• By: OLM Staff

The charm of the Laurentian Junior Music Club: Encouragement, dedication, excellence and longevity

Ottawa is charmed with an array of arts and culture gems satisfying a variety of interests. One of these is the long running Laurentian Junior Music Club (LJMC) and its series of concerts.
The club has been operating in Ottawa and providing a comfortable and intimate venue for young musicians to hone their performance skills on stage before appreciative audiences. For many the club has been a dry run for upcoming music exams or festivals. For music teachers, on the other hand, it has also provided an opportunity for students to show their musical mettle. The club has created a true community in the city; musicians, teachers and families all linked by their collective love of music and music-making. Many of those links have been long running and there have been a plethora of local and prominent musicians who graced the stages in their up and coming days.

Several prominent Ottawa-area music teachers have also been connected to the Laurentian Junior Music Club. I recently shared correspondence with both the current president, Steve Barry and Mrs. Edith Orton. Mrs. Orton is well recognized in Ottawa’s piano teaching community and has been an active member of the Ontario Registered Music Teacher’s Association for many years. Her association with many related organizations including the LJMC has left a lasting legacy on the Ottawa arts and music scene. For more information about Mrs. Orton please visit: http://www.rcmexaminations.org/college/examiners/bios%20pdf/OrtonEdith.pdf

Personally, I have deep ties with LJMC. My sister and I were active in the Ottawa classical music community and performed in the LJMC concerts. So when the three of us got to reminisce about the past, we focused on the history and contributions of the long running Laurentian Junior Music Club and its place in the Ottawa Music landscape.

In speaking with Mrs. Orton I learned a little bit about the history of the Club and some of its highlights over the years.

JD: What is the history and inspiration for the Club? How did it get started?

EO: To begin with, the Club was started before we arrived in Ottawa in 1967.I joined shortly after we arrived. Mrs. Elsie Melson was the greatest instigator of the club, but unfortunately she passed away in 2002, and we were unable to recover all the History, as she had kept all the files.
At present we have 70 members, and hold 6 concerts plus the Highlight Concert, each year.
All members of the Executive and Committees are volunteers.

When the LJMC was initiated, meetings were held in the Laurentian High School. When it was closed, we moved to the Music Department of Carleton University. The current President is Steve Barry. Former Presidents that I remember have been: Helen Sinclair, Pegi Domitrovits, Michael Measures, Hans Messinger, Edith Orton.

The objective of the Club is to encourage the development of young musicians by providing them with opportunities to perform in a supportive and non-competitive recital environment.

Well known musicians who have performed at the LJMC include Angela Hewitt, Paul Halley, D.D.Jackson, Sylvia Cheng and others like yourself and your sister, who have gone on to a music career.

JD: How does someone get to be a performer in a Laurentian Junior Music Club concert. What is the process and where do they take place?

SB: Our performers must be under 25 years of age and a member of the club. A performance must be auditioned at the end of a previous concert unless otherwise exempted by club rules. This helps meet a key objective of keeping musical standards at a strong level. All concerts are held at the Carleton University Music Department.

JD: What do you feel young musical performers take away from the experience of performing in one of the Club’s concerts?

SB: I think our young performers take away a sense of accomplishment. And relief! The music played by these youngsters is hugely challenging and they work diligently to master their performances. They also become accustomed to the etiquette of presenting themselves for a stage performance which serves them well at competitions and at other events, musical or otherwise. We also emphasize the importance of developing listening skills and the importance of courtesy towards their fellow performers.

JD: I know over the years many wonderful up and coming Ottawa musicians have been connected to the concerts – who have been some of the luminaries who have graced your stages?

EO & SB: Well known musicians who have performed at the LJMC include Angela Hewitt, Paul Halley, D.D.Jackson, Silvie and Bryan Cheng and others like yourself and your sister, who have gone on to a music career.

JD: This is such a unique musical experience in Ottawa, do you feel there is something about the city that makes the LJMC such a success?

SB: I think it has to do with a number of things. The LJMC is an important part of the musical milieu in a city that is exceptionally supportive of musical education and development in our young. There is also a tremendous spirit of volunteerism in the teachers who have lived and worked in Ottawa for years and who are dedicated to musical education. This is at the root of the club’s longevity and success. And then there are all the terrific kids who are encouraged to take on these wonderful musical challenges. It is an inspiration to watch them grow emotionally with the music. For many it ends up being a lifelong journey.

Each year the Club recognizes talent in Ottawa’s Kiwanis Music Festival by awarding The Laurentian Junior Music Club Trophy to an exceptional performer in the Intermediate Piano Sonata, 13 years and under category. The 2011 winner was Yu Yang Xie.

Steve Barry’s last comment perfectly sums up the attraction and outstanding value of the LJMC, as he attributes much of the club’s success to the spirit of volunteerism and dedication of Ottawa music teachers.

For more information about the Laurentian Junior Music Club call: Steve Barry at 613-733-2864 for details of an upcoming concert and to purchase a membership.