Symphony New Brunswick honours local music legacies

Category: community 146

Symphony New Brunswick names Second Trumpet Chair in memory of Bruce Holder Jr. and in honour of the St. Mary’s Band. 

Bruce Holder Jr.

Symphony New Brunswick Foundation and Symphony New Brunswick have recognized Donald Mitchener’s significant support of both charities by naming a chair in the Orchestra.  Second Trumpet will now be known as The St. Mary’s Band and Bruce Holder Jr. Memorial Chair in honour of Mitchener’s friend and musician who passed in September 2022.  

Bruce Holder Jr. was a key player in Saint John’s musical heritage. At his father’s urging, Bruce joined the fledgling Saint John Symphony Orchestra in 1952 as a trumpeter and remained with both the SJSO and the New Brunswick Symphony Orchestra until the latter was disbanded in 1968. Bruce rejoined Symphony New Brunswick in 1983 and remained with the orchestra until his retirement in 2012. His long service to New Brunswick’s symphonies was recognized nationally by Orchestras Canada. 

Donald Mitchener and his late wife, Jane, have been longtime supporters of the arts in New Brunswick. His interest in symphonic music was ignited at age nine upon visiting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra when he was in an orphanage north of Toronto. This experience resonated with Mitchener and he took up the baritone saxophone and went on to play in various bands including The East York Concert Band from 1959 to 1998 and the St. Mary’s Band after moving to New Brunswick in 1998.  

“My exposure to music has embedded both an appreciation of the discipline and an appreciation of the commitment it takes to be an accomplished musician,” said Mitchener. “I hold a deep admiration for Bruce and for all those who have achieved and shared their excellence in music.” 

Mitchener first met Holder Jr. when he joined the St. Mary’s Band in 1998. 

“Bruce and I connected over our shared love for swing music, and I enjoyed all of his stories about the history of music in Saint John,” said Mitchener. “As all contributors to that heritage will attest, music transcends cultures and ages, transforms our moods, and transports us to new experiences, but more often to old memories. Bruce lived the music that most appeals to me.” 

Holder Jr. not only personified his love for music in his performing, teaching, and conducting; he also delivered it through his contributions to Saint John’s music heritage, most significantly in his sixty years with various versions of Symphony New Brunswick as well as throughout his time with the St. Mary’s Band. 

“Honouring the contributions St. Mary’s Band and its members have made over almost 120 years to Saint John’s lush, prolific and vibrant music heritage is a no-brainer and is unquestionably deserved,” says Gayla (Hunter) Atkinson of the St. Mary’s Band. Gayla was the first woman in the SMB and has been a member for over 50 years.  

St. Mary’s Band holds a unique position in the musical history of Saint John and beyond. Formed in 1903 as an outreach program at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, it is possibly the oldest continuously operating brass/woodwind band in Canada. Among its many  accomplishments, St. Mary’s Band is the only Canadian band to have performed at a Royal  Wedding, that of Princess Patricia in 1917, and it has played for other members of the Royal  Family since. St. Mary’s Band also has had a long relationship with Canada’s military.  Many of its members served in World War I and some, including Director C.H. Williams, were killed in service to their country. Since WWI, St. Mary’s Band has maintained an affiliation with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).

Symphony New Brunswick proudly honoured Mitchener’s wishes to name the Second Trumpet The  St. Mary’s Band and Bruce Holder Jr. Memorial Chair to remember and celebrate Bruce Holder Jr. and his important contributions to music in New Brunswick. 

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