Concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, violinist with the New Orford String Quartet, Associate Professor of Violin at the University of Toronto and now Artistic Director-designate of Toronto Summer Music Festival, the Prince George native, McGill University graduate seems to thrive with all of his busyness. Hoping to delve further into what drives the talented musician in such a hectic life, JWR had a brief conversation with Jonathan Crow in his U of T office just prior to TSMF’s “A Shakespeare Serenade” in the venerable Walter Hall.
JWR: How did you get hooked into a life of music?
JC: At first, my piece was the Beethoven violin concerto but not far behind was Brahms’ piano quintet. I am drawn to the intimate setting of chamber music—connecting with colleagues one-to-one.
JWR: In general, as a programmer, what’s your overall method?
JC: I’m a huge fan of mixing types and eras of repertoire rather than ghettoization. Having Beethoven followed by Webern, for example, helps audiences realize where things have come from without the need of a lecture; in that way, the concert is not education as such but a way of showing the natural progression from one composer to another.
JWR: Well I am sure many music lovers are excited to hear of your plans for your first season with TSMF. Is it too soon to share some of your ideas?
JC: As with the work of my predecessor, Douglas McNabney, every year will have a theme [note: for 2016 the theme is “London Calling: Music in Great Britain”]. And with 2017 being Canada’s sesquicentennial, I am sure there will be something Canadian—either specific works or celebrating a lot of Canadian artists.
JWR: I am not as aware of the TSMF-related Toronto Summer Music Academy, but I do know how committed you are to sharing your knowledge and skills with the next generation of performers. What role does the Academy play in developing instrumentalists and singers?
JC: The 29 Fellows come from all over the world, most of them are selected via video auditions. [note: There are two divisions: Art of Song and Chamber Music Institute]. Everyone is on scholarship so that lack of financial resources is never an issue. Their time here prepares them for real professional life: the rigours of short, intensive practice schedules and public performances [i.e., “Chamber Music reGENERATION Concerts] become part of the Festival’s public face. When I was coming up, I wouldn’t have known that I needed this sort of pre-professional training. Douglas agrees with me that this aspect of TSMF is vital to the future of our art. After all, we have a responsibility to keep the art form going.
JWR: It is good to hear that both McNabney and Crow are of like minds when it comes to cultivating and nurturing those contemplating a career in a very demanding profession. But as Crow proves every day in his multiple roles, sharing what has been learned or achieved thus far, is an excellent way of passing the torch to others when their time comes. JWR