Symphony makes new home in Saskatoon inner-city

By: Shaunna Grandish October, 2011

Cultural Areas


Ready to move forward, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO) plans to bring sweet music to the Saskatoon community of Riversdale.

Over the past several years, Riversdale has become a cultural hub where several different visual arts, theatre and film organizations have set up shop. In early June, the SSO announced plans to move its operations into this inner-city neighbourhood. They found a new home at 408 20 St. West, about one block west of the Roxy Theatre.

“This will be the first time all components of the SSO will be located under one roof,” explains Jill Reid, Executive Director, Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Discussion on how to use the opportunity that the new space offers for creating hands-on music experiences for the community, especially developmental programs for children, is occurring. Reid says, the first step is to ensure that adequate resources are available for this purpose as well as for the SSO's core areas of activity. She also notes that, “exposing children to the symphony will help ignite their interest in music and in learning to play an instrument.”

While the SSO is looking forward to this new lease on its existence, it has had to overcome a very difficult financial situation. At the end of the 2008-09 season, the SSO’s newly elected Board of Directors had the arduous task of rebuilding the organization, as well as the trust and confidence of its fan base. According to Reid, who was hired as part of the rebuilding efforts, “change was necessary to move forward.”

Consultants Lenore Swystun and Dianne Fletcher were hired to help facilitate consultations with the SSO stakeholders in the spring of 2010. The symphony’s directors, musicians and interested community stakeholders attended what was referred to as a Town Hall session. Three additional Beyond the Town Hall sessions were held this summer as a means of focusing on audience expansion and growth of revenue. The facilitation and consultations, supported by a Capacity Building Grant from SaskCulture, were important to holding an inclusive, community-based approach to rebuilding the organization.

“This support was key to providing us with professional facilitators who have the skills sets necessary to guide us through the process. Even when there were sensitive issues, the facilitators were able to create a respectful environment for all to participate,” explains Reid. She added that the meetings gave everyone an opportunity to hear incredible stories from people who had been involved with the SSO from the beginning, alongside ideas about music, culture and connection from symphony lovers old and new.

The decision to move the SSO and all of its components into the Riversdale area came out of these meetings where staff, musicians, volunteers all had the opportunity to express their concerns, thoughts and excitement about this concept.

“There will always be a group of people who fear change, but as the energy builds from people working together, I believe the Saskatoon Symphony is very capable of being not only a current cultural icon for Saskatoon, but a necessary and desired element for all citizens of the city,” said Reid.

For more information on the SSO, please visit The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra receives annual operating funds from the Saskatchewan Arts Board and The City of Saskatoon.