Musicians say they found out 4 days before the start of the season

Posted: 11 Hours Ago
Last Updated: 37 Minutes Ago

KWS musicians only received a few days notice that the 2023-24 season wasn’t going to happen. (Submitted by Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony)

In the wake of the
abrupt cancellation of its upcoming season, the K-W Symphony (KWS) says it is considering all options “up to and including insolvency.”

A statement sent out Tuesday afternoon said KWS would require around $2 million in funding to proceed with the 2023-24 season, and points to “an unprecedented rise in costs following the global pandemic” as the reason.

“Our hearts go out to the many people in our community who have been deeply affected by the cancellation of our season.” said Rachel Smith-Spencer, Chair of the Board of Directors.

The statement went on to say “exhaustive efforts were made to secure additional support from governments, major donors, and past supporters” and that the symphony is “open to immediate conversations with governments and other potential supporters about possible ways to secure this funding.”

Four days before season

Devon Klaas, spokesperson for the symphony, confirmed Sunday to CBC News that the 2023-24 season has been cancelled, four days before the season was set to start.

The cancellations include the Youth Orchestra and Bridge to Music — a music program geared to low-income families.

“Our focus at the moment is on the musicians, staff, and Youth Orchestra, who put significant energy and love into preparing the 2023/24 season,” said Smith-Spencer.

“We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support for our musicians that has come in from our local community and the music community. In the coming few days, I look forward to having meaningful conversations about how we can secure a sustainable future for symphonic music in Waterloo Region.”  

‘No writing on the wall’

Allene Chomyn, a violist with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (KWS), first learned that the season was going to be cancelled on Saturday evening and said she was confused by the news.

“I reached out to my colleagues and we all sort of were in the similar situation of just, this was unexpected and we don’t really know what’s going on,” said Chomyn who has been with KWS since 2007. 

Chomyn said that there were no signs that this was coming, explaining that “there was no writing on the wall.” 

“Nobody had any sign,” said the violist who is also the union representative for the symphony. 

“In fact, I was on the team that negotiated our collective agreement, which was recently ratified this summer, and we worked very closely with management on that and negotiations were good. Everybody was working together in good faith, and yeah, it was a smooth process.” 

On its website, KWS says it’s the third largest orchestra in Ontario and one of the “largest employer of artists and cultural workers,” with 54 musicians that make up the orchestra.


The cancellation of the season is a huge blow for her family, financially — she’s not the only one affected.

“My husband is also in the symphony so that’s both of our main source of income,” she said. “So you can imagine that it’s a pretty scary prospect for us.” 

Chomyn said that they expect to hear more details about it before the week’s end, which she said she and her colleagues are “hopeful” about.  

‘Really unbelievable’

Paul Mitchell, the president of the American Federation of Musicians, who represent the KWS musicians, said that they too weren’t expecting the news of the season’s cancellation. 

“This information came to us at about the same time it came to everybody else,” he said. “So we are in the midst of investigating the cause of things, and trying to, for certain, represent our musicians, and their families.”    

Mitchell said that the way things have played out is “really unbelievable” but explained that they’re “on it.”  

“As we find out more information, we’ll be able to put together a strategy in hopes of supporting our musicians, and hopefully restoring the KWS.” 

Some parents who had their children the Youth Orchestra were also blindsided by the news. Children were to begin the program this week.

Genevieve Schirm-Joyce’s son Olivier plays cello in the orchestra. She found out by email on Saturday night that her son’s program had been cancelled.  

“I feel like I’ve been in a state of shock for 36 hours,” she said. 


James Chaarani


James Chaarani is a reporter/editor for CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. You can reach him at

With files from Carmen Groleau