Tina Orton, who died peacefully on July 28 in Toronto Western Hospital, leaves behind as much influence on Canadian music and Canadian life as anyone could hope to do.
Born on June 1, 1941, Tina was not a musician, but as Administrator for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada for over 25 years, and with the University of Toronto's Music School, in the Opera Division from 1989 to 2004, she taught generations of artists the most valuable, sustaining lesson of all. She taught us how to love.
Tina had a rare gift with people - a gift for empathy, kindness and encouragement. She helped us to better see ourselves. With patience and inexhaustible good humour she would hear our gripes, our fears, our hopes (and young musicians have as many of those as anyone else) and gently turn them back to us in a way that was never indulgent, never false. She simply received us as whole and beloved people, and by doing so, taught us to do the same for ourselves. The first NYO students to have received those gifts are now old enough to be grandparents, and have doubtless passed on at least some of that love to their children, their children's children, and on. Tina may have left us, but that love, that gift, will carry her spirit for as long as there are young people wrestling with what life has dealt them.
So, if at any time in the uncountable years to come, you happen to hear a performance by a Canadian musician, and that performance touches your heart in a way that leaves you feeling even the slightest bit fuller of the person you hope to be, then you've been granted a moment with Tina. Do what she would do: listen, feel, be thankful, and give it back. For all she gave us, it's the least we can do.
There will be a memorial reception for Tina at Cardinal Funeral Home in Toronto on Tuesday, August 1, from 6 to 9pm. The family will be holding a memorial celebration later this year and any NYO alumni with memories of Tina would be most welcome. Details to follow. In lieu of flowers, consider a donation to the newly-established Tina Orton Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Toronto School of Music.