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About the NAC Orchestra

Here's some NAC Orchestra trivia

  • The National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) was formed in 1969.
  • The NAC Orchestra's home is in Canada's National Capital, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • There are 50 full-time musicians and 9 regular additional musicians in the classical sized NAC Orchestra.
  • It performs on stage and sometimes in the NAC orchestra pit for operas and ballets like The Nutcracker.
  • The NAC Orchestra season lasts 46 weeks.

Like any orchestra, there are four main instrument families in the NAC Orchestra:

  • Strings
  • Woodwinds
  • Brass
  • Percussion

You can learn interesting and fun facts about these orchestra instruments in the Instrument Lab.

  • The NAC Orchestra plays more than 100 performances a year, in and outside Canada.
  • 32 Canadian cities welcomed the NAC Orchestra during its 1991-92 concert tour.
  • The Orchestra has been to Europe five times.
  • NAC Orchestra tours have also gone to the United States, Russia, the Middle East and Asia.
  • It has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City 11 times.
  • The Orchestra has made over 40 recordings.
  • The NAC has commissioned more than 50 pieces of music by Canadian composers.
  • Pinchas Zukerman has been the NAC Orchestra Music Director since 1998.
  • His violin is 250 years old.
  • Six of the members who first played in the Orchestra are still playing in it today.
  • The Orchestra will tour Quebec in 2006 and Japan in 2007.
  • The Orchestra toured Alberta and Sasketchewan in 2005, British Columbia in 2004, the United States and Mexico in November 2003 and Atlantic Canada in November 2002.
  • In 2000 the Orchestra performed in Tel Aviv (Israel) and throughout Europe.
  • In 1999 the Orchestra toured Canada from coast to coast.

National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada: biography

Consistent praise has followed this vibrant orchestra throughout its history of touring both nationally and internationally, recording, and commissioning Canadian works. Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, now under the direction of renowned conductor/ violinist/violist Pinchas Zukerman, continues to draw accolades both abroad and at its home in Ottawa where it gives over 100 performances a year.

The NAC Orchestra was founded in 1969 as the resident orchestra of the newly opened National Arts Centre, with Jean-Marie Beaudet as Music Director and Mario Bernardi as founding conductor and (from 1971) Music Director until 1982.  He was succeeded by Franco Mannino (1982 to 1987), Gabriel Chmura (1987 to 1990), and Trevor Pinnock (1991-1997). In April 1998, Pinchas Zukerman was named Music Director of the NAC Orchestra.

In addition to a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season, tours are undertaken to regions throughout Canada and around the world. Since the arrival of Pinchas Zukerman, education has been an extremely important component of these tours. He has led the Orchestra on tours within Canada in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, to Europe and Israel in 2000, and the United States and Mexico in 2003, with educational activities ranging from masterclasses and question-and-answer sessions to sectional rehearsals with youth and community orchestras and student matinees. Teacher Resource Kits have been developed for distribution to elementary schools in the regions toured and across Canada, and the public has been able to follow each tour through fully interactive websites which are now archived on the NAC’s Performing Arts Website at The Orchestra’s tour of Quebec in November 2006 included 70 education events.

In 1999 Pinchas Zukerman initiated the NAC Young Artists Programme, which is now part of the NAC Summer Music Institute (SMI) including the Conductors Programme founded in 2001, and the Young Composers Programme founded in 2003. The 2007 SMI assembled over 80 talented musicians chosen by audition from Canada and around the world to study with an international faculty headed by Zukerman. Other Orchestra education activities at home include Musicians in the Schools, student matinees and open rehearsals, and masterclasses. Since the arrival of Pinchas Zukerman, the Orchestra is also exploring education through long-distance Broadband videoconferencing, and increased use of the Internet. In 2007, Pinchas Zukerman launched the Institute of Orchestral Studies, a year-round institute charged with developing highly talented musicians for orchestral careers.

The NAC Orchestra has 40 recordings to its name, six with Pinchas Zukerman: Haydn, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schubert and two of Mozart (a CD of flute quartets, and a CD of orchestral music and string quintets). The commissioning of original Canadian works has always been an important part of the National Arts Centre’s mandate with over 70 works commissioned to date. The NAC Orchestra’s current New Music Programme includes $75,000 Awards to three Canadian composers – Denys Bouliane, Gary Kulesha and Alexina Louie – for which they have each been commissioned to create three works while collaborating with the NAC on the Young Composers Programme and educational activities on tour.

January 2008