Ann Cooper Gay Circle of Distinction
For exceptional contribution to the CCOC
The Circle of Distinction was established in 2016, in honour of Ann Cooper Gay's fifteen years of service, 2000 - 2015 as Executive Artistic Director of the Canadian Children's Opera Company. The Ann Cooper Gay Circle of Distinction recognizes extraordinary service to the organization by artists, faculty, staff and volunteers. Each year, members of the circle are appointed by the Board of Directors from nominations by the CCOC community.
Ann Cooper Gay (Namesake) - Executive Artistic Director & Conductor
Ann Cooper Gay led the CCOC for 15 seasons, in the capacity of Artistic and then Executive Artistic Director. A tireless enthusiast and educator, Ann's most distinguishing quality is her unflagging belief in the capacities of young people. In addition to leading the company, Ann served as conductor, coach and accompanist for the Principal, Youth, and for several years, the Intermediate Chorus. A champion of equal access for all talented children and youth, she created the successful OPERAtion KIDS outreach program, including the scholarship-bursary program. These programs continue to affect hundreds of children each year, introducing them to the art form, and celebrating the ability of children to create and perform musical stories of their own.
Errol Gay (2016) - Artistic Staff & Composer
A member of the music staff for 15 seasons, Errol took on a huge variety of roles, including accompanist, conductor, theory teacher, arranger, stage director, associate music director, and composer. He has composed three operas for the CCOC, all in collaboration with librettist Michael Patrick Albano: A Dickens of a Christmas (2005), Laura's Cow: The Legend of Laura Secord (2012), and Alice in Wonderland (2015). He also provided many arrangements of existing music, including the signature O Canada arrangement, and the 40th Anniversary Medley, commissioned for that CCOC milestone.
Errol is recognized for his extraordinary talent and ability to connect with and teach children, as well as his tireless work behind the scenes, including providing arrangements, library (and grammatical) services.
Anne O'Neill (2016) - Volunteer Coordinator & Nurse
A volunteer for thirteen years, Anne filled the largest volunteer roles for most of that time, combining humor, passion, catering and medical knowledge with her boundless love for the children of the CCOC. Anne served as the Volunteer Coordinator, Camp Nurse, Caterer and general volunteer extraordinaire.
Suzanne Bradshaw (2017) - Manager
Suzanne Bradshaw is a trailblazing figure in the Toronto choral scene. She served as the Manager of the CCOC from 1980 to 1993 with the formidable Ruby Mercer. During her time at the CCOC, she guided the growth of the organization from 42 members to 150, and a budget from $8k to $250k. She takes great pride in her part of the commissioning of three new operas by Harry Somers, Derek Holman, and John Greer, as well as four CCOC tours and two CDs.
She also sang with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for 13 years, and was the first woman to serve as President of that choir. In 1980, in addition to starting with the CCOC, she became a Governor of the Corporation of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall, and became the first woman to serve as Chair of that corporation from 1995-97.
Kathryn Brown (2017) - Manager
Kathy Brown has played a formative role in the Toronto choral community for the past 50 years. Growing up as a chorister in the legendary St. Georges United Church Senior Choir, under the charismatic Lloyd Bradshaw, Kathy’s passion for the choral arts was firmly established. While pursuing a career as a music teacher Kathy was invited in the spring of 1968 by Lloyd Bradshaw and Ruby Mercer to develop the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus. Her strong organizational skills, administrative expertise and musical passion carried the day for the next seven years as she oversaw TV and Radio broadcasts, COC performances, choir tours and premieres of inaugural children’s operas.
Kathy’s reputation quickly spread and she became the management catalyst for the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir, Opera in Concert and the professional Stratford Festival Youth Choir. In addition to her 25 year career as Arts Liaison Officer for the Toronto District School Board, Kathy was CBC Radio production assistant, Chair and Tour Coordinator for the Toronto Children’s Chorus, manager for the Black Creek Festival Chorus and an invaluable freelance arts producer overseeing projects for renowned musicians Stuart Hamilton, Jean Ashworth Bartle and Robert Cooper.
Bruce Ubukata (2017) - Accompanist
Bruce Ubukata studied at Carleton University and the University of Toronto, before undertaking periods of study at St Jean de Luz, France, with Pierre Bernac and at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, England. He soon became a faculty member in Aldeburgh and returned there to work each year as pianist and coach until 1993. Meanwhile, he established a reputation as one of Canada’s leading accompanists and began a long association with the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus. He is also an accomplished organist and harpsichordist, working for many years with Derek Holman as assistant organist at Grace Church on-the-Hill and St Simon the Apostle.
In 1982, he co-founded (with Stephen Ralls) the Aldeburgh Connection. During three decades of presenting more than 200 Canadian singers in recital repertoire, including many broadcasts and recordings, he received honours from the Arts & Letters Club, the St.George’s Society and the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. The Aldeburgh Connection’s final concerts in 2013 took the form of a highly successful Britten Festival of Song. In 2010, he and Stephen Ralls were joint recipients of an Opera Canada “Ruby” Award for their activities in opera and with young Canadian singers; in December 2012 they were appointed Members of the Order of Canada. Please also see the website of the Aldeburgh Connection, www.aldeburghconnection.org
Nada Ristich (2018) - Corporate Giving
Nada Ristich is Director of Corporate Donations for BMO Financial Group, and is responsible for the overall management of Corporate Donations and Community Affairs for Canada and the United States. She also serves as Secretary to BMO’s Corporate Donations Committee.
A graduate of the University of Toronto, Nada currently serves on the boards of Necessary Angel Theatre Company, Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA). She is also a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal for voluntary service.
Under Nada’s leadership, BMO Financial Group received the Globe and Mail Business for the Arts Award for Most Effective Corporate Program in 2014 and 2006, and the 2013 Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Best Corporate Program. In 2007, BMO Financial Group was presented with the Outstanding Corporation Award by the Association of Fundraising Professional, Greater Toronto Chapter.
She has been a steady supporter of the CCOC for over 25 years, during her time at both Kraft Foods and BMO.
The Ann Cooper Gay Circle of Distinction is generously supported by Emily Hamilton and was created through a gift from Patricia Graham.