The Peterborough Symphony Sets Passions Aflame: An Interview with Michael Berec


The Peterborough Symphony is thinking outside the box and incorporating some unique instruments into their upcoming concert RUSSIAN FIRE. The feverish melodies of saxophone and accordion are bound to bring an intensity to the production, which you can catch this Saturday, February 2 at 8pm at the Showplace Performance Centre.

The concert is also the premier of the new Assistant Conductor, Michael Berec. Berec brings his passion for music to the table, as well as a new-found love for the city of Peterborough.

How did you get involved as the Assistant Conductor with the Peterborough Symphony?
I came across the information online and I decided to apply. Out of about twenty applicants, four were chosen for an audition, and I was the one who got it. I’m based out of Toronto, but I’ve been working with the Peterborough Symphony since the beginning of January.

I hear that you chose the saxophone as your major in university. What drew you to this particular instrument?
My father always loved the saxophone, so he really influenced me to start playing the saxophone. In high school I was taking lessons for the saxophone, violin, piano, voice, and music theory. So, it was difficult to decide what instrument to major in. I knew I wanted to focus on conducting, so it didn’t really matter to me which instrument I majored in. Since I played the saxophone quite a bit at school (in several bands, and a jazz band), I thought I was quite good at playing the saxophone, and thought that I could perform the highest quality of audition on that instrument.

Do you prefer composing, performing, or conducting music?
As long as I’m involved in music, I’m pretty happy. I come from a Hungarian background and my parents would always play that sort of sad, Hungarian Gypsy music. Music is something I grew up with. To me, conducting is like playing all the instruments of the orchestra at the same time. The orchestra IS my instrument!

You have a background in film and television. Can you tell me about it?
At the end of my composing studies at university, my professor suggested that I pursue composing for film/TV. He thought I was good at conveying drama/emotions in my music, and thought I could be successful at that. I always enjoyed film/theatre music, as well. When I was a kid studying piano, in addition to all the classical repertoire I was obliged to practice, I always looked forward to going to the music store and purchasing sheet music of pop music; so after all the classical practicing I “took a break” to play some pop music.


You worked for Lenz Productions, is that correct?
Yes, I work as Director of Music and Post Production. I manage their entire music and post production facility. I also do a lot of music supervision and composing for them as well.

How many rehearsals do you attend a week?
In Peterborough, usually one with the Peterborough Symphony and one with the Kawartha Youth Orchestra, but since we’re getting closer to the concert, rehearsals have bumped up now.

What are the differences between Toronto and Peterborough?
Part of the difference is trying to attract a different audience, a different age. In Toronto, you have a lot of music schools, in particular there is a Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto, and those students will go to the concerts. In Peterborough, Trent doesn’t have a music faculty, and I think it’s harder to get that younger demographic.

Have you performed in Peterborough before?
No, I have not performed in Peterborough before.

So, the concert this Saturday will be your first one then!
Yes, this will be my first concert here. I had never been to Peterborough before this opportunity and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. I was lucky to be in Peterborough this whole past weekend. I got to do some sight seeing, checked out the Lift Locks and, actually, I went to Trent and explored the campus. They have a gorgeous library. I studied there for quite some time, overlooking the Trent River. It was great.

I hear that you have a concert coming up at Market Hall, as well.
Yes, there is one on Sunday, February 24 with the Kawartha Youth Orchestra. It’s really great working with youth. I’ve been really enjoying working with them. It’s quite rewarding, actually, to work with them.

In what ways?
We have a lot more rehearsals. Even after the first four rehearsals, I could really see the amount of improvement and how great they are, and if we have another month to go until the concert, it’s going to be fabulous.

What is unique about working with youth?
In addition to being great players, they’re committed, and that makes it really rewarding to work with kids. They’re so committed to coming out, and to their love of music. It’s great.

For your concert on Saturday, I know there’s going to be saxophone, and I also heard that there’s going to be accordion?
Yes, our guest artist is Alexander Sevastian. He’s a virtuoso accordionist. Basically, half of the program will feature him with the orchestra, and all the music is Russian-based. An interesting thing about this program, as well, is that the orchestral pieces used to be a part of multi-media works. So, they were associated with a ballet or an opera or a drama. The piece I’m conducting was actually a film score. Now these pieces are more often performed in a concert hall than with their original constructs.

If you’d like to attend the concert, here are the details:

Event: “Russian Fire”
DATE: 8PM Saturday, February 2nd
Maestro Chat: 7:10pm presented by Music Director Michael Newnham

Location: Showplace Performance Centre
Box office: (705) 742-7469 or online at:
Tickets: $39.50/36.50/28.50 for Adults | $15 for Students & Rush Seats | $15 for Tweet Seats (#psolive) | $5 for eyeGO

About Jasmine Cabanaw 30 Articles
When Jasmine was a child, she could almost always been found with a notebook and pen in hand, writing away. As an adult, she has written for a variety of magazines and websites, including the art magazine Juxtapoz. She was the 2010 winner of a blogging contest put on by the publishing house JournalStone. JournalStone also published two of her short fiction stories in their horror anthologies in 2010 and 2011. When she's not writing, Jasmine spends a good chunk of her time completing her history degree and working as a professional dance performer and instructor.