Dr. Peter Simon, President, The Royal Conservatory of Music
Mr. Tony Flynn, Chief Operating Officer
Ms. Angela Elster, Vice President, Academic
Mr. Mervon Mehta, Executive Director, Performing Arts
Ms. Krista O’Donnell, Chief Development Officer
Mr. Arlen Bartsch, Vice President, RCM Digital
Dr. Peter Simon has served as President of The Royal Conservatory since 1991. During this time, he has overseen a dynamic transformation and dramatic expansion of this venerable Canadian institution founded in 1886.
When first appointed President, Dr. Simon sought to create a climate in Canada in which the arts were broadly recognized as an important means of furthering the personal, intellectual, and social development of all people. He firmly believes arts activities are the best means available to foster creativity and innovative thinking in all areas of endeavour, making them an indispensable element in the future social and fiscal success of our nation. Ultimately he seeks to promote a society in Canada in which the arts are a central part of the daily lives of all people and viewed as an integral element of a fulfilled life. He established The Royal Conservatory mission: to develop human potential through leadership in music and arts education.
With this expanded mission in mind, Learning Through the Arts® (LTTA) was founded as a new division of The Royal Conservatory. LTTA is a landmark educational initiative that places the arts at the centre of public education and creates a systematic means by which teachers use arts-based techniques to instruct the core curriculum. This pioneering program has now reached over 375,000 students and teachers in Canada and has been exported to over a dozen other countries around the world. Inspired by the success of LTTA in Canada, Prince’s Charities Canada, which supports the Canadian charitable work of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, has arranged to have the program brought to the United Kingdom.
The Royal Conservatory’s acclaimed early childhood music education programs were similarly conceived. Based on the latest findings in early childhood development, The Royal Conservatory’s Smart Start and Head Start programs incorporate the use of movement, singing, instruments, games, and positive experiences that foster and nourish children’s sensory ability, as well as their cognitive, emotional, and motor capacities.
The Glenn Gould School (formerly called The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School) was launched by Dr. Simon in 1997. It has become Canada’s leading training centre for highly-gifted young musicians. Named in honour of The Conservatory’s most acclaimed alumnus, The Glenn Gould School has emerged as one of the most forward-looking and innovative music schools in the world today.
Dr. Simon transformed The Royal Conservatory Examinations, vastly improving and expanding the curriculum, resulting in a substantial increase in the number of examinations given and candidates served. Beginning in 2003, a focused expansion of the Conservatory curriculum was launched into the United States where 100 examination centres now provide over 8,000 examinations to American students annually.
The Frederick Harris Music Co., Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Royal Conservatory, and the exclusive publisher of all Royal Conservatory books, has grown substantially during Dr. Simon’s tenure. Today it is Canada’s largest print music company and publishes works by many Canadian composers.
Dr. Simon undertook the revitalization and expansion of The Royal Conservatory’s Toronto home into the heart of creative education for the nation and a vibrant cultural destination, creating the technologically superb TELUS Centre for Perforance and Learning. This extraordinary initiative included the full restoration of the magnificent historic Ihnatowycz Hall, Mazzoleni Concert Hall, and an array of new learning and performance spaces, as well as stunning Koerner Hall, which has brought the greatest international artists to perform at The Royal Conservatory and interact with students and audiences.
In 1992 Dr. Simon established The Royal Conservatory’s first Development Department. More than $200 million has been raised since this time and endowments have increased nine-fold.
As a result of all of these initiatives, the number of people across Canada and around the world who learn through Royal Conservatory programs has increased dramatically and now reaches well over 500,000 individuals annually.
Dr. Simon began his relationship with The Royal Conservatory as a student of Boris Berlin. He went on to study at New York's Juilliard School and in London with Louis Kentner. In 1983, Dr. Simon received a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying with the legendary pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher. He subsequently divided his time between performing, teaching at the University of Western Ontario, and overseeing the artistic direction of Preview Concerts in Toronto.
In 1986, Dr. Simon joined The Royal Conservatory as Director of Academic Studies where he was instrumental in planning and implementing a series of post-secondary programs, which led to the rebirth of The Royal Conservatory of Music Professional School, now known as The Glenn Gould School. He also instituted regular classes by internationally acclaimed artists including Leon Fleisher and Jaime Laredo and supervised the compilation, editing, and recording of the Celebration Series of piano publications which have been used by hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
In 1989, Dr. Simon was appointed President of the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he initiated several key projects. In the area of programming, he introduced the first Master of Music Degree Program in Orchestral Performance in the United States and appointed the concertmaster and principal players from the New York Philharmonic as members of the faculty. Dr. Simon’s contribution to the school also extended to the area of fundraising, where he persuaded internationally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de Los Angeles and Shura Cherkassky to give benefit concerts. Under his leadership, the Manhattan School of Music began a physical plant renovation program and introduced new promotional materials and activities that led to a significant increase in the number of annual applicants.
Dr. Simon chaired the Arts Education sub-committee of the Minister’s Advisory Council for Arts and Culture, an agency of the Ontario Ministry of Culture. He was honoured by the Salute to the City awards for his contributions to education in Toronto and has received an Urban Leadership Award from the Canadian Urban Institute.
In 2006, as part of a series of special events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising, Dr. Simon was acknowledged as one of 50 prominent Hungarian-Canadians whose contributions to creativity and innovation in Canada were celebrated.
Dr. Simon is married to the Canadian pianist Dianne Werner. They have two children, Nicole and Justin.
Tony Flynn joined the Royal Conservatory in September 2008 and was appointed Chief Operating Officer in May 2013. He is responsible for the overall performance of the organization, developing a strong management team and ensuring that each operating division achieves its goals. As Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Flynn is also responsible for all facets of financial management including treasury, internal control, accounting and reporting.
Over his thirty year career, Mr. Flynn has been a successful management consultant in diverse industry sectors and held chief operating and senior financial management roles, both in Canada and internationally, principally in the communications and financial services industries. He was previously Executive Vice-President Overseas Operations at Harlequin Enterprises Limited leading to record profitability a portfolio of twenty-one subsidiaries, joint ventures and licensees operating in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. He was also Chief Financial Officer of Royal Trust.
Mr. Flynn is a Chartered Account and holds an MBA from the University of Toronto.
Angela Elster is Vice President, Academics at The Royal Conservatory, where she is responsible for new program development throughout the organization and in setting academic standards for all divisions of The RCM. An accomplished and popular educator, Ms. Elster brings more than more than 20 years classroom teaching experience in Ontario public schools to The Royal Conservatory.
Angela held the position of Executive Director of Learning Through the Arts for thirteen years, during which time she created and successfully implemented LTTA to bring it to the current position as a full division of The RCM. Angela will continue to lead LTTA during the current transition period.
Ms. Elster first joined The Royal Conservatory of Music as a teacher in 1982 and since this time has excelled as faculty member, and Course Director of teacher pedagogy. She was involved in virtually every aspect of the Conservatory, including The Community School’s Children’s Department, teacher education programs, and The Glenn Gould School, before founding Learning Through the Arts.
She started her career in music studying voice at the University of Toronto and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education before undertaking graduate work at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, receiving her Master's Degree in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning. Most recently Ms. Elster graduated with a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies, Research, Leadership and Training in Expressive Arts: Therapy, Education and Consulting at the European Graduate School.
A certified Early Childhood Educator and a certified Orff specialist with advanced training at the Orff Institute in Salzburg, Austria, Angela worked in the public school system for more than 20 years. Concurrent with her career at the Conservatory, Angela Elster has served as a Course Director at McMaster and York Universities in Teacher Education, and has been presenting at Education and Academic Conferences throughout Canada, the United States and Europe for decades. She is currently a PhD. candidate at the European Graduate School, Switzerland.
Mervon Mehta’s career in the arts has seen him on both sides of the curtain. A student of the late Sanford Meisner, Mehta has performed as an actor in over 100 theatrical productions, including residencies at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, and two seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. He was a founding member of the Neighborhood Group Theatre in New York City, and has appeared on the stages of the Court, Steppenwolf, and Apple Tree theatres in Chicago. He has made several appearances on television and in films.
In 1994, Mehta put his theatrical career on ‘temporary’ hold and joined the Ravinia Festival in Chicago as programmer for their pop concert series. In 1998, he became Director of Programming and added the title of Director of Production in 2001. Ravinia hosts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra each summer for 20 concerts and presents an international roster of artists in recital and chamber music concerts; a four-day jazz festival led by Ramsey Lewis; some of the biggest names in pop, blues, country, and cabaret; as well as a children’s series, master classes, workshops, and the innovative Musica Viva world music series.
In February of 2002, Mehta was named the first Vice President of Programming and Education at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Under his leadership, the Kimmel Center brought an array of talent across many genres of music to Philadelphia. Highlights include the Philadelphia debuts of world music artists Caetano Veloso, Mariza, and Ravi Shankar; the return to Philadelphia of great orchestras from Berlin, Vienna, Boston, Chicago, and New York; recitals by Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, and Renée Fleming; the Alvin Ailey, Garth Fagan, and Urban Tap dance companies; and a focus on jazz that has featured the biggest and brightest stars, including Oscar Peterson, Ornette Coleman, Wynton Marsalis, and a six-year, 30-concert relationship with Panamanian jazz pianist, Danilo Pérez.
Mehta still appears on stage frequently as a narrator of orchestral works. He has performed with the Munich and LA Philharmonics, the National Arts Center Orchestra, the Chicago and Houston Symphonies, the Hungarian National Orchestra, the Gulbenkian Orchestra (Lisbon, Portugal), at the Festival de Radio France, and the Maggio Fiorentino (Florence, Italy), under the batons of Christoph Eschenbach, Lawrence Foster, and Zubin Mehta
Since April of 2009, Mehta has been the Executive Director of Performing Arts for The Royal Conservatory. He oversaw the successful launch of Koerner Hall, The Conservatory’s stunning 1,135-seat concert venue. He is responsible for programming Koerner Hall’s successful series of classical, jazz, world music, and pop concerts, as well as overseeing all of the other performances and events throughout The Conservatory’s home at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning.
He was born in Vienna, Austria, and grew up in Montreal. He is the son of singer Carmen Mehta (a Royal Conservatory alumna) and conductor Zubin Mehta, and is married to Carey Suleiman, Senior Director of Marketing for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. They have a son named Zed.
Krista O’Donnell joined The Royal Conservatory in March 2008. She heads the Development Department, overseeing all fundraising campaigns, programs, and initiatives for the organization.
Ms. O’Donnell is an accomplished fundraiser with an exceptional track record of experience and success in development. For over 15 years, she has focused primarily on campaigns, major gifts, and planned gift fundraising for some of the most leading and successful charitable organizations in Canada for health, education, and the arts.
Before joining the Conservatory, Ms. O'Donnell worked at the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation for more than eight years during the Together We Make Life Better Campaign. There she held the position of Director, Major & Planned Gifts, and managed a large staff responsible for providing $27-$30 million in revenue on average each year. Prior to this position, she worked for two years at the University of Toronto on its Great Minds for a Great Future Campaign, and previously to this position for three and a half years at the Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation on The Best Medicine Campaign.
Ms. O'Donnell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto. In addition, she is a Certified Fundraising Executive and holds the CFRE designation, which is the only internationally recognized professional credential for philanthropic fundraising executives. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Arlen Bartsch is a senior business executive with 25 years of leadership experience in the private and not-profit sectors. Highly motivating and deftly strategic, Arlen has honed his expertise in strategic planning, program management, fundraising and stakeholder relationship management through valuable experience with national and international organizations such as Canada’s National Ballet School, Corel Corporation, and Getty Images.
Early in his career, Arlen created, launched, and sold an e-commerce start-up to the US-based publicly traded Getty Images, and received an ‘Innovation Award’ from Publish magazine for his work. At Corel Corporation, he recruited and built an international sales team responsible for selling software in 60 countries. He managed wholesale distribution, retail, and licensing agreements with 160 international partners. He helped advance Corel’s sales revenue from $10 Million to $100 Million through five years of meteoric growth.
After stints as Vice President, Business Development with Ottawa’s Hemera Technologies, Director of Business Development with Toronto’s Idée Inc, and Vice President, Business Development with Kanata’s Neurolanguage, Arlen accepted a position in the non-profit sector with Canada’s National Ballet School.
At the National Ballet School, Arlen excelled in his roles as Director of Fund Development and Director of Business Development. Under his leadership the School secured grants and private donations for the school’s core programs leading to 5 consecutive annual operating surpluses. Arlen also introduced a successful peer-to-peer fundraising pilot, developed an e-commerce platform for retail sales and advanced the school’s fundraising reach into the USA. His vast experience in stakeholder relationship management and stewardship propelled both sponsorship and philanthropic giving from corporate, foundation and individual donors.
In his spare time, Arlen enjoys fundraising for community organizations such as Toronto’s Deaf Culture Centre, and is an avid chorister with Vivace Vox. Arlen earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Ottawa (graduating magna cum laude) and also has a diploma in Christian Education from Bethany College. Follow Arlen on Twitter: @arlenbartsch.