Meet Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser

Amanda McAlpine
Arts and Culture Editor

Exceptional musical background, bright smile, and a strong passion for music… what more could one ask for in a performer and conductor?

Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser is the conductor of the Thunder Bay Symphony Chorus, and Resident Conductor and member of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Arthur Post.

Born in Montreal, this talented musician has an impressive resume and brings his vast musical experiences to Thunder Bay.

Bartholomew-Poyser began his musical career with piano at age four and has since picked up the cello, clarinet, and his main instrument, tuba. He says that each instrument has a different personality and his choice of what to play depends on his mood.

He began conducting when he was 12 years old and got the opportunity to conduct his air cadet band in high school. His heritage stems from Trinidad and Jamaica, and no one else in his family plays an instrument.

A strong passion for music is evident as Bartholomew-Poyser speaks.

“I love performing; I can’t not perform. I love being in the heat of the moment where you have to constantly make split second decisions. It’s really invigorating and really good for the brain. Performing requires total 100% concentration. It’s a bit like playing squash, constantly making quick decisions.”

This engaging musician completed his Bachelor of Music at the University of Calgary, focusing in music performance for tuba. He went on to complete his Bachelor of Education, a Diploma in Wind Band Conducting, and a Masters in Conducting Performance at the Northern Royal College of Music in Manchester.

Bartholomew-Poyser brings hands-on experience in everything to do with music.

When asked about his favourite composer, he had a list of names ready.

“I love early modern music; the early 1900s. I love Beethoven, I love Mahler, I love Bach, and I love Stravinsky… I also love Ralf Von Williams,” he says with a grin.

I laughed as he answered my next question with his contagious energy and enthusiasm for music shining through. What is your favourite piece of music?

“It’s quirky… it’s Brahms’ Tragic Overture — it’s an irrational love. Also Stravinzky’s Scherzo a la Ruise; I keep telling Arthur to program it.

“Those are my two favourite pieces; not for any reason — I’ve never studied or conducted them, I just love them. If Brahms’ Tragic Overture was human, I would want it to be my best friend.”

The Thunder Bay Symphony Chorus is currently working on Missa Brevis in C Minor by Imant Raminsh and Handel’s Coronation Anthem No. 3 My Heart is Inditing, which, according to Bartholomew-Poyser, “is basically rock music for the 17th century.”

The biggest influence for Bartholomew-Poyser is one of the foremost conductors of this generation and his first conducting teacher from the University of Toronto: Dr. Glenn Price.

Price planted the seed for Bartholomew-Poyser’s conducting career. A professional and passionate professor is key in any subject area, but especially in music, due to the close one-on-one instruction and relationship that forms with professors.

Bartholomew-Poyser has seen a number of heart-stopping concerts in his time, but one in particular sticks out: the BBC Philharmonic doing Shostakovich’s Fifth in Manchester.

He re-tells the story with excitement, “We almost died halfway through the concert. All us music students walked out yelling; we couldn’t contain it. We were on fire. The musicians were crazy on stage. You could see the fire in their faces: everything else had been forgotten.”

Developing orchestral education programs throughout Canada is where Bartholomew-Poyser’s musical career is taking him. He will always be a performer and conductor, but one of his passions is touring schools with the TBSO. His education degree comes into play in his incorporation of music into the classroom.

Having recently moved from Calgary, Bartholomew-Poyser enjoys Thunder Bay and all it has to offer. He believes the town lacks nothing, the people are friendly, and he loves the flourishing art scene.

Catch the TBS Chorus on Mar. 29, and take a second glance at some of the musicians wandering Thunder Bay — you never know whom you might come across.

I have the great privilege of studying conducting with Bartholomew-Poyser, and I can say from personal experience that musicians don’t come much more talented than he is.