Boris Brott, OC OOnt (born March 14, 1944) is a Canadian conductor and motivational speaker.
Born in Montreal, the son of violinist and composer Alexander Brott and cellist Lotte Brott, and brother of cellist Denis Brott.
Boris Brott is one of the most internationally recognized Canadian conductors. He has conducted on stages around the world—from Carnegie Hall to Covent Garden. Charismatic and innovative, he is fiercely dedicated to the musical education of young people and innovative methods of introducing classical music to new audiences. Over his career, he has been devoted to the promulgation of Canadian musical talent and has commissioned, performed and recorded countless Canadian works.
He is the founder and artistic director of the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, Canada's only professional training orchestra and the Brott Music Festival, the country's largest orchestral music festival. Both are based in Hamilton, Ontario and are nearly 25 years old.
In 2011 Brott was named Principal Guest Conductor of the historic Petruzzelli Theatre in Bari, Italy. Brott is Founding Music Director and Conductor Laureate of the New West Symphony in Los Angeles, the McGill Chamber Orchestra in Montreal and was Principal Youth & Family conductor with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, where he had guest conducted for 40 years and continues as such with an emphasis on family and education concerts.
Early life and emerging career
Boris Jeremiah Brott was born into a musical family in Montreal in 1944. He studied violin with his father, Alexander Brott, and performed at the age of five with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra at a young peoples’ matinee. He took courses at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal and the McGill Conservatory, and in 1956 studied conducting at the summer school of Pierre Monteux, who engaged him as assistant for concerts in Europe. He next studied with Igor Markevitch and won first prize at the 1958 Pan-American conducting competition. In 1959, at the age of 15, he founded the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra of Montreal and led it in his conducting debut in that city. His first international success came in June 1962, when he won third prize at the Liverpool Competition. He served 1963-5 as the assistant conductor of Walter Susskind with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and then embarked on a career in England as conductor of the Northern Sinfonia at Newcastle upon Tyne (1964-8). He made several tours with this chamber orchestra, among which was one in Canada, which included concerts at Expo 67. Concurrently, (1964-7), Brott was principal conductor for the touring company of the Royal Ballet Covent Garden. During the 1965-6 season at Covent Garden he conducted the Royal Ballet's first production at that theatre of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale (1966) and toured the production in Britain. He won first prize and a gold medal at the sixth Dimitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition in 1968 and served 1968-9 as assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Brott was named one of Canada's Outstanding Young Men in 1969 and 1973 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1972 Brott was appointed conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra.
Development of Canadian Orchestras
Brott directed the Lakehead Symphony Orchestra (Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra) 1967-72 and the Regina Symphony Orchestra 1971-3. From 1969 to 1990 he was artistic director and conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra; under his leadership the orchestra grew from an amateur ensemble to a professional one with a 42-week season and 16,000 subscribers. The orchestra also gave birth to the Canadian Brass. It was during his tenure at the HPO that Hamilton enjoyed a cultural renaissance of sorts, moving quickly ahead of its dominant image as a steeltown. Brott and the HPO made international headlines and front pages when he became the first conductor to lead an orchestra in the middle of a steel factory blast furnace in the heart of Hamilton's industrial core at Dofasco Inc.- now Arcelor Mittal. He gained a reputation as a fearless, charismatic maestro who brought visual elements, ballet dancers, Shakespearean actors, film, rock groups, even astronauts to the stages of classical music concerts. In 1975, he assumed directorship of the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra. From 1982 to 1985 he was artistic director of Symphony Nova Scotia. He led the Ontario Place Pops Orchestra 1983-1991. In 1977 he had made his opera debut, conducting Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment for the COC. Brott later directed Opera Hamilton and guest-conducted with the Canadian Opera Company and Sadler's Wells Opera. Brott became music director of the New West Symphony, California, in 1995; in 2002, he took over leadership of the McGill Chamber Orchestra.
A regular guest conducting schedule in Italy ramped up for Brott in the 21st century. He embarked on a notable guest conducting schedule at Italy's famed opera halls, including the Teatro Petruzzelli, the Arena di Verona and the Teatro Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste.
Law School and Motivational Speechmaking
Brott studied law at the University of Western Ontario 1992-5, and in 1995 began giving motivational seminars to Fortune 500 companies using symphonic music as a metaphor. Brott has produced, conducted, or hosted a large number of television and radio programs for the CBC, and the BBC and ITV in the UK, and recorded with various orchestras for CBC, Mercury, Pro-Arte and Sony Classical.
Founding of Brott Music Festival and National Academy Orchestra of Canada
In 1988, he founded the Brott Music Festival, which has since become Canada's largest orchestral music festival. It is a cultural cornerstone in Hamilton and surrounding areas for the months of July and August. From that, he created the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, recognized in 1999 as a National School by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The NAO pairs music graduates pursuing a career with professional musicians from across North America's finest orchestras in a mentor-apprentice relationship. It is Canada's only professional training orchestra and its nearly 1,000 graduates have gone on to perform and teach worldwide.
In 2000, he received international attention when he conducted the historic first performance of Bernstein's Mass in Vatican City for an audience which included the late Pope John Paul II.
In 1986, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2006, he was made a member of the Order of Ontario.
In May, 2006 he was voted one of the top five Greatest Hamiltonians of all time by Hamilton Spectator readers. In 2007, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by Tourism Hamilton and was also awarded Canada's National Child Day award in Ottawa for his lifelong dedication to introducing classical music to over 1 million schoolchildren over his career to date. Also in 2007, he received the City of Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Arts Award.
Brott is married to author and attorney Ardyth Webster Brott and has three children. He makes his permanent home in Hamilton, Ontario.