Donovan Seidle

Avenue Calgary’s 2014 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Erin Brooke Burns

Age: 37

Job title: Assistant Concertmaster, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Artistic Director, Kensington Sinfonia

Why he’s a 2014 Top 40:

Donovan Seidle played Carnegie Hall after being chosen for the inaugural performance of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, which was comprised of 93 musicians from 30 countries. As the associate music director for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games ceremonies, Seidle played a solo in the opening ceremonies, which were watched by more than 4.5 billion people.

A pair of tourists asks a man with a violin case how you get to Carnegie Hall. Without looking up, he answers, “Practice, practice.” A well-worn chestnut, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 

Donovan Seidle, assistant concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, has played Carnegie Hall. He has also produced music for a show performed in Red Square. He even played for a white-suited k.d. lang at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. But, before getting to “Hallelujah”, there was practice. Countless hours of it.

A five-year-old Seidle knew what he wanted to do with his life the first time he saw an orchestra play on TV. The violin had him at hello. Growing up may have been easier if Hockey Night in Canada had been on instead.

“I remember one time I really wanted to play baseball after school, so I went with my friends and that made me late for a lesson,” Seidle recalls. “Of course, my mom came to the baseball diamond and, well, you know the rest.”

He made it to that lesson and many others. Years later, coming off a music degree from the University of Calgary and grad school in music at Northwestern, a spot opened up at the CPO. At an orchestra audition, judges and musicians are separated by a curtain to avoid favouritism. Seidle, only 25 at the time, won the job, becoming a lead violin and a liaison between the strings and the conductor. That was in 2003.

Since then he hasn’t rested on his laurels. Putting together a long career in the arts, he believes, takes more than just talent.

“I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea that you have to sell yourself, but I’ve come to realize that it’s necessary – otherwise people won’t take you seriously,” Seidle says. “You have to make sure your work is seen.”

His philosophy that “work begets work” keeps his bow arm busy and unforeseen chances percolating. The Olympics, for instance, came after a long-time collaborator, Dave Pierce, became the music director for the Vancouver games and brought him on board to help run the show.

Among other side hustles, Seidle is the resident composer for GlobalFest and artistic director of the Kensington Sinfonia, and he composes music for film and television. All told, he’s involved in around 100 performances a year.

“You have to get people interested in your stuff,” he says. “If you can do that, then you’re working on a career and not just a single job.” -Paul Haavardsrud

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