2 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 5 - February 2021

  • Text
  • Toronto
  • Recordings
  • Musicians
  • Pianist
  • Composer
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Jazz
  • Recording
  • February
So, How Much Ground WOULD a ground hog hog? community arts and the Dominion Foundries end run; the vagaries of the concert hall livestreaming ban; hymns to freedom; postsecondary auditions do the COVID shuffle; and reflections on some of the ways the music somehow keeps on being made - PLUS 81 (count them!) recordings we've been listening to. Also a page 2 ask of you. Available in flipthrough format here and in print February 10.


SAMMY NESTICO charts when I was coming up, I’d be a rich man today. And on the very same day, the wonderful pianist Junior Mance died at 92. Junior had been suffering from dementia in recent years and his loss will be felt keenly by Toronto jazz fans, as he was a frequent visitor to jazz clubs here over many years. He came out of Chicago during the Sammy Nestico early bebop years playing with the likes of Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons before settling in New York for a long career. He met the Adderley brothers while serving in the army and played in their first mid-50s quintet. He led a trio for many years, releasing a string of fine records. His playing was a unique blend of earthy blues and bebop wed with elegance and a gentle touch. He was also prized as an incisive, swinging accompanist for singers and in small groups such as the Johnny Griffin-“Lockjaw” Davis Quintet, and with Dizzy Gillespie. He was a regular at Toronto clubs such as the Café des Copains and the Montreal Bistro. I feel his death personally as I had the pleasure of first playing with Junior for two weeks in 1979 at Bourbon Street in a trio backing singer Helen Humes. I was pretty young and green at the time but Junior made the gig easy and fun with his energetic, straight-ahead style and we remained friends ever after. Above all, he was a wonderful person – soulful, warm, cheerful and friendly with a smile that lit up the room. He’ll be greatly missed. Soul As an antidote to the generally gloomy tone of this article – sorry – I highly recommend watching the 2020 Disney/Pixar animated film, Soul. It captivated me immediately and lifted my spirits throughout with its imaginative originality, humour and wit. Right off the bat it had me laughing as I saw the usual Disney castle image off in the distance, but “When You Wish Upon A Star” was played in a satirical, messy brass style that sounded just like a bad high-school band and I realized this was not going to be the usual glossy or sugary Disney fare. Although an animated film, it’s really intended for adults, though kids would certainly enjoy it. The story concerns Joe Gardner, a talented and dedicated jazz pianist who has never quite made it, and who finds himself teaching middle school music. Just as, against his better judgment, he accepts a full-time position, he catches a big break when an ex-student drummer arranges for him to audition with a top-flight alto saxophone star. Joe plays out of his skin and lands the gig which opens that night, only to fall down an open manhole cover on the way home, plummeting to his apparent death. And that’s all in the first 20 minutes. I don’t want to play spoiler any further, but suffice it to say that the rest of the story is a thoughtful and complex rollercoaster ride worth seeing more than once. Although not entirely about jazz, the jazz content is rich and believable on various levels and doesn’t have any of the stumbles that many movies purporting to be about jazz often suffer from. All of the key elements – the story, the music (jazz and otherwise), the voice-over acting (Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey are the principals) and above all the animation – are brilliant. It’s a visually stunning movie with the power to do something rare these days – to truly delight us and make us forget, at least for a couple of hours, the awful mess we’re in. I’ll take it. Toronto bassist Steve Wallace writes a blog called “Steve Wallace jazz, baseball, life and other ephemera” which can be accessed at Aside from the topics mentioned, he sometimes writes about movies and food. Postsecondary Music Education Assessment as a Two-Way Street Music School Auditions under Lockdown COLIN STORY At the beginning of January, I received a call from a friend of mine – a drummer – who was in the process of applying to the Master of Music program in jazz at the University of Toronto. Had he been applying last year, he might have asked me to play with him for his live audition. This year – in the midst of January’s stringent lockdown protocols – he asked me to play on his audition video. This prompted a simple question: what does auditioning for a music program in the physically distanced winter of 2021 entail? Many WholeNote readers – whether you’re a professional musician, community orchestra member, chorister, or the best damn Betty Rizzo that ever graced the stage of an Elgin County high school – will have some experience with the audition process, in a general sense. For what this usually looks like in an academic context – and how things are different this year – here is some background, drawn from my own experiences as a university music student, as well as two years spent as the admissions and student services manager at the RCM’s Glenn Gould School, from 2015 to 2017. Postsecondary music program auditions are generally relatively simple affairs: applicants come to a room at an appointed time, play selections from a repertoire list assembled by the school, have a brief interview with the audition panel, and leave. The composition of the audition panel is, typically, dependent on the instrument group auditioning, and usually involves both faculty representatives (e.g. piano faculty for piano auditions) and representatives from academic leadership (e.g. a program head). The panel takes notes, discusses the auditions, and makes recommendations to an admissions committee, which then embarks on a lengthy administrative process that addresses itself to merit-based financial aid, program number targets, teacher requests, offers of acceptance and waitlist, and other decisions. As important administratively as auditions are to schools, assessment, however, goes both ways. Visiting a school for a live audition gives prospective students the opportunity to collect a great deal of information. This involves everything from their experience with the audition panel, the state of the facilities available, location of the school in relation to the larger community, and interactions with current students, uniquely capable of providing auditionees with frank, honest feedback about student life. Usually, the vast majority of schools allow participants outside of a certain geographical range to submit audition videos in lieu of coming to the school for a live audition, and it is normal for schools to ask for pre-screening videos when students are submitting their applications. But it is a widely accepted norm that students will make the trek to come to a school in person. This norm is not without its issues: as in much of music education, there is an underlying assumption 24 | February 2021

The last thing [schools wanted] was for a student to feel as though their whole future rests on their internet connection. that prospective students are able to spend significant money simply to be considered for further training. Nevertheless, for students invited to audition, choosing to send a video rather than come to an audition in person is rare; in a typical audition period at the GGS, we would receive four to five videos in a pool of over 200 auditionees. This year, however, everything has changed. For Canadian postsecondary music programs in major cities, the beginning of the fall 2020 semester involved unprecedented uncertainty, as well as entirely new ways of working (this has been true for students, faculty members and administrative staff alike). The shifting lockdown requirements – so different between various regions – meant that some programs were more optimistic than others about the potential to have live auditions. Come winter, though, it became clear that the vast majority of major schools – including UBC, U of T, the GGS Whitney Mather and McGill – would be conducting auditions via video recording. So I spoke to Whitney Mather, the current admissions and student services manager at the GGS, about this year’s unique admissions cycle, and about the ways in which the school has taken steps to make the application process meaningful to students. The primary consideration, Mather said, is to ensure that students didn’t feel penalized by their circumstances. At the GGS, as at other programs, students will submit pre-recorded videos. There was, she told me, some consideration given to the idea that students would audition via Zoom. This idea, however, was quickly dismissed; the last thing that the school wanted, Mather said, was for a student “to feel as though their whole future rests on their internet connection.” Another concern: access to an accompanist. No one, Mather said, will require an accompanist, out of respect for both safety and equity. Students will, however, not have the same opportunity to visit music buildings this year as they have in the past, but steps have been taken in music programs to build some kind of personal interaction into the application process. At the GGS, as at U of T and McGill, students will have an interview with a faculty member; this personal contact, Mather told me, is part of a concerted effort to help students avoid the feeling that they’re “sending off these materials into the void,” and that they “don’t have a chance to advocate for themselves in STUART LOWE Piano, Voice, Guitar, Harp Strings, Woodwinds, Brass Conducting, Composition Awards, Prizes and Scholarships Recitals, Concerts, Workshops Career advancement Marketing and promotions | 905.604.8854 | February 2021 | 25

Copied successfully!

Volumes 21-25 (2015-2020)

Volumes 16-20 (2010-2015)

Volumes 11-15 (2004-2010)

Volumes 6 - 10 (2000 - 2006)

Volumes 1-5 (1994-2000)