SoundBites

A Conversation with Conductor John Thompson

Mount Royal Conservatory  conductor John Thompson takes the Morningside Music Bridge orchestra through a final rehearsal.
Mount Royal Conservatory conductor John Thompson takes the Morningside Music Bridge orchestra through a final rehearsal.

Considering they experience just four orchestra rehearsals before performing, Morningside Music Bridge string musicians couldn’t ask for a better conductor than John Thompson.

Conductor John Thompson
Conductor John Thompson

The chamber coach is Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy chamber music program coordinator and conductor for our Conservatory strings.

But during Morningside Music Bridge, he coaches chamber and conducts the MMB Orchestra, this year leading them through Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

“Being of English heritage, it’s one of my favourite pieces from England. I love the piece, I’m happy to work on it,” said Thompson on the eve of the performance.

Question: What’s it like coaching top students from around the world?

John Thompson: The students do play at a very high level, they have a lot of skills to begin with. Most of them are pretty well technically equipped. You can spend more time on musical elements and colour and moods of music rather than just trying to teach them how to shift.

Question: As the conductor, you don’t have much time to rehearse. What has that been like?

John Thompson: Some have less orchestral experience than others, and so there are elements of counting and listening. They have to develop those skills. But when you put them all together it’s a wonderful combination of talent.

Question: What’s the best part of a program like Mornginside Music Bridge?

John Thompson: I think that because there are different countries, they’re exposed to a lot of different kids of music. They get great teaching from a variety of instructors. They do a lot of performing and there’s a lot expected of them. They’re all very motivated. And they make very good friendships and they learn a lot from each other.

By Sherri Zickefoose, July 31, 2014

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