About Us

Mission

The mission of Xenia Concerts Inc. is to offer high quality music and arts performances, presentations, and educational programs, in an environment that welcomes those who might not have access to such events and activities due to physical, mental, or financial barriers. 

Vision

Re-imagining music and arts events and activities to make them inclusive, relevant, and accessible to all members of society, thereby improving quality of life and promoting the enjoyment of the arts.

Our Values

  • Enrichment – Xenia Concerts Inc. fundamentally believes that music and the arts improve the quality of life of all listeners
  • Inclusion – Xenia Concerts Inc. believes that everyone should have access to live music events and other arts programming/education
  • Quality – Xenia Concerts Inc. believes that an accessible concert or arts event should be of the highest professional quality
  • Inspiration – Xenia Concerts Inc. seeks to inspire audiences by exposing them to new arts experiences
  • Community – Xenia Concerts Inc. seeks to nurture social development and create community through accessible and inclusive arts events

“Our family loved your performance today!… Our kids loved the dance floor area. We just want to say thank you for the opportunity to enjoy a live classical music performance as a family.” Lisa, Toronto

“Wonderful, inclusive event. Brought tears to my eyes to see so many families who wouldn’t be able to experience something like this otherwise, feeling free to move and dance to the music.” Oct 2015

“This was so well thought out. From the venue space to the fidget toys to the dance floor, it was the most accessible event we have been to in a long time.” Oct 2015

Press Reviews of Xenia Concerts:

Xenia Concerts carve out a place to bring classical music to children with autism (Toronto Star, Feb 2019) 

On A High Note (Toronto Sun, Apr 2016)

Cecilia Quartet Reaches Out to Children with Autism (Toronto Star, Apr 2016)

Land Acknowledgement

Xenia Concerts Inc. is based in what is now known as Toronto (Tkaronto), on the homelands of the Huron-Wendat First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River.

This territory was the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.

Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and Freesound is grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.

Our Story

XENIA CONCERTS was launched by the Cecilia String Quartet during the 2014/2015 season as a pilot program to address a barrier in the arts: people living with autism often do not feel welcomed to attend classical concerts because they have tendencies to move around and make sound during the performance. Despite this unfortunate reality, recent scholarship shows that live classical concerts make powerful impressions on those with autism, and can greatly improve their quality of life. In order to address this need, the members of the Cecilia String Quartet spent a year learning about and connecting with members of the Toronto autism community. They took what they learned and used it to create a truly accessible series of classical concerts that welcomes people affected by autism and disability. These first concerts were met with enormous praise, and in response to continuing demand to accessible arts programming, Xenia Concerts Inc. is now a registered charity devoted to creating a accessible arts events for all members of society who may not have access due to physical, mental, or financial barriers.

Xenia Concerts Inc. firmly believes that concerts should be inclusive events that enrich the lives of all types of audiences, and that everyone deserves equal access to high quality live performances of classical music. Our unique approach to programming makes these chamber music performances more accessible and appealing for audiences who self-identify as having little or no access to traditional concerts, while at the same time maintaining a commitment to presenting internationally recognized artists performing at the highest standard. Whether Xenia is presenting for members of the autism community, or other individuals or groups who want better access to the arts, Xenia Concerts happen in spaces that allow audiences to listen in the way they feel most comfortable, even if this means moving around and making sound. Audience members can sit, stand, dance, and play with toys as they enjoy the music.

Xenia Concerts Inc. officially became a Registered Charity in May of 2017. Xenia Concerts Inc. is grateful to have a number of supportive partner organizations that help us bring Xenia Concerts to communities across Canada. In the future, Xenia Concerts Inc. will develop new projects that will bring incredible music and art to every person in society regardless of what might stand in their way.

Our Staff

Sarah Nematallah, Executive and Artistic Director

Sarah Nematallah has led a rewarding career as a performer and arts administrator since 2004, with an extensive history of representing Canada and the Canadian Arts Scene both nationally and internationally, in over 30 countries on 5 continents. As a violinist, Ms. Nematallah is a founding member of the award winning, JUNO nominated Cecilia String Quartet, and has performed solo, orchestral, and chamber music internationally for institutions such as the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam); the Berlin Konzerthaus; London’s Wigmore Hall, the Library of Congress (Washington D.C.); the Verbier Festival (Switzerland); and the Banff Summer Arts Festival. In addition to her touring profile, Ms. Nematallah has performed and given presentations on music for hundreds of non-standard venues and audiences, including California School for the Blind (Fremont CA), San Francisco County Jail (San Francisco CA), the Monarch School for Homeless Youths (San Diego CA), Learning Through the Arts at the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto ON), and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Stanford CA). Ms. Nematallah was the recipient of the University of Toronto William and Phyllis Waters Graduating Award given to a graduating student deemed by the University to have the greatest potential for making an important contribution to the field of music.

Ms. Nematallah was previously Adjunct Professor at The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, as well as Co-coordinator of the Faculty’s Chamber Music Program. Ms. Nematallah has extensive experience with public media, with performances and live interviews given on CBC Radio 1 and 2, WQXR (New York), DeutschlandRadio (Germany), and BBC Radio 3 (England). She has appeared as a panel speaker for organizations such as the Canadian Arts Presenting Organization (CAPACOA), Chamber Music America, the International Artists Managers’ Association (IAMA), and CIHR Café Scientifique. Currently the organization’s Executive and Artistic Director, Ms. Nematallah is a proud co-founder of Xenia Concerts Inc.

Paolo Griffin, Managing Director

Paolo Griffin is an arts administrator and composer based in Toronto. His work in arts administration has spanned continents. Paolo has been a part of teams working to organise music festivals such as the Kaalio New Music Days (Finland), Dag in de Branding (The Netherlands), and has worked extensively as a producer and administrator at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague (The Netherlands).

As a composer, Paolo’s music has been performed internationally in over 10 countries. He is the founder and director of Freesound, a contemporary music ensemble based in Toronto. He is active in the contemporary music and arts scenes of Toronto, and is a passionate advocate of accessible arts for everyone. Paolo’s education has taken him from the University of Toronto (Canada), to the Sibelius Academy (Finland), and the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague (The Netherlands). Since 2019, Paolo has been the Managing Director of Xenia Concerts Inc.

Evan Lamberton, Artistic Administrator

A native of Vancouver, Evan Lamberton began his foray into music with the clarinet. After several stints in band camp over the years he now resides in Toronto where he studied with internationally renowned cellist Shauna Rolston at the University of Toronto. Prior to moving to Toronto, Evan studied under cellist Ariel Barnes under whose tutelage he developed a passion for chamber music and contemporary works – both facets of the musical ouvre he enjoys exploring in tandem. Evan has also had the great pleasure of studying under such eminent artists as the Julliard String Quartet, Rachel Mercer, the Cecilia String Quartet the Gryphon Trio, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. A winner of the Felix Galimir Award for Excellence in Chamber Music in both 2014 and 2016, Evan attended the St. Lawrence String Quartet seminar at Stanford University as a member of the Erato String Quartet. When not teaching for Sistema Toronto, Evan can be found playing for Musica Reflecta  and the Queer Songbook Orchestra

Xenia Concerts Inc. Board of Directors

Robert Williams, President and Chair

Robert Williams, President of Xenia Concerts, has Master’s degrees in Social Work and Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in Bioethics. He has worked as a bioethicist, social worker, archaeologist, dance historian and bookseller.  His great-grandfather was the distinguished founder of “R. S. Williams & Sons,” a prominent Toronto company that made and sold musical instruments in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His grandfather donated an important collection of historical musical instruments and materials to the Royal Ontario Museum. Robert collects instruments associated with his family’s company and has loaned a number of fine stringed instruments to promising young musicians. He has also supported the Banff International String Quartet Competition (BISQC) and the Royal Conservatory of Music through its scholarship and chamber music programs. Understanding the universal power of music, Robert is proud to support Xenia Concerts, which makes great music accessible to all people.

Gillian Story, Vice-Chair

Gillian Story professionally bridges the arts and business, with a decade of not-for-profit arts experience, followed by an exciting transition into the finance industry. After holding positions in education and management with two of Canada’s largest arts organizations, the Canadian Opera Company and the Royal Conservatory of Music, which included leading the successful degree granting approval project for the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, Ms. Story has successfully transitioned into the corporate sector as Program Manager with Sun Life Financial, where she has led major strategic projects and won an award in her first year for her work on Sun Life’s United Way campaign.

Ms. Story remains deeply invested in the arts, serving as Vice-Chair of the board of accessibility-focused not-for-profit Xenia Concerts, hosting the Royal Conservatory Orchestra’s pre-concert interview series, as well as performing and recording with a Toronto-based indie band.

Ms. Story holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music and Psychology from Concordia University, a Masters Certificate in Public and Not-For-Profit Management from York’s Schulich School, and an Executive MBA candidate at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

Robert Tanner, Treasurer 
Robert Tanner is a lawyer practicing in Toronto and is a founding board member of Xenia Concerts Inc.

David Guiney, Secretary

David Guiney is a lawyer and resident of Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada. Among several volunteer activities, David has coached boys’ hockey and served, among other positions, as the Chair of the Etobicoke Children’s Centre (“ECC”).  Over a period of 10 years, David’s experience with ECC led to his participation as Secretary of the board of directors of Xenia. David is a partner at Tanner & Guiney Associates, Barristers and Solicitors.  His practice involved providing advice to cooperatives and credit unions.  Between 2008 and 2018, David left Tanner & Guiney to serve as the chief operating officer of a provincial warranty corporation.  David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto, a Masters in Public Administration from Queen’s University, and a LL.B from McGill University. David is an avid golfer and cyclist.  He is married with two sons.  He is learning, through his experience at Xenia, to appreciate the beauty of classical and jazz music and its benefits for children with autism and mental health challenges and their families.

David Visentin, Director
David Visentin is widely known throughout Canada as a performer, conductor, pedagogue and arts administrator whose leadership and creative experience in the performing arts has successfully advanced classical music from coast to coast. In 2011, founded Sistema Toronto and was appointed as the organization’s President and CEO. For six years, David served as Dean and Associate Dean of The Glenn Gould School and Young Artists Performance Academy of The Royal Conservatory of Music and held the position of principal conductor of the Royal Conservatory Academy Orchestra. David is currently the Director of the Victoria Conservatory of Music Postsecondary Department and the Chair of the Camosun College Music Department.

Amanda Smith, Director

Amanda Smith is the Director of Marketing & Communication for the Honens International Piano Competition & Festival. She plays both the piano and saxophone and received a Bachelor of Music with a Minor in Marketing from Queen’s University. After teaching English in Honduras for a year, Amanda returned to Calgary to complete her MBA from Trinity Western University in Non-Profit and Charitable Organization Management. 

With over 10 years of corporate sales and marketing experience, Amanda is excited to be working with the Xenia Concerts to further their mission of making quality classical music accessible to all.