Classical Q&A with Jonathan Crow

Orchestra London opens this year’s Classics & Beyond series at St. Paul’s Cathedral with an all-Beethoven program featuring guest soloist Jonathan Crow. Recently appointed concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the 35-year-old violinist is one of the few household names on the Canadian classical music scene.

You are a concertmaster, a soloist, a chamber musician and a teacher. Is the day of the specialist musician over, or do you just enjoy wearing many different hats?

I enjoy doing many different things in music. I have had great opportunities in my career to perform in orchestra, as soloist, as a chamber musician, and also to work as a teacher. There is so much great music out there, and I certainly don't want to confine myself to one niche. Although my regular job is in orchestra, I could never go through life without having the chance to play the Beethoven Violin Concerto or a Brahms String Quartet!

You achieved professional success at a very young age. How has your approach to music, and the profession of music, changed as you have matured?

I'm not sure my approach has changed, as one of the interesting things about music is the amount of time that one prepares before ever joining the field.

I starting playing when I was six, and was lucky to have wonderful teachers who helped me prepare for professional life. When I was young I played in the Prince George Symphony Orchestra, a semi-pro orchestra in my home town, giving me orchestral experience at an early age, and since that have been given many opportunities to perform across Canada with different orchestras.

I have worked with musicians much older than myself and also many who are much younger- age doesn't seem to matter in classical music!

The TSO has made great strides in attracting younger audiences, something that many classical ensembles struggle with. What can other organizations learn from the TSO experience?

The TSO has done a great job of breaking the mold of the standard 8:00 pm evening show, giving concerts of varied repertoire at many different times, giving different audiences a chance to hear what we do.

In my opinion, the important thing to keep in mind when attracting new audiences is to have a strong idea of what one is trying to present, and stick to it. Rather than changing our core repertoire the orchestra has succeeded in marketing our product and putting it in a setting which is attractive to many different people.

I believe that most people would enjoy an orchestral show if they could be convinced to attend. Everyone likes movie soundtracks after all, and the difficulty is presenting the orchestra in such a fashion that people who know nothing about classical music will feel comfortable going to a concert.

As someone in your early 30s, what would you say to your peers about why they should give classical music a chance – especially live performance?

People who have never gone to the symphony often have misconceptions about orchestral music- people who love the music of John Williams often wouldn't consider attending a Beethoven Symphony. We need to let everyone know that it is all just music and that great music can be heard in so many places- at a local church, in the movie theatre, in the concert hall.

If You Go:

Orchestra London, Crow Plays Beethoven
October 10 @ 8 pm
St. Paul’s Cathedral

Nicole Laidler is editor of The Beat Magazine and a local freelance writer and business communicator. Visit her at

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