About the Ontario Arts Foundation


Sharon Lee

Chamber Musician

Orford String Quartet Award

2008 Recipient

" Receiving the Orford String Quartet Award provided me with confidence and trust in myself that I could be a good chamber musician in any setting, and helped validate my pursuit of a musical career. "


What are you currently doing?

I am freelancing in Toronto, wearing many hats. Currently, I'm acting as Concertmaster for Toronto Concert Orchestra. We just completed a very successful summer season of 15 concerts at Casa Loma, and are about to commence our regular season. I'm also Concertmaster and Programming Advisor for Bellus Barbari, a very new all-female orchestra and collective based in Toronto. I get to flex my chamber music muscles as violinist and Programming Advisor for Korean Canadian Chamber Players. This year, I founded Toronto Chamber Players, which I am Artistic Director of, and we enjoyed a lovely inaugural season of four concerts on Centre Island performing on a Pirate Ship. I've also made a bit of a departure outside of classical music by joining an electric string quartet called 'Dévah' (pronounced day-vah). We're a multi-genre group, primarily performing original music in progressive rock style with a drummer. We currently enjoy a partnership with Yamaha Canada and D'Addario Canada.

What did receiving the Orford String Quartet Award mean to you? 

When I received the Orford String Quartet Award, I had just left a full-time string quartet that I had helped found. It was like leaving a first love - you feel lost, a little broken, and unsure of your self-identity without the armor of the relationship you invested so much of yourself in. I'm sure that my involvement in the quartet helped my application for the Orford String Quartet Award. However, receiving the award on my own provided me with confidence and trust in myself that I could be a good chamber musician in any setting, and helped validate my pursuit of a musical career.  


What does private arts philanthropy mean to you as a working artist?

I think private arts philanthropy works best when there is a personal relationship between the artist and the philanthropist, and when the philanthropist has a genuine interest in the subject. It's not simply about underwriting a project here or there anymore. I think the satisfaction of making art possible may not be enough to cut it, especially at a time when so much of the rest of the world so desperately needs funding (dare I say it, more than we do). 

What's to persuade a patron of the arts to contribute to an artist when there are millions without homes and basic needs? 

I think there needs to be something more than a good feeling for the patron. The exchange needs to enrich them in a meaningful way, broadening their minds, inviting them more into our arts world. A good example of this is a conducting enthusiast I've been working with recently. He's taken up conducting as a passionate hobby, like many take up golf. Except, unlike golf, there are no orchestra courses one can go and spend the day at. So, he asks me to assemble an orchestra to improve his conducting skills. It's a wonderful exchange. He gets a high caliber orchestra to work with, and access to the minds of dozens of excellently trained musicians. The musicians are happy to be employed, and many are charmed by his genuine love of music and doing a project for the sheer joy it sparks for him. 


Read more award recipient profiles here >> 


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