Elaine and Jeremy Clark are donors who live at the centre of the Calgary Philharmonic’s life. Their generosity can be measured not only in financial terms, but also by the time, talent, and passion they devote to the many Calgary Phil projects they support. The fact that the Clarks have given so much to the organization while their family is still so young is extraordinary. Jeremy has been a Trustee of the Calgary Philharmonic Foundation for 10 years, serving as Treasurer and, since 2018, President. Elaine and Jeremy inspired and lead the Mozart Patron Program, host pre-concert chats, sponsor Music to My Ears — and supported countless initiatives along the way — including Jeremy’s favourite, live-streaming, in partnership with Irene and Walt DeBoni. “I have to be quite conservative in my business at CH Financial. With my personal projects, I like to be daring and take risks,” says Jeremy.
Jeremy Clark moved to Calgary in 1999 after completing his undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at McGill University. Despite being armed with an outstanding science education, he felt he was missing the necessary skills to become a top-notch neuroscientist. He started wondering where his passion for numbers could take him — and decided to give finance a try. Crediting the most valuable lesson he learned from his studies — perspective — he was hired immediately and has now worked in various roles for the same company for 22 years. Today he is CH Financial’s President and CEO. “I never applied or submitted my CV anywhere else!” Jeremy laughs.
When Jeremy met his future wife Elaine, she was an accountant with a passion for piano and classical music. She started bringing Jeremy to Calgary Phil concerts and they’ve attended together ever since. “I wasn’t even sure what the Philharmonic was at the time,” Jeremy confesses. “Ethelene and John Gareau, who was a contact from McGill and a huge supporter of the Orchestra, introduced us to the Amadeus Program. John asked me to become a Trustee of the Foundation and, being 35 years old at the time, I was surprised and flattered. In 2011, I was named to the Foundation Board of Trustees and we started donating and attending concerts more often. By then, I was on the Science Faculty Board at McGill and had multiple board positions. When I look back on the last 10 years, I see how it all happened really quickly— from being a concertgoer to all the new things that we have played a part in creating.”
The Mozart Patron Program, one of Elaine and Jeremy’s most personal projects, took off in 2016 to encourage future philanthropists among the orchestra lovers. “The orchestra has some great donors, but who is carrying on their legacy in the future?” Jeremy asks. “In our Mozart circle, people can have a lot of fun and be party-goers, but also feel the responsibility of philanthropy. That line between seriousness and fun, that’s a crucial line to me. And I can now see this is happening, thanks to the help of many wonderful philanthropists that are joining Mozart — I need to give credit to so many people that have joined us in this vision.”
James Stanford and the late John Gareau and Dick Matthews, legendary civic leaders and devoted patrons of the Calgary Philharmonic, served as mentors for Jeremy’s philanthropy: “They kept saying to me that you have an actual duty to give back. If your income goes up, you end up spending it, it’s just human nature. You end up in a sort of elevated university mode where everything is about you. But you have to fight against that. That’s when I realized that I was not doing enough for the society around me. John and Dick taught me that first, I had to give back myself, and then, inspire others to do the same.”
Jeremy serves on the boards of the Calgary Philharmonic and McGill University while running CH Financial, a growing business. “All the things that made me successful with the Philharmonic I do here as well — a holistic financial advising experience is the essence of CH. We do everything from tax returns to finance planning. But it’s like the Orchestra, all parts are running smoothly right now. I really enjoy it. People often say ‘why is a McGill nerd willing to do this?’ Because I really think these are transferable skills. I learned how to analyze things and see big picture and small picture simultaneously, and I use those skills every single day,” he says. “That was the benefit of me not being a good scientist or a good musician!”
Elaine and Jeremy are passing their beliefs on to their two daughters, Keiko, 10, and Chloe, 6. “We have made a conscious decision to give back earlier in our lives, when many of our contemporaries don’t yet have a philanthropic mindset,” says Jeremy. “Our daughters must feel the weight of that responsibility. I don’t want them to feel that they have to be involved in everything we care about, but they certainly have to care about something – and that cannot be just themselves. I’d be disappointed if they closed their eyes to the rest of the world, growing up being selfish people. And I also want to be clear to them that, at a certain point, donating money will be the easier part. It’s donating time that is difficult. That was instilled in me at a young age by my parents, who were also philanthropists in a different way.”
And his children are up to the challenge. They have started attending concerts (dressing up being the most exciting part, of course) and Keiko sometimes takes part in talks and introduces speakers. The girls study music and they love listening to pop (their favourite show is Julie and the Phantoms). But they are also aware of the role that the Orchestra plays in their family life: “I’m planning to bring along some friends once concerts are back,” says Keiko. It definitely runs in the family.