In 1987, Boris Brott conceived of an idea—a music festival for the City of Hamilton during the summer. The first festival, which lasted 11 days, was featured across Hamilton and was immediately a great success. The Brott Music Festival (BMF) from that day on has grown exponentially, captivating audiences for the last 30 years. In addition to musical performances, it has also become renowned for the numerous educational and professional development programs that have been created under Brott Music since its inception. The Brott Music Festival has become an artistic staple in Hamilton and the surrounding areas.
Music is a cornerstone of our daily lives. It’s what brings us together and it’s what gives us inspiration. Knowing this, Boris Brott was determined to bring some more musical excitement to the city of Hamilton during the summer months. With support from his wife Ardyth, they founded the Brott Music Festival. Through this Festival, Boris Brott has pioneered a unique performance/mentorship program in which thousands of young professional Canadian musicians have participated. A bold and unique endeavor, the Brott Music Festival has created and maintained a reputation of high calibre musicians and performances for the last 30 years. Through the creation of the Festival, Brott Music has been able to perform a wide variety of musical genres and artistic styles across through the Golden Horseshoe including: jazz, opera, rock, pop, chamber in addition to orchestral music. In the last 30 years, the Festival has expanded its outreach outside of Hamilton to include venues across Southern Ontario.
Starting in 1988, the Festival spanned 11 days and has since expanded into a 9-week festival over the course of the summer months. The resident orchestra of the Brott Music Festival is the National Academy Orchestra of Canada (NAO), who played their inaugural season in 1989.
The National Academy Orchestra was created by Boris Brott, the only one of its kind in Canada, not just as the orchestra-in-residence of the festival but also for post-graduate training of young musicians. The NAO program gives them an opportunity to experience life as a professional musician, as well as participate in masterclasses and seminars meant to aid them in their professional careers. The National Academy Orchestra trains through the mentor-apprentice approach which allows emerging young Canadian musicians to play alongside established professionals from some of Canada’s finest orchestras. The rehearsals and performance schedules mimic a professional schedule while adhering to high artistic standards. This orchestra is one of a few organizations that has been designated as an official Arts Training School by the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1998.
Brott Opera and Brott Chorus are two other programs that have most recently been established by the Brott Music Festival. Brott Opera helps train young opera singers, much like the NAO program, by offering coaching and seminars to aspiring vocalists. The program last for 2 weeks culminating in two performances: a PopOpera and a fully-staged opera. Brott Chorus includes paid positions for section leads in the Festival Chorus, paid understudy roles with positions in the Brott Opera Chorus, and one-week choral retreat opportunities. Both Brott Opera and Brott Chorus are open to quality singers of any age ready to perform with a full symphony orchestra under the baton of Maestro Boris Brott. As part of the festival, these programs offer scores, workshops, sectionals, rehearsals, accompanists, chorus masters, a full symphonic orchestra and leadership from one of Canada’s most decorated Conductors.
In addition to encouraging young artists, BMF is also committed to introducing young people to the orchestra and orchestral music. Our Education Concerts are catered to students from junior kindergarten to grade 8. In addition to the musical aspect of our education concert, many of the performances are coupled with social issues, such as bullying, tolerance, racism and diversity. Programs are also specifically designed to meet the new Ontario Language and Social Studies curriculums and teachers are provided with pre and post-concert lesson plans. Students are encouraged to enjoy themselves while being offered interactive and multidisciplinary learning experiences. Brott Music Education Concerts have been shared with over 260,000 students since they began in 1999. Maestro Brott has always considered music education for children to be a major priority and he continues to find innovative ways to inspire children through music.
An additional emphasis for the Festival has been placed on collaboration with those interested in innovative approaches to artistic production such as the Festival’s Orchestrate Hamilton! initiative. This has allowed BMF to partner with Supercrawl and local rock artists like Terra Lightfoot and the Arkells and to offer unique performances of cross-genre collaboration. Additionally, the PopUp Opera shows, at various venues across the greater Hamilton area, are a great way to involve audiences who may not have been previously exposed to opera. These collaborations add to the cultural variety and contributions which are offered in Hamilton while allowing the field to constantly evolve and keep the audiences ‘on their toes.’ Some of the past performances for Orchestrate Hamilton! include: PopUp shows with the Arkells, a performance at the Juno Awards in 2015 (the only orchestra to do so in 10 years), and performances at Hamilton's Pan Am Closing Ceremonies and at McMaster’s LiveLab.
In Hamilton, the Brott Music Festival has garnered national attention with numerous awards and VIPs in attendance. The Festival has received the Tourism Ambassador Award from Tourism Hamilton as well as Tourism Business of the Year. From 11 days to an entire summer The Brott Music Festival has become an artistic standard bearer in the City of Hamilton, with the willing support and enthusiasm from its leaders and its citizens.
It was the City of Hamilton itself which inspired Boris and Ardyth to create this festival: “I feel such a strong connection with the city of Hamilton, not just because I live here, but because it has been the epicenter of so much of my creative life, both onstage and off.”