Soon after completing his undergraduate degree at Schulich, bass trombonist William Broverman (B.Mus 2016) set out on a career path that tops the list of many music students – a full-time position in an orchestra. Now playing with the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra in Mérida, Mexico, the in-demand British Columbia native is putting his Schulich training to use in over 50 orchestral concerts a year, not to mention the other gigs filling his schedule.
To learn more about how Broverman netted the position and his experiences abroad so far, we spoke to him in a recent email exchange.
How did you come to get your position in the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra (OSY)?
I first heard of the position from Schulich’s Brass Area Chair, Richard Stoelzel, who has contacts in the OSY and knew they were looking for a bass trombone player. He put me in touch with the orchestra, and after sending in a video audition I was invited to come play in the final five concerts of their 2016 season. During this time, the orchestra traveled to perform in Morelia and one evening, in a conversation with our principal trumpet player, I was asked if I would take the job full-time if it was offered to me. I told him it would be an amazing opportunity but I would have to think about it. To that he replied, “Well, start thinking about it.” At the end of my five-concert stint with the orchestra I was officially offered the position, and I returned to Mérida a few weeks later as a full member of the orchestra.
Is the OSY’s repertoire similar to what you would hear the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM) play?
With a few exceptions, our programming doesn’t differ too much from what you might hear a North American orchestra play. We play many concerts in the traditional overture, concerto and symphony format, but we also program movie music or music by Mexican composers. We recently had a concert featuring excerpts from the operatic repertoire with singers, and we present one full scale opera each year. Our most recent opera performance was Pagliacci by Leoncavollo.
An important logistical difference between the two orchestras is size. With nearly 70 regular members, we aren’t a small orchestra, however we can’t program the largest works from the orchestral repertoire as often as an orchestra like the OSM does. That being said, we perform a wide range of genres and styles. Our concert programs have ranged from the intimate symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven, to jazz-influenced pieces by Gershwin or Bernstein, or grandiose works such as Holst’s The Planets and the tone poems of Richard Strauss.
How does the dynamic in this orchestra compare to your experiences in the McGill Symphony Orchestra (MGSO) and others?
The most significant difference between the two is that the MGSO is an orchestra that exists for education purposes, while the OSY is a professional performing body. This makes the rehearsal processes quite different. When I was a student, the MGSO rehearsed three times a week beginning one month before performances. The purpose of these rehearsals was not only to ensure that our performances went smoothly, but it was equally important that these rehearsals helped students gain experience, improve their craft and learn the important skills required to be a successful orchestral musician. For example, Maestro Hauser and other Schulich faculty would use rehearsal time to explain invaluable information such as what different accents and dynamics mean when written by different composers. As a working professional musician in an orchestra or any other ensemble, you’ll have considerably less rehearsal time than you did in school. This is why it’s imperative that you always show up to work completely prepared, and with a clear idea of what the music requires.
What are playing opportunities like outside of your work with the orchestra?
I have taken part in chamber music recitals, big band shows, and various orchestral collaborations with popular musicians. One major highlight for me was a performance with Maestra Alondra de la Parra and Latin-American pop singer Natalia Lafourcade at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Cancun. Another recent highlight was a performance of Adizokan, a new Canadian composition by Eliot Britton. This piece was recently premiered by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and brings Indigenous Canadian tradition and orchestral music together in a wonderful spectacle of music, dance and film.
Do you find differences in how classical music is perceived in Mexico versus in Canada?
The situation in Mérida is unique because the OSY was founded in 2004, a mere 13 years ago. Before its inception, the classical music scene here was relatively non-existent and in this short time, a strong and diverse community has emerged. You can really feel that there’s a deep appreciation for classical music here, particularly among young people. I don’t think it’s necessarily different in Canada, but I would say that it varies among communities. For example: where I grew up in Langley, BC, there was no presence of classical music at all. When I was in high school, the court of popular opinion had ruled that being in band was not the cool thing to do. I have found that Powell River, BC and Hamilton, ON have similar audiences to Mérida, not to mention larger cities like Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver where a major orchestra creates a community around it.
There are many Mexican people in the orchestra, but I also have colleagues from Russia, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, England, Italy, Spain, France, Canada and the USA – many of whom are sitting in principal chairs. This diversity gives us the wonderful advantage of being able to interpret the music of different composers and styles with real authenticity. It also presents a unique opportunity, since as performers, teachers and members of the community, we’re building the classical music community in this city from the ground up. I think by having such a diverse and international orchestra as the OSY, the cultural foundations that its members lay down will be strong enough to allow a rich classical music tradition to flourish here in Mérida.
Hear more of our brass students and faculty perform in the upcoming Brass Days concert series:
- Friday, November 10: La Brasserie
- Saturday, November 11: Two Trumpets and Strings
- Sunday, November 12: Mount Royal Brass and Friends
- Monday, November 13: Canadian Brass, Mount Royal Brass and student colleagues
- Tuesday, November 14: Canadian Brass