New conductor named for Youth Orchestra

The Okanagan Symphony Society and Executive Director Geraldine Parent are pleased to announce the appointment of Zeena Zaiyouna as Conductor of the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra (OSYO).Zeena Zaiyouna is an orchestral conductor, oboist, pianist, clinician and educator. Together with a Master of Lifelong Learning (M.Ed.) from Denmark and a degree in oboe performance from Queen’s University, she has served as the Assistant Conductor of the Ontario Pops Orchestra and has taught music and performance at all levels of the school system. This includes directing the Symphonic Band for the Canadian Independent Music School Festival (2019) at Roy Thomson Hall.Ms Zaiyouna’s appointment marks the first change in leadership of the Youth Orchestra in 12 years. Former co-conductors Dennis Colpitts and Rosemary Thomson had led the student ensemble since it came under the auspices of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra in 2012. Originally founded as the Youth Symphony of the Okanagan by Imant Raminsh in 1990, the name change was designed to more closely reflect the new relationship with the OSO. The OSYO is designed to provide a rigorous orchestral education to young musicians of the Okanagan Valley.While there are big shoes to fill, Zeena’s extensive education and experience — and her passion for music, for youth, for life-long learning — position her well to continue and build the OSYO’s legacy for young musicians in the Okanagan. We are excited about the skills and enthusiasm that Zeena brings to the position.Zeena’s musical background includes piano improvisation and studying orchestral conducting with Maestro Andre Presser in Holland and Maestro Harold Faberman at Bard College in New York state. She has performed oboe and English horn with orchestras including the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Ontario Pops Orchestra, Harthouse Orchestra, Counterpoint Orchestra, and Kindred Spirits Orchestra. She is also a Toronto and Ontario Arts Council recording artist recipient.

As an arts advocate for youth leadership and mental health, Zeena has trained teachers on four continents, sharing innovative aspects of play-based learning and trauma-focused arts programming. This includes emergency education and psychosocial support training in Liberia, Africa, and implementing an outdoor creative learning workshop at Toronto Metropolitan University for undergraduate students during the pandemic.

Inspiring youth to awaken to their fullest potential through performance and musical expression is at the heart of Zeena’s passion and philosophy as an educator.  In addition to her new position with the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra, she works as a clinician, studio musician and ensemble teacher in the Okanagan Valley. “I feel privileged and excited to be joining this vibrant youthful community as the new Conductor. It’s almost time for the downbeat, and I’m inspired to play and to experience the resonance, cacophony and euphonic sounds of the OSYO!,” she says.

Details of the OSYO’s 2023/2024 season — including November and May concert cycles and the traditional Side-by-Side performance with their professional mentors and teachers of the OSO in February — will be announced later in the summer. We look forward to welcoming audiences to these concerts in Vernon, Penticton and Kelowna to experience the talent, enthusiasm and musicality of the OSYO, and to meet and welcome their new conductor.

OKANAGAN SYMPHONY YOUTH ORCHESTRA, MAY 2023. PHOTO: MAJA PANNES.
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