Lydia Adams-Conductor

Lydia Adams photo Pierre Maravel

An accomplished conductor, composer, arranger and pianist, Lydia Adams is now in her 24th season as Artistic Director of the Elmer Iseler Singers, a professional chamber choir and a national leader in commissioning, premièring, performing and recording Canadian choral works. For 35 years, she was also the Artistic Director of the Amadeus Choir of Greater Toronto, building it from a small community choir into a nationally recognized choral organization with an outstanding reputation for innovation, commissions and performances of established and contemporary works.

Born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Ms. Adams’ early and lifelong musical influence was her mother, Florence Adams. She studied piano with Marguerite MacDougall before receiving further musical education at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, and at the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio in London, England.


Honoured as an Ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre, Ms. Adams has been described as the new leading exponent of the Canadian choral composer.” An innovative programmer and champion of Canadian choral composers, Ms. Adams has conducted the premières of hundreds of choral works, including the world’s first Cree opera, Pimooteewin: The Journey, by Tomson Highway and Melissa Hui; Music of the Land, by Kathleen Allan, featuring the Ullugiagatsuk Children’s Choir and dancers and throat singers from Northern Labrador; Om Saha Nãvavatu, a meditational work on Vedic Mantras by Timothy Corlis and Nur: Reflections on Light by Hussein Janmohamed, based on Islamic chant. In addition, Ms. Adams has recorded 18 CDs with her choirs. Her own compositions and many arrangements, including Leon Dubinsky’s We Rise Again and Allister MacGillivray’s Here’s to Song, are regularly performed and enjoyed worldwide.

Ms. Adams has received numerous accolades for her contributions to Canadian music, including citations from the City of Scarborough, the Women’s International Network, and the Ontario Choral Federation. She has been awarded Honorary Degrees by Mount Allison University (Doctor of Music, 2003, for excellence in the Arts) and by Cape Breton University (Doctor of Letters, 2018, for her dedication to the presentation and evolution of musical culture”). Her work has been celebrated by the Toronto Arts Foundation, as recipient of the Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition in 2012, and by the Ontario Arts Council with the 2013 Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, for promoting and programming the music of both time-honoured and contemporary Canadian composers, while at the same time promoting young Canadian artists, many of whom have gone on to establish a career in singing.” 

Her work has been recognized through Canada’s national choral organization, Choral Canada with awards including Outstanding Choral CD (2002); Outstanding Choral Event (2012); Outstanding Innovative Choral Performance (2014) and the Distinguished Service Award in 2018. In 2016, Ms. Adams was a co-recipient of the Parks Canada CEO Award for Excellence for her collaboration on the music drama, The Bells of Baddeck by Lorna MacDonald and Dean Burry, presented at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Cape Breton. That year, she was also honoured to be appointed Visiting Associate Professor in Choral Studies at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, Western University, and Director of the Western University Singers.

Through initiatives such as the Elmer Iseler Singers’ and Amadeus Choir’s educational outreach programs, Ms. Adams is well known for giving back to the choral community by providing conducting and composer development clinics, community choir development workshops and as a member of many Juries. She has conducted several provincial youth choirs and the National Youth Choir of Canada.

Lydia is thrilled to be back home with the Elmer Iseler Singers presenting this concert today. It is a great honour!