Elizabeth is one three individuals we nominated for the University of Toronto Arbor Awards in recognition of their volunteer contributions to the university. She has been involved with the Hart House Orchestra in a variety of roles since 1999.

The Arbor Awards recognize alumni and friends of the University of Toronto whose volunteer work has added immeasurably to the quality of U of T. For the past 18 years or so, Elizabeth, (pictured above) has spent considerable time serving the Orchestra, first as a musician, then as a day-trip planner for the Hart House Orchestra Committee. We sat down with Elizabeth to chat about her dedication, hard work and the Orchestra itself. 

What does it feel like to receive the Arbor Award? 

It is a great honour to be a recipient of this award. This was not something I had thought about being rewarded for, but it is great to be appreciated!

Volunteering at the Orchestra can be time-consuming. Why do you do it?

I do it because music is my passion. This is also one of the many opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area to play great music with great musicians, but it is unique in its association with the University of Toronto, which allows us to be part of a larger organization and promote the university in our performances and trips to other cities.

When you first joined the Orchestra, did you envision staying on for as long as you have?

I didn’t really think about how long I would stay a member of Hart House Orchestra. I usually take things year by year, but then the years creep by on you! Obviously it is still enjoyable otherwise I wouldn’t keep doing it. Looking back, it is interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t. Overall, I think the orchestra has accomplished a huge amount over the years with regards to repertoire, membership and outreach.

You’ve organized the logistical details of the 100-person Hart House Orchestra travelling for performances in Ottawa, Montreal, Sudbury, Kingston and this past winter, to Carnegie Hall in New York City. Did these logistical kinds of duties come naturally to you, or did you have to work at it? In other words, did the Orchestra enable you to develop these skills?

My daily job as a university administrator is fairly logistical, but I am generally an organizer by nature, so these duties came by quite naturally to me. I’m the kind of person who likes to start, run and end a process in the most efficient way possible. Running a trip for a group of people is a lot like that. I’ve tried to improve the methods of organization over the years so that things run smoothly. This past year’s trip to Carnegie Hall was the most complicated yet, with specific documents required to cross the border into the US as well as the ticketing, sponsorship and fundraising for the concert itself. There was a huge committee team effort to accomplish all of that this year, which I cannot take credit for.

Besides volunteering at Orchestra, do you, or did you do anything else at Hart House?

This past year, I pushed forward a project to have some extra shelves built in the Hart House percussion cell storage, which were sorely needed by all ensembles that use that space. I also researched and lobbied for protective sound shields to be purchased for the orchestra and band by Hart House for the health and safety of its musicians. This year I hope to research options for better acoustic materials to use in rehearsals and concerts in the Great Hall. My regular job is working in administration at the Faculty of Medicine at the U of T Mississauga campus.

How would you encourage today’s students to get involved on campus, but outside their classroom? What do you see as the value of outside-the-classroom or student-led programming?

It is always great to see new students coming into the orchestra and anecdotally, they comment on how it’s a welcome departure from their busy studies and exams. Those of us who are senior members are constantly amazed at the musical talent that these students bring to the orchestra. We often wonder if they have missed their calling! We encourage student participation and welcome more students on the committee at any time. There are many roles to fill that give satisfaction and would continue to make the Hart House Orchestra experience better and better as well as enhance their overall U of T life.