Cramped might be the best way to describe the past two weeks of Martin MacDonald's life.
After flying into Saint John from Toronto, the music conductor has been following New Brunswick's travel rules and self-isolating at the Chipman Hill Suites.
He's passed the time cooped up in his room by studying compositions, binge-watching television and engaging in what little exercise he can that doesn't require equipment or running.
"It's worth it," MacDonald told Information Morning Fredericton on Friday, Day 10 of his mandatory 14-day isolation period.
MacDonald has kept his eye on the prize as he wards off cabin fever, while patiently waiting for his chance to audition to be conductor and musical director for Symphony New Brunswick.
The Cape Breton native, an award-winning conductor considered to be one of Canada's top rising talents, has worked with orchestras across the country and in Europe.
But MacDonald, who's worked in various roles with Symphony Nova Scotia for more than decade, jumped at the opportunity to work again in the Maritimes, calling it a "no-brainer."
"It's really a chance to work and spend time in my end of the country," said MacDonald, who lives in Toronto with his family.
While the search for job candidates has shifted from the boardrooms to Zoom meetings since the onset of COVID-19, the audition process for the conductor role requires that in-person touch.
MacDonald described the process as "speed dating" over the course of several days of performances with the orchestra and meetings with the Symphony New Brunswick board and search committee.
"You come in for five days, spend some time with the orchestra, see if the chemistry is there, and then they make a decision on who they're going to choose," he said, adding the relationship between the conductor and the musicians is hard to explain with words and is reliant on the energy and harmony between them.
LISTEN: Conductor Martin MacDonald explains life in self-isolation ahead of his audition with Symphony New Brunswick
MacDonald said he first knew he wanted to conduct at the age of 15, when he was mesmerized by the conductor during his first rehearsal with the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra.
As the only member of the ensemble that doesn't make a sound during a performance, the conductor uses their body, face and gestures to convey what the composer wants.
"It's like being draped in the composer's intentions, being draped in the music, and you're completely enveloped, you're completely encased in this world of what they want and how you're interpreting it," he said.
The conductor and music director is a big job in the organization, he said — one that would involve planning symphony sessions, analyzing and interpreting musical scores, assisting with marketing and being an ambassador to the community.
Not his 1st isolation
The self-isolation isn't a new experience for MacDonald, however.
He and his wife visited family in Arizona just before the pandemic reached Canada, and they raced home before the borders were closed. They spent two weeks in isolation then.
He said the hardest part of his current isolation is the risk of addiction to CNN.
MacDonald will guest conduct a trio of Symphony New Brunswick performances, titled Summer Roses, to launch its new season in the first week of October.
The orchestra will take to the Imperial Theatre stage in Saint John on Oct. 2, head to the Playhouse in Fredericton on Oct. 3 and conclude the series at Moncton's Capitol Theatre on Oct. 4.