Brandon Community Orchestra logo with image of a brass instrument
Sheet music

History of the Brandon Community Orchestra

In October 1986, a small group of musicians from Brandon and surrounding area met for an informal orchestra rehearsal organized by Blaine Dunaway, the itinerant String Program Instructor in the Brandon School Division. Blaine recognized the need to create an outlet for musicians within the community who wanted to play or continue to play outside high school and university music programs.

Within a short time, this group made a commitment to form an orchestra under Blaine Dunaway's leadership. The collective group was diverse in age, background, professions and musical ability. In a relaxed atmosphere, they came together to share their passion for making music. The excitement and music generated from that first rehearsal of the Brandon Community Orchestra is an integral component of its success and longevity.

Since those early days, the BCO has benefited from the musical leadership of several talented and dedicated conductors, drawn from the strong tradition of music teaching in Westman communities. These included Irene Todd of Kenton, Chris McConnell from Hamiota by way of Souris (who served as leader for eleven years), Kevin James of Virden, and Jarrett Fuller from Brandon. In recent years we have drawn from the strong talent of Brandon University School of Music, with leadership by graduate students in conducting, including Luis Ramirez, Silvio Unrau, and Josias Sanchez.

Over the years, members have embraced the music and fellowship of the BCO. They have been fortunate to enjoy the talents and spirit of many players, all of whom are remembered and valued for their individual contributions. Some members travel an hour or more to play in the group - a testimonial to their dedication and the reason why the orchestra is a 'community' organization.

Throughout our musical journey we have held in-depth workshops to provide concentrated focus under the leadership of guest conductors, who bring a new approach to the music and push us to develop our skills in new ways. Previous Workshop Guest Conductors have included:
1998 Frances Watson Director of String Program - International Music Camp (39 years)
2004 Mark Rudoff Associate Professor - Cello, Chamber Music and Orchestra at Brandon University
2005 Wendy McCallum Assistant Professor - Wind Ensemble and Instrumental Education at Brandon University
2006 Michelle Mourre Assistant Conductor Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
2008, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2019 Robert Richardson Jr.  Director, String Orchestra, Eckhardt-Grammatt√© Conservatory of Music, Brandon University

In addition to performing original and arranged works of classical music and musical theatre, the BCO has also debuted performances of works written or arranged for the orchestra. We have benefited from a close connection with the Brandon university School of Music, with the majority of our compositions commissioned or offered to use by students and alumni. Manitoba composers we have featured in recent years include Bruce Shaver, Chris Byman, Luis Ramirez, Jason Van Wynsberghe, and Kenley Kristofferson,

© 2022 Brandon Community Orchestra