Canadian virtuoso violinist James Ehnes has been Honorary Musical Ambassador for Sistema Toronto since November 2012. With this appointment, Sistema Toronto and Mr. Ehnes hope to inspire children in Toronto, across Canada and beyond borders to seek the highest levels of challenge and achievement within themselves.
Brandon-born violinist James Ehnes has established himself as one of the finest musicians of his generation. His playing has been praised for its technical prowess and often described as hair-raisingly virtuosic, majestic, poetic, and thrilling. His keen intellect and finely-tuned sense of refinement have become signatures of an artist whose performances have been heard in over 30 countries and across five continents. With 30 albums to his credit, James actively maintains a very busy schedule of performances, masterclasses and recordings, while continuing to find time to work with and support young artists throughout the world.
Celebrated cellist and genre-crossing musician Yo-Yo Ma was named Honorary Musical Ambassador for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons in October 2014.
Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. He maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world, his recital and chamber music activities, and his work with the Silk Road Project, for which he serves as Artistic Director. Mr. Ma is also widely recognized for his strong commitment to educational programs, and while touring, he takes time whenever possible to conduct master classes as well as more informal programs for students – musicians and non-musicians alike. Mr. Ma is an exclusive Sony Classical artist, and his discography of over 75 albums (including more than 15 Grammy Award winners) reflects his wide-ranging interests.
Mr. Ma has received numerous awards, including the Avery Fisher Prize, the Glenn Gould Prize, the National Medal of the Arts, the Dan David Prize, the Sonning Prize, the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mr. Ma serves as a UN Messenger of Peace and as a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities. Mr. Ma and his wife have two children. He plays two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.
Toronto Symphony Orchestra Music Director Peter Oundjian was appointed as Sistema Toronto's first Honorary Musical Ambassador in October 2012. With this appointment, Sistema Toronto and Maestro Oundjian are looking forward to exploring future creative opportunities stimulating music among Toronto youth.
Toronto-born conductor Peter Oundjian, noted for his probing musicality, collaborative spirit, and engaging personality, has been an instrumental figure in the rebirth of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since his appointment as Music Director in 2004. Maestro Oundjian's busy conducting schedule has placed him before almost every major orchestra in the world and, starting with the 2012-13 season, he will take on the leadership of the highly regarded Royal Scottish National Orchestra in addition to his ongoing TSO duties. The TSO has a strong history of providing educational programming, making this appointment for TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian a natural fit.
Acclaimed cellist and musician Shauna Rolston was named Honorary Musical Ambassador in May 2014. She is considered by peers and fans to be one of the most compelling and unique musical voices on the stage today. Praised for her blazing technique and ability to captivate the imagination and touch the heart of each audience member, Shauna continues to astonish and delight with concerts, recordings, and world premieres.
Shauna frequently collaborates with leading contemporary composers with whom she enjoys creative partnerships in developing new works and contexts for her artistry. Upcoming projects include multiple recordings and commissions including cello concertos by Kelly-Marie Murphy, Heather Schmidt, and Vincent Ho; a concerto for cello and jazz orchestra by Darcy James Argue; a whistling concerto by Heather Schmidt; and groundbreaking double concertos by Douglas Schmidt, Heather Schmidt and jazz sensation David Braid. Shauna holds a BA in Art History and a Master of Music degree from Yale University. She is Professor of Cello and Head of Strings at the University of Toronto and a Visiting Artist at The Banff Centre.