Okanagan conductor shares ADHD diagnosis in documentary

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Okanagan conductor explores ADHD diagnosis in documentary
Okanagan conductor explores ADHD diagnosis in documentary – Sep 27, 2021

Rosemary Thomson is no stranger to the spotlight.

She is the music director and conductor of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, the co-conductor of the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra and the artistic director of Opera Kelowna. Now she is sharing what she calls a life-changing diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder with a new audience.

“I was diagnosed just over two years ago now, so about six months before the pandemic hit,” Thomson said.

“I am in my 50s so it was really eye-opening. [It was] surprising at first but… I, like everyone, thought that ADHD was a six-year-old boy who couldn’t sit still at his desk and that barely even scratches the surface of really what’s going on in my brain.”
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The way the virtuoso conducts her day-to-day life on and off the stage is the tune of a new documentary, Shiny Objects – The Conductor with ADHD.

“She shared her diagnosis with me and told me about how during COVID, she really dove in and did her research about it and [was] understanding more what the challenges are but she really discovered what some of her gifts were, as well. It was extremely inspiring,” said Gillie Richards, director and co-producer of the documentary.

The documentary follows Thomson’s life and explores what ADHD is and what the diagnosis means for those diagnosed with it.

Richards has even diagnosed with ADHD herself while making the film.

“It can affect people differently in different parts of their brains but there’s two subtypes: there’s inattentive and then there’s hyperactive-impulsive,” said Richards.

“It’s basically how the neurotransmitters work in your brain…. it’s complicated but it’s also simple. When you start to work with it and your brain, you find that performance levels increase and you can be very successful.”

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For the conductor, her time management skills are the ones most affected by her ADHD.

“When I first got the diagnosis I was driving, [I was] late to rehearsal, my phone was dead and I ran out of gas and I went ‘Oh yeah I believe it,'” Thomson said.

“But now I know why, but then just reading more and more about all the implications of ADHD… then digging into understand how I can use this neurodiversity and really play out my strengths and my creativity, I feel like I am just on the beginning of that journey,” Thomson said.

“It shifts your self-loathing into a place of compassion and I think for mental health that’s what we all need.”

The 40-minute long documentary funded by the Telus Storyhive project will be shown at the Kelowna Community Theatre on Oct. 16 and all money raised will be donated to the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and Opera Kelowna.

Tickets are available now at

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