Having a strong appreciation and passion for language and culture is nothing new to Michael Newnham, Music Director of Symphony New Brunswick. After studying music at the University of Toronto, Indiana University School of Music, the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw, Poland, and also being a guest professor in South Korea, he has experienced many different cultures and has developed an understanding of the importance it carries.
Mr. Newnham came to Symphony NB as a guest conductor in 2005, and was appointed Music Director in 2010. (after which he became the current music Director for the past four seasons.) Through his work at Symphony NB, Newnham takes into consideration language and culture and finds music that works for everyone. “Even when you take language away from it, Fredericton and Saint John (for example) are both very different cities and have very different mind sets, which means that,as a music director, I have to find ways for us to communicate with people so that the music that we do is vital to them.”
Even though he is coming to New Brunswick as an ‘outsider,’ Newnham feels at home. Because of this, he is able to see the value and benefits in having two official languages. “When you are using a different language you are using a different part of your brain. Also the way a language is constructed will force you to think and approach your world differently. Even the melody and rhythm of a language – I’m very sensitive to that as a musician.”
Newnham appreciates the different voices of the Anglophone and Francophone communities, and sees the importance in the ability to do things together. “Its uniqueness stands to be celebrated as much as possible.” He also expresses his appreciation of the different languages and cultures as something that is just simply human. “I think it’s got to do with empathy and sympathy, being able to actually put yourself in someone else’s skin. Being empathetic to each other through understanding of what our differences are and appreciation of it gives us a better chance of getting to the next day.”
His understanding and respect for the different languages and cultures is something he hopes to share with everyone.
“New Brunswick is the only province in Canada which is officially bilingual. That already makes New Brunswick a unique and special place. I just really hope that New Brunswickers all understand this, that it is as special as it is.”
Music is a universal language that brings people from different backgrounds and cultures together, this is something to be celebrated!