It was ten years ago that Pierre Simard, Artist Director and Conductor for the Vancouver Island Symphony stepped onto the Port Theatre stage for the first time. He performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and now, a full decade later, Simard will once again visit a piece he describes as monumental - a pillar piece for any conductor. This is a night of celebration – big, bold and Beethoven!

What audiences will experience on April 21st, at Pierre’s 10th Anniversary, is a night of glorious music. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is the eternal “Choral” Symphony – and includes the famous “Ode to Joy”. Joining Pierre and the stellar orchestra, is the VIS Symphonic Choir and the VIS Children’s Choir, directed by Patricia Plumley. The work’s vibrant message of joy and peace resonates with great importance and meaning – a wonderful way to celebrate a 10 year anniversary!

Simard is excited about this season finale performance and is reflecting on the last 10 years at the helm of the Vancouver Island Symphony. When Simard joined the VIS, the season consisted of seven performances and a school show. Today, there is the Main Stage program, a chamber orchestra series and a matinee series. The Symphony has also expanded its geographical scope with concerts in Campbell River, Courtenay and Duncan. A thrill to see live, symphonic music grow and thrive in the mid-Island region.

Simard says, “I believe that live music allows people to experience a moment in time together – there is something magical about 50 musicians performing on stage as one. How lucky I am to be working with these amazing musicians for 10 years here in Nanaimo. It is a gift and a reason to celebrate!”
Simard extends that credit to include the audience, the symphony administration and Board of Directors, with special acknowledgement to Margot Holmes. “I have been very blessed to have Margot around. She’s extremely competent and has been recognized for her work in the arts."

Despite growth and chemistry, however, Simard says that his time with the VIS has not been without challenges, most of which are external. “In a world of Netflix and Spotify and in a world where you can turn your TV on and get a subscription to Berlin Philharmonic archives, it’s getting harder to get audiences out to the Port Theatre.”
This increased competition forces the orchestra to continue raising the bar and finding innovative ways to attract local audiences, but funding challenges and political positioning add further stresses. Some countries support the arts to the tune of $17 per capita. In Canada, it’s a mere dollar.

Simard recently moved to Nanaimo, with his wife, Nadya Blanchette, and their three children. He was travelling at least one week each month. “I felt it was important to be truly a part this community, for the orchestra and my family.”