Musical Director

Orillia, please allow me to introduce our new Conductor – James Hilts.

James assumed the baton at the end of last season when our previous conductor, Roy Menagh retired.  It was an easy transition for the group as he was already a familiar face within our ranks.

Born in Belleville, raised in Peterborough, James is well ingrained in the life of a smaller City.  Music has always been a part of the Hilts family; both Mom and Dad are musicians.  Like it or not, he had to learn to play piano, and to sing.

One summer, when he was perhaps 12, James was watching a parade go by.  In it was a Sea Cadets marching band. That was a powerful image for James – he now wanted to play in that Marching band!  How to do this?  Trombone was his first choice as that looked like such a cool instrument to play.  Alas, there was no trombone teacher in Peterborough.  The default instrument was the Clarinet.  He quickly learned the basics and into that Marching band went James.

His teenage years were full ones at St. Peter’s High School in Peterborough; the lure of music continued as he participated in both the Concert Band (Clarinet) and Jazz Band (Tenor Saxophone).  He continued with the Sea Cadets, working with them during the summer, marching as well as other taking part in other aspects of that program.  He eventually became a Civilian Officer.  It was while in that Marching band that James realized teaching music was something he really enjoyed.  That whole process of developing a band’s sound from the first stages of rehearsing through to a beautiful finished product was “pretty awesome”.

In 2000, James headed off for University; first at York, followed by University of Ottawa.  It was there that he met his wife Jocelyne.  Being in similar programs, their paths often crossed.  They soon marched down the aisle, and moved to Central Ontario to begin their teaching careers.  James’ journey began in Richmond Hill, then to Aurora, and he has recently marked his 5th year in Orillia.  James and Jocelyne chose Orillia “for a better quality of life and the vibrant cultural community”.  They now reside in Marchmont with their three young children – ages 7, 5, and 13 months.

James’ day job is as Music Director at Patrick Fogarty High School.  He loves his job. Its “the challenge of keeping the program rolling on the great wave it was when I assumed the job”.  His school bands annually attend the National Music Fest   Last year the Jazz Band came home with a Silver medal, the Concert Band returned with a Gold.

In music programs everywhere, since I was in high school, there is an ongoing debate about whether athletes be musicians and can musicians be athletes.  They both demand considerable time for students in terms of practice /rehearsal before or after school hours.  To do both could conceivably affect a student’s academic status.  Asked the question of how he felt about this, James responded that, the teaching staff of Patrick Fogarty are “quite co-operative about sharing students”.  If the student can do both aspects within their spectrum, they are supported by the staff to so do.

Being a true musician, James enjoys “a Potpourri” of music styles – Pink Floyd, Benny Goodman, the light Classics, the Indie scene.  He believes his enjoyment is related to the time & what is happening on any given day, the season, energy; as well as keeping up with the student’s current favorites.

So why would this already very busy young man want to take on Orillia Concert Band’s collection of seasoned amateurs?

Just that – the OCB is a potpourri of talents.  From the high school students who have potential to take their music to greater heights, to those who haven’t played in the twenty plus years since high school, to retired music teachers who just love playing.  The OCB is a fun way musicians can come together and make beautiful sound.  James loves the ambiance, the interaction and the tact required to motivate and guide the various generations of musicians.  His quirky good nature and positive attitude fit very nicely with our style. 

The Orillia Concert Band is proud to introduce you to our new, much enjoyed, well respected conductor – James Hilts.