Connecting people through music
Watching Rennie Regehr play a melodious Bach Sarabande piece on his viola, it’s clear that he has a love and appreciation for music like no one else. A renowned Canadian instrumentalist, orchestra conductor and teacher, Rennie lives and breathes music. His eyes light up as he gets ready to play his instrument, a one of a kind circa 1690 viola. With his brilliance, Rennie quickly established himself as one of Canada’s leading violists, after beginning his professional career with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. His career has taken him throughout Canada and abroad as chamber musician and soloist.
It was Rennie’s love of teaching that brought him to the University of Ottawa after 14 years as Dean at the Glen Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music. “Teaching is a passion. I love getting to watch and hear how students get inspired by music,” he says. “You can also try new things with students, as they are not as traditionalist, and that is very unique to me.” When Rennie arrived at uOttawa in 2006, there was only one viola student. Today, there’s a full class of 11. Rennie also teaches several viola players at the high school level.
In addition to performing and teaching, Rennie is an active conductor. He is the principal guest conductor of the University of Ottawa Orchestra and also conducts the chamber orchestra for the uOttawa Opera Company. “As a conductor, I see my role as a connector: making a connection between all of the players and a piece of music, and having them experience the joy that a piece of music can bring,” he explains. “It’s also making a piece of music accessible to the audience, to connect them with the music and open a window, an access point for them to feel and appreciate music.”
Rennie has recently been honoured with the Canadian Viola Society 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes an outstanding contribution to the viola over many years as a player or as a teacher, or service to a viola organization such as the CVS. “I’ve been playing since the age of 8,” he says. “I’ve had many memorable performances in my life as a musician so I’m deeply grateful and honoured recognition.”Text: Geneviève Joly
Photo: Robert Lacombe
Publication: November 2012