Following three successful seasons (1996-1999) as Acting Principal Trumpet of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Karen Donnelly was unanimously appointed Principal Trumpet in October 1999.
A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Karen became hooked on the trumpet in her elementary school band program. While she displayed a natural ability for the instrument, she started her formal training much later at the University of Regina.
After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Music, Ms. Donnelly received a major bursary from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to continue studying at McGill University where she completed a Master of Music in 1991. While in Montreal, she quickly became one of the most sought-after trumpet players in the area, performing with most major ensembles including the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. From 1994-1996, Karen held the position of Principal Trumpet with Orchestra London (Canada) and performed with many ensembles in southwestern Ontario during this period.
Karen Donnelly has been featured as trumpet soloist with the NAC Orchestra on several occasions. The NAC commissioned Gary Kulesha, NAC Award Composer, to write a piece especially for Karen. The resulting composition, The Boughs of Music, was on the NAC Orchestra’s Alberta-Saskatchewan Tour in 2005.
Since her arrival in Ottawa in 1996, Karen has kept a busy chamber music schedule performing many concerts for CBC (French and English) and with the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival. As a member of the Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet, she is very active in giving educational concerts and workshops in schools. Also a member of the large ensemble, Capital BrassWorks, Karen is very involved in the organization and presentation of this group’s highly successful concert series held in Ottawa. Capital BrassWorks recently released its third CD, “Gabriel’s Sister” featuring Ms. Donnelly as soloist.
In addition, Ms. Donnelly performs as soloist with groups varying from professional orchestras, to community amateur orchestras and many local school bands. Ms. Donnelly has also been soloist with ensembles such as Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra London, McGill Symphony Orchestra, Hannaford Silver Street Band, Maple Leaf Brass Band, the Regina Catholic Schools Honour Band, just to name a few.
Teaching continues to be an important part of Karen’s schedule. Through the NAC Music Education programs, Karen has given master classes in Switzerland, Mexico, the United States and in Canada from coast to coast. Ms. Donnelly joined the teaching staff at the University of Ottawa in 2002. Recently, Karen has been working with a team of volunteer teachers in the newly created “Orchkidstra” program in Ottawa that gives lessons and instruments to children in inner-city schools.
Thanks to the generosity of the Canada Council for the Arts, during the 2006-2007 season, Karen has been able to embark on a professional development program to study with Philip Smith, Principal Trumpet of the New York Philharmonic.