The TCO had its humble beginnings in 1970 as the Timothy Eaton Memorial Orchestra, based at Timothy Eaton Church downtown. In 2009 the orchestra moved to Glenview Presbyterian Church at Yonge & Lawrence. At this time, the orchestra changed its name to the Toronto Community Orchestra and established a website. While Glenview was a lovely venue for rehearsals, the group unfortunately outgrew the space within 2 years. In 2011 the TCO moved again, this time to Eastminster United Church in Riverdale/East York, where it has attracted even more local musicians.
At its present location, the orchestra has in recent years doubled to over 50 members, with a waiting list. As our former General Manager and cellist, Bonnie Sheckter, says of her experience, “I can't believe how far we've come since I joined the orchestra about 16 years ago. I can remember years ago when we had a single person playing in the first violin section, four or five second violins, one viola player, no brass and no timpani. The music we could play was so limited. Our recent Artistic Director of seven years, Leonidis Varahidas has taken the orchestra to a new level in his choice of music that has challenged us and has allowed us to grow and broaden our horizons. Under his patient and skilled direction, the musicality and technical competence with which the orchestra now plays has increased so dramatically!”
Past conductors with the TCO have also included Tony Gomes, Jeremy Legault, Lynn Tucker, Carol Matthews, and Eric Leung.
Conductor & Artistic Director
Recognized for her energy, musicality and charisma, French Canadian-born conductor, Alexandra Bourque, has been working in the Toronto music scene since 2015. She is the Music Director and Conductor of the Toronto Community Orchestra and a Senior and Middle School music teacher at Branksome Hall. She holds a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Education from McGill University with distinction, and a Master in Music Performance (conducting) from the University of Toronto.
Ms. Bourque worked as the assistant conductor of the University of Toronto Wind Ensemble from 2015-2017 where she also founded and conducted the University of Toronto Brass Ensemble. In 2016, she was also chosen to work with Orchestra Toronto as their assistant conductor for one of their concerts.
Ms. Bourque is known for her versatility in the musical world. As a violinist and trombone player, her experience extends to both wind bands and ensembles, as well as symphonic orchestras. Prior to attending the University of Toronto, Ms. Bourque was the assistant choir director for the DOXA Choir in Terrebonne from 2012-2014, the assistant conductor for the Cercle Philharmonique de St-Jean in 2014-2015, and the student conductor for the 2014 Denis Wick Canadian Wind Orchestra. Ms. Bourque has had the opportunity to conduct the McGill Wind Symphony, the McGill Beethoven Orchestra, the Ensemble à Vents de Sherbrooke (EVS), the Royal 22e Regiment, the Orchestre à Vents Non Identifié (OVNI), and the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
She has participated in music symposiums across Canada and was chosen by the University of Michigan and the New England Conservatory in Boston for their summer conducting programs in 2016. She has studied under Maestros Uri Mayer, Alexis Haüser, Alain Cazes, Dr. Jerry Luckhardt, Dr. Rob Taylor, Dr. Michael Haithcock, Dr. Charles Peltz, and Mr. Frank Battisti.
Ms. Bourque is also recognized as an acclaimed pedagogue in the musical scene. She has been teaching violin at the University of Toronto, the Coll¸ge Régina Assumpta, Le Jardin des Violons, and in her private studio. She has also been working as a music specialist for many French and English school boards in the province of Quebec. She was the Senior School Music Teacher at Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Ms. Bourque is the recipient of five scholarships from McGill University, and the Al Mercury Scholarship from the University of Toronto. Most recently, she received the prestigious Women's Musical Club of Toronto Foundation Graduate Fellowship for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Emma has been a committed member of the Toronto Community Orchestra since September 2017 and we are happy to have her step in as interim Concert Master for the Winter 2020 term. Playing violin since age four, she studied with Jerzy Kaplanek of the Penderecki Quartet throughout her teenage years and completed her Grade 10 RCM examination with Distinction. She attended numerous summer academy programs, studying with Martin Beaver, Jacques Israelievitch, and Ivars Taurins of Tafelmusik. Most notably, she attended the Summer Strings Academy, Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University under the direction of Mimi Zweig.
After being accepted into McGill's music performance program, she decided to instead pursue a degree in Economics at Queen's University. During her four year undergraduate program she played first violin with the Kingston Symphony. It was there that she developed broad experience and a deep love for orchestral playing, which she brings to her role as Concert Master with the TCO this term. Emma also holds an MSc in Applied Economics and currently works in energy policy.
Toronto Community Orchestra