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Youth orchestra plays together for the first time since K-W Symphony cancelled its season

Former members of the Youth Orchestra played together for the first time on Sunday, one week after the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony abruptly cancelled its season.

The young musicians were asked to join a new community youth orchestra which will practice weekly at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.

“They are going to be able to focus on their love of music and focus on their practicing and go on to be part of the solution in our community going forward,” said conductor Matthew Jones. “It’s amazing to me – all the positive energy that surrounds this orchestra. We have only lost one rehearsal in the chaos that the community is going through right now. That’s extraordinary and really speaks to the commitment of our parents, the commitment of our youth, and the love of what we do here.”

While there’s no cost to the musicians who take part, an email to their families indicated that they would not be performing at the Centre in the Square or the Conrad Centre and visits from guest clinicians and conductors was unlikely.

Jones is impressed with how the musical community has responded to the symphony’s announcement.

“The loss to us is indescribable, it’s so tragic,” he said on Sunday. “But in their names, and on the backs of their goodwill – because many of those musicians have volunteered to help us and to come out and be our mentors and continue to coach our youth – on their backs we are going to be able to continue that important relationship and celebrate that wonderful music.”

The community youth orchestra at Wilfrid Laurier University, conducted by Matthew Jones, on Sept. 24, 2023.

Jones told CTV News earlier this week that senior youth members were the first to be invited to the new orchestra.

“They are the oldest students, they are the most practiced, the most experienced,” he said. “Some of them indeed go on to a career in music, to study at university, etc. So it’s an important stepping stone for those musicians.”

The younger ensembles will eventually be folded in.

“They are our future,” Jones said. “We want a youth orchestra to be here for the next generation of musicians as well. The onus is on us, on the decisions we make today to make sure that that has the best chance of taking place.”


On Sept. 16, the night before the first practice for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony’s Youth Orchestra was set to take place, they were informed via email that all upcoming rehearsals and performances had been called off.

The symphony later clarified it was cancelling its entire 2023-2024 season unless it received $2 million in funding to avoid insolvency.

The community rallied to help the KWS musicians by launching a GoFundMe page, which raised more than $344,000 as of Sept. 24.

Despite the last minute plea, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony was unable to come up with the needed funding and on Thursday it announced the organization had filed for bankruptcy.

“Everybody has coalesced around this crisis and are instinctively looking for places to put their support,” said Jones. “If the youth orchestra can provide a place for that passion, and a focus for the need to move forward from here and to build something great and better then I am thrilled to be a part of that, and I am delighted that it has taken very little energy to procure that.”

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony had been a part of the community for 78 years. Top Stories

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