The Dundas Valley Orchestra: A Jewel In The Valley

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One of the smartest uses of municipal tax money, next to the basics of education, sanitation, and safety, is in supporting cultural activities for the benefit of all.

The Dundas Valley Orchestra (DVO) is one such recipient, and the DVO members and executive take it to heart. They make it their goal to serve the community’s interests by offering free performances, and by maintaining an open, educational atmosphere in rehearsals and activities. Indeed, the orchestra has always had the purpose of providing a local opportunity for musical growth and community service.

Commitment to the Community

Since its founding in 1978 the Dundas Valley Orchestra’s goal has been to have musicians playing together for their love of music, and sharing their love of music with the community. As part of its mandate to serve the community, the DVO performs four times a year for local seniors’ homes, and it charges nothing for its two annual concerts.
The Dundas Valley Orchestra, June 2011
Today I have arranged to meet with orchestra president Peter Hill, Concert Master Olga Hencher, and violinist/board member Marg Jamieson. As we take our seats at the restaurant next to the Centre For String Playing, I soon get the happy feeling that they are eager to tell the DVO story. I can feel their enthusiasm, and am instantly reminded of the intangible benefits of belonging to a group such as this.
Hill shows me his book entitled, The Dundas Valley Orchestra: A Jewel In The Valley, 1978-2011 to underscore his assertion that this particular community orchestra should not be forgotten. “How many community music groups have a book written about them?” he asks. As I flip through the pages I’m discovering a piece of our own cultural history – a piece that would have faded away forever into the memories of the several hundred local musicians who have played with the DVO at one time or another. The book is a dear project of Hill, who has been DVO’s archivist over the years.
Laura Thomas
Music Director

Following the leadership of Hill, Hencher and the rest of the orchestra board, the DVO is sharpening its focus and taking steps to improve its size, sound and footprint in the community.

Laura Thomas, Music Director

A significant part of the renewed focus has come from hiring Laura Thomas as Music Director and Conductor. Thomas replaced Glenn Mallory in September 2011, after Mallory’s “filling in” stint had morphed into a fourteen year stay. Mallory is an honourary lifetime member of the Hamilton Musician’s Guild, has conducted the Hamilton Youth Orchestra, and was the coordinator of music for the Board of Education for the City of Hamilton. Under Mallory’s leadership the DVO flourished.
Ms. Thomas is a conductor, arranger, composer, percussionist and teacher. She holds master’s degree in conducting from New York’s prestigious Bard College, and is a graduate of McMaster University and Hamilton’s Mohawk College, where she studied percussion and composition. She is Associate Conductor of the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Niagara-based chamber choir Choralis Camerata, and Music Director of the Niagara Youth Orchestra and the Hamilton/Niagara area WomEnchant Chorus.
What do you think it means to be a good conductor?
Harold Farberman, Bard College
A conductor must understand what it means to be a player. About 18 years ago I began attending conducting workshops. Finally the opportunity came along to attend Bard. Harold Farberman has a unique way of thinking about the music. He also believes that as a non string player you must study to be able to “get it.” There is a physical way to communicate the music that relies less on a specific beat pattern. A couple of the members of the DVO have noticed, and they like it.  
What are your goals for the DVO under your direction?

I’d like to see us develop our listening and blending skills and to continue to grow our membership. We’ve seen some growth recently, and it’s been encouraging. The DVO has an amazing commitment to students and youth. Our May concert will include a student soloist. Our concerto competition includes a young up and coming player who performs one of the famous concertos on their instrument, accompanied by the full orchestra. We’re proud of being willing and able to give such an opportunity and experience to a young musician.

Another opportunity for young players is the Glenn Mallory award. The award goes to a student member each year. The criteria are being fine-tuned as we speak, but they are based on qualities of growth, development and commitment.What does the ideal gig look like for you, with the DVO and beyond?

I hope to continue to develop the programming. Perhaps there will be some “blurring” of the genre boundaries. I like the idea of being fresh and not-quite predictable. My dream? I’m more interested in doing the best I can in Dundas, for the community and for the orchestra at the present time. I want to make the most of where I’m standing now. And for me that’s a good place. 

The DVO rehearses on Tuesday evenings beginning in September and welcomes new members. For further information about interviews, membership or the 2012-2013 season, please email the Secretary, Alicia Hutchings, at info@dundasvalleyorchestra.ca.