (NAC)?


It’s been a great experience. It’s a lot of fun working for Canada’s NAC and the NAC orchestra. Working with Pinchas Zukerman is quite incredible. Knowing him as a world class violinist and then getting to know him as a conductor and as a person has been phenomenal. It’s an excellent experience. We put on fantastic concerts and it’s a privilege to be a part of everything that we do here.


What have you learned from working with Mr. Zukerman?


To roll with the punches! It’s like with any artist. You get to know their personality and learn to work with them. Mr. Zukerman is wonderful to work with. He is really insightful and forward thinking. He is not just thinking of where we are now, he is thinking years from now and how to get us to where we should be. He is very forward thinking in terms of technology and his use of technology. He already uses video broadband conferencing to teach students from Ottawa and students at the Manhattan School of Music. And he’s done Master Classes like that with Helsinki. So he’s wonderful and I’m constantly fascinated. I learn so much from him every day.


What is he like as a conductor?


He’s a great conductor. Because he knows the performance aspect so well from having played as a soloist for so long, he knows exactly what he wants from the orchestra and how to draw it out of them – the sound in particular. He always works hard with the strings. As a result, we have a beautiful string sound. It’s very rich and vibrant.


What motivated you to pursue a career in music?


Even going back to high school, I always knew I wanted to have a career in music. In university I did a degree in performance. On graduating I asked myself: “Do I want to work as a performer? Do I want to be a symphony musician? What do I want to do?”. And by asking that question, I realized that a career as a performer was not right for me. Being a performer is a very difficult road to choose. You’re constantly going through auditions, especially as a symphony musician. So I decided the next best thing, and the best thing for me, was to help produce concerts and work from back stage. That’s how I started working with the orchestra.


Why is it important for a country to have a national orchestra?


It’s important to have that identity, to have a national orchestra that everyone knows represents Canada and is a national representation of Canada not only internationally abroad but also within Canada as well. There needs to be a national institution that champions music and composers from the smallest town in BC to the smallest town in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. That’s why I think that it’s important to have a national orchestra.


Why has the NAC made it a priority to being more musical education to youth?


Musical education is very important to everyone, as all of us will attest to, from musicians in the orchestra to someone like me who started playing the flute in grade seven.  Music education is important and youth education is the future of Canada. If we don’t have that ground work started, then it will all die out and we won’t have it any more. So that’s why it’s very important. The orchestra, English theatre, French theatre and dance all have youth education initiatives.


How does music make your life better and what does learning music do in general for people?


Music, in general, increases the happiness in life. It elevates your mood. Whether it’s pop, classical, electronic or whatever, it can do so much for feeling good. For me, my classical training started when I was a young girl. I became hooked on classics. Music is my life right now. It’s what I do all day. I’d be sad if I went a whole day without any music in it.


What career opportunities in the music industry exist that teens may not have already considered?


Certainly, I know I never thought that working for an orchestra was a job that I could have, yet here I am. But I think that nowadays with all of the developments in technology there are so many more opportunities - working for orchestras, working within studios, recording music, doing computer based work. There are so many more opportunities that exist now. Some of the courses that are taught today in universities and colleges didn’t exist when I was in university 15, 20 years ago. The evolution is amazing. Now, it’s like the world is your oyster - especially in terms of what’s available in the music industry as its constantly evolving and changing.


Thank you Ms. Truant for those wonderful insights! It was great talking to you.

This transcript has been abridged and edited slightly to improve readability.