The first Black, headline conductor in the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s history, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, will bring the sounds of Jamaica, to lead the youth concert series.

"I am really excited, it’s a fantastic team that I am joining," says Bartholomew-Poyser, a Calgary native.

"One of the things that is very special about the NAC is vision for what something could be. They don’t just leave it, they say what could this be maximally at its optimal, most beautiful state and that’s what great."

As principal youth conductor and creative partner, Bartholomew-Poyser, an orchestral conductor, will launch Reggae Roots, featuring Jamaican-born, Halifax-based reggae singer, Jah’Mila, which brings to life the sounds and stories of the musical movement that grew to influence music around the globe in a video-on-demand learning series and a concert that will be part of the upcoming NACO Pops Series.

"It’s one of the very few programs that puts together reggae and orchestra … and at NAC we do know it’s going to end in something beautiful that has a national scope and that is applicable and relevant to different groups of people," Bartholomew-Poyser says. "My dad’s from Jamaica, my mom’s from Trinidad … If I’m on stage performing the works of Mozart, I’m performing stuff that my mom would have heard when she was in Trinidad.

"So there is this misconception that there are these really firm dividing lines and it’s just not like that so people are saying you’re doing something different and special. No, I’m just doing what comes naturally basically and the music that I grew up with is in addition to Calypso and the works of Behram and other orchestral music that I heard when I grew up and the same stuff that my mom and my parents did."

Bartholomew-Poyser has worked with orchestras across North America, including in Toronto, Nova Scotia and in San Francisco as well as collaborated with the NAC on various projects, which includes conducting the orchestra for the televised Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards. 

"Daniel is a wonderfully engaging, passionate and dedicated ambassador for all that is vibrant about symphonic music," says Alexander Shelley, NACO music director. "He brings his great talent and experience to bear in conceiving and leading projects that use the orchestra and its stages to connect with listeners from all walks of life. His personal warmth and charm lift those projects, the people he works with and the audiences that he communicates with."

For his three-year mandate, Bartholomew-Poyser will work on a range of special projects, develop and conduct concert series for families and youth and engage with the local arts education community, and school teachers.

"Anything that we do the vision that the team at the National Arts Centre has is what makes it really special," says Bartholomew-Poyser. "There are other communities that we can represent that we can bring who’s not on the table who’s not in the concert hall there’s lots of people and lots of interesting fun things that we can do."

The NAC reopens on Friday for live performances as well as dining in the restaurant. The Reggae Roots series will be available to schools for free on the Arts Alive website.