Meet La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra
It takes a village…
Photo © Carrie Cockburn
photos © Timothy Hellum, unless otherwise noted
photo courtesy Laurie Mitchell
Laurie received her undergraduate music degree from the University of Western Ontario and her Masters degree and Ontario College of Teachers certificate from the University of Toronto. As well, she received Suzuki training at Ithaca, New York, Stevens Point, Wisconsin and Matsumoto, Japan. She has taught Suzuki violin for 35+ years at the former Seneca Suzuki School in Toronto, in her home studio, at workshops and many institutes, and she is a former Director for the Suzuki Association of Ontario. Through her many years of violin teaching, Laurie’s students have gone on to study at universities throughout Canada, as well as the Glenn Gould School, Guild Hall (UK) and the London Academy (UK). She also taught strings at Scarborough Board of Education (now TDSB) and during that time, she conducted the Scarborough Concert Orchestra and taught at their music camp. After moving east, Laurie worked for the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB, where she taught instrumental music and special education. During that leg of her career, she served on the committee that initiated an integrated arts camp. Whether a violin student, an orchestra member or a school student, Laurie’s goal has always been to bring the best out of her students.
Laurie has been String Director for LJYO since its inception and is honoured to take on the role of Music Director. She is also Principal Second Violinist for the Northumberland Orchestra and Choir, founder and Director of Durham Music Camp, and an active freelance violinist and clinician. Laurie’s three grown children – Tamara, Matthew and Darcy – were all members of LJYO in the early days.
In her “free” time, Laurie loves playing racquet sports, practising yoga, swimming and spending time at the family cottage. She is proud to be grandmother, mother and mother-in-law to a beautiful family. Laurie and her husband of 40 years, Jeff, live on the shore of Lake Ontario in the beautiful Port Darlington community.
Virginia Dakers, President
Virginia is currently the President of LJYO. She is a retired Process Control, Manufacturing Engineer and Quality Assurance Specialist – parent of 6 musicians with 4 of them being LJYO alumni. She has spent over 15 years in Northumberland community with extracurricular activities for her children during which she sat on various Boards within the community.
Virginia is the President of La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra Foundation and prior to that, as President of La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra. As LJYO President, she chaired various committees including Marketing, Recruitment and Fundraising. During this time the orchestra made some wonderful memories including recording a piece at the Classical 96.3 FM radio station, a fun trip to see the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra concert, performed for the TIFF-Sprockets for the preview screening – “Sounds of Mumbai,” performed at the Peterborough Film Festival for the same screening, collaboration concert with Northumberland Orchestra and Choir, collaboration concert with SONG and Junior strings, collaboration with a Catholic School choir from Scarborough, and hosted the Mass collaboration Home for the Holidays concert with Cambridge Street United Choirs, Victoria Scholars and Marilyn Lightstone. Other prominent and professional musicians performed with LJYO include Nathaniel Anderson-Frank, Tony Danso, Jean Stillwell, Rachel Mercer and more. The orchestra benefit from many masterclasses subsidized by Friends of Music and Past Coach – Jaak Liivoja-Lorius. The orchestra fulfilled their mandate every year to students by performing run out – educational concerts to thousands of elementary and high school students. When there was a pause in the school system for extra-curricular activities – a small ensemble visited some of the schools to keep the Arts and encourage students to play their instruments.
Virginia implemented and executed a much-needed fundraising campaign for LJYO’s 20th Anniversary year. This campaign was a historical one and the results were tremendous. During her tenure as President of LJYO she implemented the “buy a key” initiative during the 15 minutes of intermission at a LJYO concert for a new keyboard for an upcoming concert. That initiative was another success story and she hopes to have many more success stories to share in the future.
Frank Gallimore, Orchestra Manager & Librarian, saxophone
Frank has been playing clarinet since the age of 10 and has played in various bands throughout high school. Frank first met Michael Lyons in 1981 at the Interprovincial Music Camp, where Michael was an instructor.
In the summer of 1982, Frank played in the Band of the Ceremonial Guard marching on Parliament Hill every day for a summer job. He remembers the great time as one of the youngest musicians playing with nearly 100 music majors from universities across Canada.
After high school, Frank put music mostly aside to serve 6 years in the Navy. He got back into playing clarinet when he moved to Port Hope. He joined the Concert Band of Cobourg. Frank plays in many musical groups in the area. Frank has been a coach for 9 years with LJYO playing clarinet, saxophone, and French Horn.
Frank states, “It has been great playing with this terrific group of young musicians – listening to them continually improve as musicians over their years in the orchestra.”
Frank is retired but working part-time from home as a software consultant and homeschooling Sidney who is a member of LJYO.
Jeff Mitchell, trumpet
photo © Bart Hawkins Kreps
LJYO is responsible for getting Jeff to dust off the trumpet that he hadn’t played since high school in order to join the orchestra as a coach back in 2010. Since then, he has been thrilled to witness the development of many young trumpeters, not to mention all of the young players whose lives have been profoundly affected by their LJYO experiences.
Jeff has been an active member of the LJYO Board for many years and is the current Past President. As a recent retiree, Jeff enjoys playing in numerous other bands, including the Clarington Concert Band, Lakeshore New Horizons Band, New Horizons Swing Easy Band and the Big Wind Band of Durham. As a pianist, Jeff enjoys playing light jazz, as well as accompanying the many students in Laurie’s violin studio.
Gregory Ward, oboe
Gregory Ward is longtime principal oboe with the Northumberland Orchestra, and is a regular guest principal in Oshawa and Lindsay. A Royal Conservatory Gold Medal winner, Gregory is an active chamber musician on both oboe and recorders, and has been first call oboe for theatrical shows in the Northumberland and Durham region. In a quite different vein, drawing on his early years touring behind the drum set, Gregory continues to perform locally as a professional jazz drummer. Aside from music, he has enjoyed a writer’s life, as an ad man and a published author.
Anthony Mancktelow, oboe & english horn
This Spring we are recognizing our longest running LJYO coach and oboe player Tony Mancktelow. Tony has been described by LJYO musicians as ‘funny’, ‘friendly’, ‘classic’, ‘talkative’, and ‘kind’. Perhaps one group of enthusiastic members said it best when they declared, “this group wouldn’t be the same without Tony!”.
Music director Michael Lyons readily agrees: “Tony has been there from the very first rehearsal in September 1999. He has become somewhat of a mascot for the orchestra. The other coaches and kids love him.” Laurie Mitchell, Director of Strings, describes the depth of Tony’s commitment to LJYO: “Tony has been with LJYO since our first year. What would we have done without an oboe! In addition to filling that gap in the orchestra, Tony has coached other students and, together with his family, participated on the LJYO Board. He brings with him a good sense of humour, integrity, amazing dedication and a willingness to take direction from the conductor. We owe him heaps of gratitude!”
Tom Box is born and raised in Port Hope. He played tuba in high school, but dropped it after three years and left music behind him. In mid-life he began taking piano lessons and continued for several years. Though he enjoyed the process and learned a lot about music, he eventually concluded that he was never going to be a very good pianist. So at age 50, he switched to the clarinet. With this he finally found a musical outlet that truly suited him, both for the instrument itself and for the social experience of performing in ensembles with like-minded people. Tom plays clarinet in the Concert Band of Cobourg and the Clarington Concert Band, and bass clarinet and saxophone in the Lakeshore New Horizons Bands. LJYO is his first experience playing in an orchestra with strings. He enjoys the challenge of keeping up with the talented young members of the orchestra and the joy of sharing their passion for music. Besides music, Tom’s other hobby is train travel. He has voyaged over 500,000 km by train — more than the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Nathan Miller, percussion
Nathan Miller is in his 5th year as an alumni and percussion coach. He studied Music at Winfred Laurier University and holds a Bachelor of Music in Percussion and an Ontario College Teachers Certificate. Nathan conducted a piece called Chant and Joyous dance composed by Elliot Del Borgo at the 2010 “In the Spotlight” concert and again in 2019 with the same piece.
Susan Min, viola
Susan was a member of LJYO form 2004 to 2008, moving on to the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in the role of principal viola, from 2007 to 2009. During her tenure with TSYO, Susan studied with Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s principal viola Teng Li, as well as performed with the TSO. She is a graduate of York University’s Administrative Studies program, Susan is now a licensed paralegal working for a boutique tax law firm in Toronto. It was through Michael Lyon’s urging in 2013 that Susan picked up her viola after four years, and she was honoured to return to LJYO, an organization that, after all these years, continues to hold a special place in her heart.
Keith Tice, Clarinet
La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra has been a big part of Keith’s life since he first joined in 2008. As a member, he had the opportunity to be principal clarinetist, orchestra leader, and soloist at “In the Spotlight”. Inspired by enthusiastic teachers, he pursued a career in music education by attending Wilfred Laurier University, where he played in the Wind Ensemble and the Orchestra, followed by attaining his teaching certificate at Nipissing University.
Keith currently teaches with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School board and writes and arranges music for small groups. As a clarinet coach, he fosters a passion for music with the members and encourages them to express themselves through their instrument. Some have compared him to Obi Wan Kenobi, albeit without the light sabre.
In his spare time outside of teaching, playing, and writing music, Keith enjoys video games, running, and nature photography.
Saskia Tomkins, from the UK, moved to Ontario in 2007 with her family, bringing with them a wealth of musical talent and experience. Saskia’s musical abilities on bowed strings are wide ranging, from classical to Celtic, to Django-jazz, to songwriter accompaniment. After seeing Stéfane Grappelli perform, she completed a BA in Jazz and popular music. She has played with countless artists in many genres, including Uriah Heep’s 30th anniversary concert, improvising with dancers at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London and learning cello for Michael Bogdanov and the English Shakespeare Company. She has recorded on over 60 albums for other artists and several with her own groups. Saskia is also the All Britain Champion for Irish Fiddle.
In between gigs, Saskia spends time teaching violin and viola, reading books and watching the birds out of the window.
Adora has been playing flute since 2012. She joined La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra in 2016 and has been actively playing since then. During her years involved in LJYO she played solos and duets with full orchestra. In 2018, she studied Flute at the Faculty of Music at University of Western Ontario. In her spare time Adora plays flute with Northumberland Orchestra and Choir, in pit bands at theatres and with La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra. Currently she is studying at to be a Law Clerk at Durham College.