PCSS alumnus home on sabbatical from Europe

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Cellist Amanda Anderson is back in Creston from Germany.

After 15 years away from Creston—a dozen of them spent in Europe—Amanda Anderson is back home on a one-year sabbatical to recharge and reconnect.

The PCSS grad, daughter of Monte and Carol Anderson, has spent the past four-and-a-half years living and working in Hanover, where she plays cello in the NDR Radiophilharmonie orchestra.

“I reached a point in my career where I felt a disconnect from Canada, friends and family,” Anderson said last week. “I need to reconnect. There is a kind of feeling that I was called back.”

While she had no plans to work, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend a few months in the forestry sector, which takes her into the mountains and forests she loves.

“I am enjoying the Kootenay life,” she smiled. “It’s great to get paid to be hiking. It’s my first job other than music for probably 15 years!”

Anderson said she always felt destined for a career in music.

“I was always surrounded by music at home (both parents were music teachers when they came to Creston from Saskatchewan). Dad had a cello in the basement that he had bought from a collector in Saskatchewan. I pulled it out when I was 11 and asked if I could learn to play it.”

Her first cello lessons—she had studied piano for years by then—were in Cranbrook, and then Crawford Bay. Her parents drove her to the lessons. Then, at 15, she began studying under a Calgary instructor.

“Those lessons were very irregular until I was 17 and I decided to study the instrument seriously. We drove to Calgary every two weeks for my lessons.”

After graduating from PCSS Anderson moved east and studied at the University of Calgary for two years. It was while attending a summer music program in Quebec that she met two musicians from Germany, which sparked her interest in continuing her studies overseas.

“I bought a one-way ticket and flew off with my suitcase and cello,” she said. “It worked out, thankfully!”

She flew to Berlin and began to audition. She found a teacher she liked and was soon studying in Leipzig at the Mendelssohn Conservatory. Five years later she had earned her degree, which led to a move to Munich and a scholarship with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

“Then I won a permanent job in Hanover.”

As an orchestra member, she has travelled and performed throughout Europe and in Asia. German symphony orchestras are supported through general taxation and a radio tax and, in turn, they must travel throughout their regions to perform.

In Hanover, and throughout the Lower Saxony region, the orchestra produces regular live radio broadcasts and performances, and “does lots of recordings” in a range of genres that include Classical, Pops and Baroque styles.

While she says Canada has “lots of opportunities to be a musician,” Germany is a hotbed for symphony orchestra players.

“Each city has multiple orchestras, and they are well funded. In summer we play in parks and there can be 10,000 people attending—families having picnics and enjoying the music. It’s part of their culture.”

The state-supported funding allows orchestras like the NDR Radiophilharmonie “to do lots of programs. We’re very spoiled.”

Anderson enjoys the variety of music she is required to learn, but has a fondness for one particular composer.

“I love playing big Mahler symphonies,” she said. “There is a special joy in having a collective experience with other musicians on stage—it’s very powerful.”