In the summer of 1995, a 15-year-old trombonist sat quietly in the audience at the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, taking in her first-ever live concert experience.
As a volunteer at the festival, Catherine Motuz got to meet many of the festival's stars — professional musicians like Steven Sitarski, Julie Nesrallah and Andrew Dawes, who inspired her to start thinking seriously about playing her instrument beyond high school music class.
Fourteen years later, Motuz is gearing up to take the stage at the very festival that made her want to pursue music as a career in the first place.
"That first festival I volunteered at showed me that it wasn't just child prodigies that could become professional musicians," she said.
The festival, which kicked off this weekend and runs through Aug. 8, features world premieres, 18 celebrated pianists and more than a dozen string quartets, showcased in over 90 concerts and events at about half a dozen venues.
"Honestly, I probably wouldn't have become a musician if it hadn't been for that early experience volunteering with Chamberfest," said Motuz.
In the fall of 1998, Motuz enrolled for a double major in trombone performance and composition.
Every summer though, Motuz would come back to Ottawa to volunteer at Chamberfest, and eventually began working in a paid position at the Ottawa Chamber Music Society office.
"It means a lot to me to be a part of the festival as an artist this time — it's very surreal," she said.
Since graduating with a master's degree in Early Music at McGill in 2004, Motuz has moved to Switzerland, and performed all over Europe as well as Japan, Russia and Israel in her career as a professional baroque trombonist.
However, a humble Motuz said that nothing compares to being back in Ottawa to play at the festival that changed everything for her.
"I remember thinking when I first went off to university that if I were someday able to come back to Ottawa to actually play Chamberfest, then I would know that I had really made it."