Malcolm Armstrong

Date: December 8, 2016 Author: NYO Canada Categories: December 2016


In our fourth edition of our Alumni Spotlight series, we caught up with double bassist Malcolm Armstrong. A three-time member of the NYO between 2012-14, Malcolm has kept busy by taking part in programs by the Canadian Opera Company, finished his studies at the University of Ottawa, and secured a position performing with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra.

Malcolm recently took the time to speak with us about how his memories performing with the NYO, studying with the COC, and the King of Rock n Roll.

1. When and how did you first get involved with music?

My father is a musician and got me into taking piano lessons through grade school.  My piano lessons weren't your standard play some scales and do studies piano lessons; for my teacher and I it was all about having fun. We'd listen to CD's of the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, and while doing that we would write out the chord charts to be able to play along.  When I got to grade seven the school finally had a band and of course it was time for me to choose an instrument.  I had always wanted to play trombone, as my father is a trombone player, but due to a recent appendectomy breathing heavily was out of the question.  So the band director said "we have a bass in the back"  and I instantly fell in love with it.

2. What are some of your memories of playing with the NYO?

There are so many wonderful memories from NYO.  First of all I met some of my closest friends at NYO and will be friends for life with these people.   The bass section had a frisbee game that we would play.  Eventually enough people joined in and we had more than half of the orchestra playing!  The amount of camaraderie and kindness made it unforgettable. 

Finally the tour and performances were an incredible experience for the entire orchestra.  We all had the chance to see our country and spread beautiful music to many different cities in Canada.  Every performance was filled with emotion, passion and joy.  After all, the performances are what we worked so hard for, so it feels really satisfying to have all of the hard work finally pay off.
3. You recently completed your studies at the University of Ottawa. What has the transition been like for you from student to full-time musician?

I still feel like I'm going through the transition. I would consider myself a "lucky one" in terms of timing and finishing studies.  In my last year at the University of Ottawa I was taking auditions whenever they came up.  In that year alone I took 4 auditions, out of my total 6 auditions.  My school year ended in April 2016 and I started at the Hawaii symphony in Sept 2016.   There wasn't much time in between the two.   I am still looking to better myself as a bass player and a musician.  I have much more free time now that I am not in school and I am looking for opportunities to develop connections in my new community.

4. Along with recently joining the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, what are some of the other things you’ve done onstage that you are most proud of?

When I was finishing my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to play a concerto with one of the orchestras that my father conducts.  This was a really difficult test for me, but an extremely rewarding one!  We had a great time working on it!  In my years at the Glenn Gould School, I took part in a program called the Canadian Opera Company Academy.  I was one of five students who were accepted into the program.  The Academy involved rehearsing with the COC orchestra and playing their first performance of Wagner's Die Walkure.  To be prepared for this I studied an enormous amount to make sure I was on top of every note in the opera.  This was an incredibly challenging task as it is a five hour long piece.  This was a truly invaluable and unforgettable experience.  

5. Based on your experience, what are some valuable tips you could give future NYO members?

When I decided to take the Hawaii Symphony audition, first of all I really wanted an excuse to go to Hawaii.. then once I passed the first round, I knew that I had done the preparation and I had enough personality to stand out in the final round.  So I said to myself "this job is mine".  

The work needs to be put in so when it comes time you can play with absolute confidence.