The Orchestra Mender: OCSM founder Ruth Budd

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By Matt Heller, OCSM President

Before there was an OCSM or a Symphony Six, there was a school orchestra in Winnipeg with a problem. “The person who was playing the bass either broke his leg or his arm on the football field,” recalls Ruth Budd, who was a 16-year-old violinist at the time. “The conductor said, ‘Who would volunteer?’ and I said I would! He said, ‘Don’t be silly. You know a girl couldn’t play the bass.’”

This was in the early 1940s, and another sort of person might have believed it to be true or just accepted it as the way of the world. Not Ruth Budd: 
“I played a violin, and I knew that the strings were just backwards, and I thought, ‘Well, if I just think in negatives, I should be able to do this.’

So I practiced by myself. We entered the festival and won our class. The adjudicator made some comment about it being the first 
time he’d ever seen a girl playing the bass. Well, I really liked it!”

That was the beginning of an incredible symphonic career for Ruth, which included major contributions to all Canadian orchestras. Over the course of five
decades, Ruth became the first female professional bass player in Canada,
joining the Toronto Symphony in 1947. She left the TSO in 1952, a casualty of the infamous “Symphony Six” scandal. She then played in the Halifax Symphony and other orchestras before returning to the Toronto Symphony in the
mid-1960s. She founded OCSM, together with like-minded colleagues, in
the early 1970s. I recently spoke with Ruth by phone, from her home at Christie Gardens, a seniors' residence in Toronto. At 89, she speaks with precision and charm, filling her stories and recollections with great warmth. 

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Orchestra Digest: April 19

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This week: Details of NACO's China tour, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra wraps up negotiations, more false starts for Minnesota Orchestra, and the passing of orchestral legends. Here are stories we're following...
  • The National Arts Centre Orchestra announced details of its 2013-14 season, including a major tour to China this October, the Ottawa Citizen reports
  • Despite a tentative agreement reached last week, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra canceled concerts through May 5th, Minnesota Public Radio reports. The holdup was due to media broadcast rights, which are negotiated with the AFM nationally. The SPCO and AFM reached an agreement yesterday, MPR reports, and a ratification vote is to be scheduled. 
  • Following last week's announcement of the SPCO agreement, Minnesota Orchestra President Michael Henson gave an interview on MinnPost, expressing hope a renewed negotiation to end the MnOrch lockout. Musicians responded with an open letter on MinnPost, pointing to management's lockout and proposals as the true barriers to negotiations. 
  • On Tuesday, MnOrch management launched its own analysis, while cancelling concerts through May 12, MPR reports. Musicians raised objections to the terms of the study.
  • And a third professional orchestra in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, announced in a press release that it had successfully reached a new, four-year agreement with musicians. 
  • Members of the Chicago Symphony performed at the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center on Sunday, part of a new outreach initiative led by music director Riccardo Muti, Associated Press reports.
  • NPR reports from Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., where "venture culturalist" Yo-Yo Ma gave a speech advocating for diversity in the arts and education. 
Compiled by OCSM President Matt Heller. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOMand ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: <

Orchestra Digest: April 9

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This week: News about Nagano and Nézet-Séguin; renos in Winnipeg; optimism in Windsor; and an agreement in Saint Paul. Here are stories we're following...

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