Boston University’s College of Fine Arts’ School of Music welcomed former Vancouver Symphony Orchestra music director Bramwell Tovey as its new director of Orchestral Activities for the 2017-18 academic year, Shiela Kibbe, the School of Music’s interim director, said.
Tovey has a long list of distinctions to his name including a Canadian JUNO Award for his composition work and a Grammy for his concerto recordings. In addition, he has guest-conducted for a number of international symphonies, according to a press release from the CFA, which houses the School of Music.
“The opportunity for BU students to work with someone with his stature is a lifetime opportunity,” Kibbe said.
Tovey will take on the responsibilities as the conductor for BU’s Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, leading rehearsals and concerts. His other tasks will include listening to placement auditions and other planning work for the orchestra.
“His responsibility is to shape the programming of the season so that it represents new orchestral works,” Kibbe said, “and that it allows students to learn excerpts for auditions by playing the works they’ll later play for professional auditions.”
Kibbe added that Tovey’s globally-acquired expertise will provide students with a firsthand viewing of what it’s like to be in the profession of music, as Tovey will bring boundless stories and connections to his students in CFA.
“I think students would be interested in the fact that he’s one of the nicest people anyone has ever met,” Kibbe said. “He brings a tremendous amount of respect and humility for students and colleagues.”
After former orchestra director David Hoose stepped down in 2015, the School of Music’s director of production and performance Chris Dempsey was part of the search committee to find a new director. Hoose said he looks forward to seeing how Tovey incorporates his experience into his new position.
“He has a wealth of experience and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music and conducting that he’s willing to pass along to our students both in the orchestra and our conducting students,” Dempsey said.
Tovey already has educational experience in music, having served as the artistic advisor for VSO’s School of Music, which provides community and high-level classical training for aspiring musicians, according to its website.
Dempsey noted that Tovey’s previous experience in education will benefit students studying music.
“We like to train professional musicians, so [he will] pass along that first-hand knowledge,” Dempsey added. “He will be able to prepare our students for the best opportunities they can have.”
Several students studying music at BU said they are excited to see such a renowned musician lead the orchestra.
Graduate student Jessica Cooper is working toward a performance diploma in CFA, a non-degree program for those who want to advance their musical training. Cooper said she’s excited to see someone with such extensive experience conducting at BU.
“I think that he’s someone with experience with the world’s best orchestras, and I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to work with someone like that,” Cooper said.
Sarah Gagnon, who plays horn for the Symphony Orchestra, said that Tovey’s level of expertise will attract more music students to attend BU.
“He’ll probably bring a higher level of musicianship and … a lot of enthusiasm for the program where there wasn’t so much before,” the graduate student said. “It’s really great because I think [he’ll] makes us play better as well.”
Gagnon added that she thinks the director could also bring more people in to watch their performances.
Catherine Lee, another performance diploma student, also said she is honored to have such a world-class professional and conductor at BU. Lee, another member of the Symphony Orchestra, said she rehearsed with him during candidate auditions and appreciated the clarity of his direction.
“He [treated] students very politely but strong enough to make them understand how we’re supposed to make sound,” Lee said. “The way he was teaching us made me feel for sure that he would be such a huge turnaround for BU.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated “Hoose said he looks forward to seeing how Tovey incorporates his experience into his new position,” instead of “Dempsey said he looks forward to seeing how Tovey incorporates his experience into his new position.” The article has been updated to reflect this change.