“The world has lost a musical giant, and a gentleman.” — Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian
Canadian orchestra conductor and classical music ambassador Boris Brott was affectionately referred to by those who knew him well as “Maestro,” a nod to his esteemed musical talent and leadership.
Originally from Montreal, Brott was a devoted Hamiltonian, making the city his home for more than 50 years. Here, he served as music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra from 1969 to 1990 and founded Hamilton’s National Academy Orchestra and the Brott Music Festival, Canada’s largest orchestral music festival.
Brott died this week at the age of 78.
He was also a dedicated friend to the McMaster community and the university, which he described as a natural home for his archives.
“I feel such a strong connection with the city of Hamilton, not just because I live here, but because it has been the epicentre of so much of my creative life, both on stage and off,” said Brott in a 2011 Daily News article. “McMaster University is very special to me, as I received my honorary doctorate from there in 1988, something of which I am very proud.”
The Boris Brott Archives are housed at the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University Library. The materials are mainly in English, but there are some items in French, Italian and Spanish.
Between 2007 and 2019, Brott donated his collection of recordings, correspondence, files, photographs and other materials — some dating back to his childhood when he began to rise in prominence as a musical prodigy — a gift that was recognized with a special concert on May 25, 2011.
“Boris has been a dear friend to McMaster University Library for decades and a tremendous supporter of our work,” said Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Librarian. “We are honoured to be entrusted with his archives and will ensure his musical legacy will live on for generations to come.”
Brott’s connection to McMaster extended beyond his donation of his archives. He was also a recurring guest in the L.R. Wilson Concert Hall, heading workshops and master classes for the National Academy Orchestra, as well as intimate evening rehearsals for the Brott Music Festival and Brott Opera.
“Boris was my research partner, turned mentor and friend. I will forever be inspired by, and grateful for, the opportunity to witness the way he touched lives. He relentlessly pursued the opportunity to bring music to every corner of humanity as he believed, as I now do, that music can bring health and happiness to us all.” — Kathleen Howcroft, 2021 grad
“Some days, life is just so cruel. Today is one of those days. One of the greatest maestros Canada has ever produced was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in the City of Hamilton.” — Steve Paikin (Honorary doctorate, ’16), anchor of The Agenda with Steve Paikin, on Facebook.
“The degree of professionalism that Boris brought to any performance was incredible. Our hope is that the National Academy Orchestra, whose members have participated in several of our experiments over the years, will continue as a monument to his dedication to art and to educating young musicians.” – Dan Bosnyak, Technical Director of McMaster's LIVELab