John Kim Bell was North America’s first Indigenous conductor — now he’s a Governor General’s Award winner – CBC

by ahnationtalk on May 25, 2023113 Views

May 24, 2023

He’s conducted for the Royal Philharmonic, worked with The Bee Gees, and founded the Indspire Awards

Judged on his creative endeavours alone, John Kim Bell would be a worthy candidate for a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award.

Born in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory and raised between Kahnawake and Columbus, Ohio, Bell was conducting on Broadway when he was just 18, working with the likes of Vincent Price, Gene Kelly and Lauren Bacall. From there, he became an apprentice conductor at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, making him the first Indigenous person to conduct an orchestra. In 1984, the CBC made a documentary about him called John Kim Bell: The First North American Indian Conductor.

He then went on to conduct the orchestra for the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Philharmonic, among others. He wrote the score for the first contemporary Indigenous ballet, In the Land of the Spirit, in 1988. And he’s even worked with The Bee Gees.

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