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Alan C. Middleton in the desert

My TSO Story: Alan C. Middleton, PhD.

April 2, 2024

In the grand symphony of life, there are those whose melodies transcend time, leaving an everlasting impact for generations to come. Now, imagine the stories these individuals carry with them, each as rich and diverse as the notes of a symphony.

Every year, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra celebrates the members of our TSO Legacy Circle. These generous donors have chosen to dedicate a portion of their estate to various charities close to their hearts, including the TSO.

However, the journey of each member of our Legacy Circle is different. Whether they grew up attending orchestra concerts with their family or discovering the magic of orchestral music later on in life, the impact of the arts on each of them has been profound.  

Alan C. Middleton, PhD., is one of these donors. Having been all around the world, his relationship with music is very personal. But how did he get involved with the TSO? What compelled him to be a member of our Legacy Circle? Join us as Dr. Middleton shares his TSO journey with Noteworthy.


My TSO Story: Alan C. Middleton, PhD.

I grew up in the east end of London, England within the sound of Bow Bells (St. Mary-le-Bow Church in Cheapside) which makes me a cockney. My parents moved down to Brighton on the south coast, which is where I went to Grammar School and met some of my closest friends. An immediate post-war, only child, my parents were great and within very limited income, spoiled me. One of their favourite things to do was ballroom dancing, but that music, and Bing Crosby and Vera Lynn, was about as far as their musical tastes went. My tastes were different. It was the era of Skiffle, a folk, blues, and jazz blend, (Lonnie Donegan); then early Rock n’ Roll (Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and early Elvis Presley). Then the Beatles hit! Then an avalanche of local talent including the Rolling Stones, which took Mick Jagger away from finishing his degree at my University, the London School of Economics. Though I loved this music and the talent it released; I had discovered another sound.

When I was about 16 years old, by chance I heard a piece of music on a friend’s radio. It was magical! But I had only heard a part so tracked down what I had heard and rushed out and purchased my first LP (for the young that’s a long-playing record) to play on my newly acquired record player. It was Dvorak Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”.  Magnificent in its blending of African American and Native themes with European musical styles; a similar combination to what British rock music had been exploring. I had to explore further. Next, I discovered Holst’s Planets Suite (yes ‘Mars’, but especially ‘Venus’ and ‘Saturn’).

I bought records and started to go to the occasional symphony concert. In the early 1970s, I emigrated to Canada and continued my exploration, discovering the TSO under Music Directors Karel Ančerl and Andrew Davis. I didn’t subscribe, but I attended major works. My work in marketing and advertising transferred me to Japan for a couple of years. In Tokyo, I became a regular attendee at the Tokyo Symphony at Suntory Hall. I was struck by how well-informed audiences were and how committed to supporting their orchestras. A thought that stayed with me.

Then a change of career. I returned to Toronto which saw me back at school doing my PhD at the Schulich School of Business, where I had done my MBA when I arrived in Canada. My budget and my concert attendance decreased, but kept going.  After graduation I went to teach at the Rutgers Business School in New Jersey in the US for a year, then came back to Toronto for a faculty position at Schulich. That’s when I stepped up my engagement with the arts and especially the TSO. I now subscribe to many concerts and am a regular donor. I decided also to make it a long-term commitment, so through my life insurance, other policies, and my will, have made the Toronto Symphony a major beneficiary.


Symphony music, as with all the arts are, to me, an essential part of being a complete human being. The emotional and exploratory senses that get charged are invaluable. I have loved all TSO performances but especially love their work with composers like Beethoven, Berlioz, Debussy, Holst, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Stravinsky, and Vaughan Williams. (I wish they would do more Alan Hovhaness and Arvo Part).

The TSO is a key asset for Toronto emotionally, commercially, and spiritually. We need to help it be one of the best in the world.

As citizens, we need to ‘give back’ to those things in our culture that we believe in and have benefited from. This means more of us donating but especially leaving lasting legacies when we can.

Alan C. Middleton by a waterfall

Beck Family CEO, Mark Williams, has said that it's devoted audiences who keep the legacy of the TSO alive. As we reach the end of our 2023/24 season, please consider including the TSO in your will. There’s no time like the present to invest in the future—no matter where you are on life’s journey.

For more information about including a gift to the TSO in your will, or making the TSO a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, please contact:

Emelita Ervin, Senior Development Officer, Legacy Giving