The City of Lakes Music Society, a not-for-profit organization, is the brainchild of Alexandra Lee, former principal cellist for the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra and Juno-nominated Silver Birch String Quartet. 

After the String Quartet disbanded in 2016, Lee recognized a gap within the City of Greater Sudbury when it came to classical chamber music. It was her love of stringed-ensemble music and desire to foster this genre that led to the creation of an organization that would embrace the appreciation of classical chamber music. A small group of like-minded people met in the Fall of 2016. Brainstorming sessions were held to envision and develop the mandate of this new organization that would fulfill a need in the Greater Sudbury area while ensuring a sustainable and long-lasting presence within the community. 

The City of Lakes Music Society was incorporated in January 2017 with a Board of Directors of only three members. As of March 2019, the Board consists of a full complement of seven members who also act as volunteers when it comes to organizing and promoting events as well as managing the organization. The Music Society received charitable status in 2018.

In late August 2017, Paulette Gagnon, a professional arts consultant, offered her assistance in developing the Music Society’s Strategic and Working Plan which was adopted later in the year. Unfortunately, Paulette Gagnon was never formally acknowledged for her in-kind donation before passing away in October 2017. The Plan remains the Music Society’s living document which is reviewed and amended as needed.

Lee’s original ‘Cello Café’ event held monthly at a local eatery, where local student cellists would perform their work-in-progress for their families and friends, has morphed into ‘Cello Café and Friends’ which now includes students playing various musical instruments or singing. This event continues to occur several times per year at local Residences for Seniors on the 4th Sunday of the month. This provides an opportunity for students to gain confidence in performing, while entertaining an appreciative public. 

The Mattawa String Retreat, a week-long music-educational experience for adults, was originally conceived by the North Bay Symphony. In 2016, the Silver Birch String Quartet spearheaded the summer retreat for its seventh season. Since 2017, the Retreat is now one of the City of Lakes Music Society’s main events where people from across Ontario attend and enjoy the companionship and musical efforts of other amateur musicians. Lee, who now lives in British Columbia, returned every summer to Mattawa until 2019, as the Artistic Director for the retreat.  After the pandemic-related hiatus, the Summer Strings Retreat returned in 2023, at its new venue at Thorneloe University in Sudbury, under the expert direction of Geoff McCausland, former member of the Silver Birch String Quartet.

Matt Kallio, Lee’s successor as the City of Lakes Music Society’s Artistic director, spearheaded the Keys to the Library Concert Series bringing local guest performers to play a short program at the City’s Library on Mackenzie street. With donations received over a 3-year period, a digital piano was purchased for the Library Concert Series and other chamber music events in the area. Kallio also headed some interesting concerts (Ode to St Cecilia, Bachanalia, Terpsichordia) until his relocation to Alberta in the summer of 2019.

Dr. Charlene Biggs and Dr. Jamie Arrowsmith gracefully accepted the position of Co-Artistic Directors for the year following Matt Kallio’s departure.  Subsequently,  Charlene alone assumed the position of Artistic Director.  She introduced International Women’s Day concerts featuring women composers and musicians who could not be recognized in earlier centuries.  As a talented pianist and soloist artist, she also gratifies many Sudbury audiences with her extraordinary performances.

The City of Lakes Music Society offers a formal chamber music concert series held throughout the year with performances from local professional musicians featuring the work of the world’s greatest composers.