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April 14, 2021

Alumna Bridget Hunt (MM ’93)

Violinist Bridget Hunt (MM ’93) and her Commitment to Presence

Written by Savannah Harris (MM ’19)

Violinist Bridget Hunt stepped out on a limb, taking a sabbatical from her long-standing position in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to study something that had always captivated her—the mind. From 2019 to 2020, Bridget went back to school to study psychotherapy, testing the waters and exploring a possible career shift that would alter her lifestyle significantly.

Two things happened: COVID-19 arrived in North America at the top of 2020, destabilizing the arts and many other industries in its wake. And, in that whirlwind, she faced the realization that building a psychology practice would take six more years of schooling during an uncertain time. Toronto’s strict COVID restrictions meant the orchestra couldn’t meet, and as many musicians in other Canadian provinces were able to gather and stream concerts from their halls, Bridget found herself seriously missing performance. “I realized, being away from it for so long, given the pandemic and my year going back to school—it just solidified how much I love playing in an orchestra,” she said.

Now, in the spring of 2021, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) led by conductor Gustavo Gimeno has finally started convening again, with Bridget back in what has become her professional home. “I’ll always be interested [in psychotherapy], but I decided to take that avenue to come back to being an orchestral musician, because really, I love it! I love being able to make music this way,” Bridget said.

Her career at the TSO goes back to 1994, when she was hired on her first audition, fresh out of grad school. Bridget studied with renowned violinist Sylvia Rosenberg here at MSM from 1991 to 1993 and considered getting her doctorate before ultimately deciding to give professional orchestral playing a shot.

“I realized, being away from it for so long, given the pandemic and my year going back to school—it just solidified how much I love playing in an orchestra.”

Bridget credits MSM’s conservatory environment, in particular, with preparing her for the realities of life in a large ensemble.  “Manhattan School was one of the first schools to really put emphasis on orchestral playing. I got to train with Enrico Dicecco from the New York Philharmonic, doing orchestral excerpts and several lessons with him before I took my audition with TSO. You don’t realize it in the moment, but we were very lucky as students to get that kind of training,” she said. 

She went on to win the grand prize at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition in her native Canada and won prizes at both the CIBC National Music Festival and the Canadian Music Competition. Immediately, she began rigorously learning repertoire for the TSO and developing the ability to be whatever the music calls for at any moment. It took a few years to get settled into her new job, new marriage, and later, new role as a mother. With her two children born just a couple of years apart, life was extremely busy for Bridget and her husband, acclaimed television and film composer Robert Carli. As active professionals in a life of music, they worked hard to carve out space and time to be present parents as well. 

“My absolute number-one thing when I had my children was that no matter whatif I am going to do the Toronto Symphony job, which is very demandingmy other job is just as important, which is being a mom. I really held that dearly.” Now that her children are 17 and 19and the eldest is a college student, Bridget has some time to herself. She has been active in Toronto’s chamber music scene, participating in numerous series like chamberWORKS, New Music Concerts, and Evening Overtures. She also collaborates frequently with her husband, a fivetime Gemini Award winning composer. 

“I truly believe that the world is a crazy place, and we all need—more than ever—to take the time to be in the moment we are given. Whether it’s good or bad, you have to embrace what’s in front of you.”

In what we hope will be the beginning of the end of this pandemic, Bridget is taking time out to cultivate mindfulness and deepened gratitude. When asked what grounds her, Bridget emphatically answered, “Meditation! 100%.” As a self-described practical person with a sharp radar for anything disingenuous, it took time for Bridget to come to meditation, but she swears by the importance of being present—especially during this pandemic, when we are often thinking of what we’ve lost, especially as a community of artists. Bridget recommends practicing mindfulness and gratitude for things as simple as your morning cup of coffee.

“I truly believe that the world is a crazy place, and we all need—more than ever—to take the time to be in the moment we are given. Whether it’s good or bad, you have to embrace what’s in front of you,” Bridget said. It’s not the easiest thing to do, and she admits that it took years for her to feel comfortable thinking this way. “I was at level 11 for a long time! Just go, go, go! That was the way I was and the way I was brought up,” she said, “but just recently I’ve realized that so much of happiness in life is appreciating what is being presented to you in the moment.”