Monday 15 December 2014

Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo Residency at Capilano U Jazz Studies Dept.

I'm very pleased to announce that drummer and music educator, Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo, will be our artist in residence for Spring 2015. Kofi will be visiting Cap many times over the course of the semester working with all students in the program. I am incredibly excited about this, as are my faculty colleagues. Kofi brings with him a vast knowledge of African music, especially the traditional music and dance of his home country of Ghana. 

In addition to his knowledge of African music, Kofi holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology and is quite accomplished as a music educator in the Western tradition. He was recently a visiting professor at UBC and has taught at the University of Pittsburgh and at various levels of education in Ghana, Togo, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Holland, Spain, Singapore, Brazil, Finland, France, Taiwan, Dubai, China, Germany, Austria, and in many states in the United State of America and provinces in Canada.  Now based in Vancouver, he continues to work in music and African studies at UBC and has co-founded and directs Adanu Habobo, a community-based Ghanaian dance-drumming ensemble.

Cap faculty members with Kofi and some of the donated gear from Cap.
Kofi is an extraordinary individual in many ways. Not only is he an accomplished musician and scholar, he spends a great deal of his time working to better the lives of the people in his home region through education.  Kofi is the founder and director of the Ghana School Project and NunyaMusic Academy at Dzodze, Ghana, an educational project that aims to provide free education in both traditional and Western music and dance for any willing child, especially those from financially underprivileged backgrounds. Please visit the site to find out more about this extremely worthwhile project and how you can get involved.  Capilano U Jazz Studies, Music, and Music Therapy departments have already been involved in donating instruments, books, and other equipment to the Ghana School Project and we will be exploring other ways for the Capilano community to get involved with this great work.  If you have unused instruments or musical equipment that you could consider donating, please contact me (Jared Burrows) at 

We are very fortunate to have Dr. Gbolonyo share his time with us this coming semester and I know the learning opportunities for students and faculty are going to be amazing. I am certain that we all will also be influenced by his humility, kindness, and goodness as a human being, as we were by Bill Frisell's presence in November. This has already been a great year for Jazz Studies at Cap and I'm looking forward to all that will happen this Spring!

Below is a schedule of classes that Kofi will visit as well as other events.  More details will be forthcoming as we get closer to these dates.

Jan. 12 10:30-1:30 Class Percussion
Jan. 16 11:00-1:00 Vocal Ensembles
Jan. 19 10:30-1:30 Class Percussion
Jan. 26 12:30-2:30 Jazz 197 classes
Jan. 30 9:00-12:00 Percussion Ensemble
Feb. 4 12:30-2:30 B Band
Feb. 6 11:00-1:00 combined Vocal Ensembles (including Nitecap, Cap Jazz, Narwhal)
Feb. 23 12:30-2:30 Jazz 197 combined sections 1 and 2
Feb. 25 12:30-2:30 B Band
Feb. 27 9:00-11:30 Percussion Ensemble
Feb. 27 11:30-1:30 Concert with B Band and Percussion Ensemble
Mar. 4 11:30-12:30 Kofi performs concert with Jazz Studies Faculty
Mar. 6 9:00-11:30 Percussion Ensemble
Mar. 6 11:30-1:30 General session for all Jazz Studies students
Mar. 27 11:30-1:30 General session for all Jazz Studies students

Plus a lecture on the Music of West Africa, open to the campus community: date, time, location TBA.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Frisell Residency Reflections

It has been a couple of days now since the end of the Bill Frisell residency at Capilano U and I think all of the students and faculty are still basking in the glow.

The residency took place November 24 through 26, 2014. On the first day, we had a faculty interview session with Bill. Ron Samworth, Brad Turner, Bill Coon, Andre Lachance, Bradshaw Pack, and I were on the panel. Each of us had chosen one of Bill's many recordings to play for him and thought of things we would like to ask. Bill is famously shy and quiet so I was a little concerned about how this event would go. I needn't have worried. Andre chose “Turn Out the Stars” from Paul Motian's album of Bill Evans' music. Bill immediately launched into some great stories about meeting Evans in 1969 and lots of other stories about playing with Motian. Other faculty members chose recordings from “Rambler”, “Have a Little Faith”, and the trio record with Elvin Jones and Dave Holland. Again, Bill seemed eager to share and remember his experiences in the studio with 'the greats'. It was truly jazz nerd heaven.

On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, there were open rehearsals for the concert with Bill's trio and Brad Turner. I thought it was very generous of Bill and the band to allow the students to observe the rehearsal process. Normally, this would be quite a private thing for musicians. In any case, they all seemed quite comfortable rehearsing with an audience and the rehearsing on both days was actually a lot like a concert, with very few stops and starts in the tunes. Both Brad and Bill are both so self-effacing and agreeable that it did take a while to come to decisions at times; each one wanting the other to feel comfortable and respected. Bill told us in many of the sessions that he really values musical collaborations that are all about trust and respect and love. He certainly modelled those qualities for the students. Ted Poor (drums) and Luke Bergman (bass and acoustic guitar) are incredible collaborators and seem to have some kind of telepathic connection with Bill, following and complimenting every subtle move. Brad was very nervous about the whole thing. I think it was great for students to see that someone on Brad's level of musical development can still get nervous in some situations.

On Tuesday morning, Bill watched one of our large ensembles, NARWHAL, perform an improvised score for an excerpt from F.W. Murnau's silent film masterpiece, “Sunrise”. The students asked wide-ranging questions about Bill's work in the area of creating music for motion pictures and Bill was really interested in what the students were doing and asked questions of them as well. He was quite impressed at the effort the students had made to educate themselves about his film scoring work. Bill was quite amazed that we would have a school ensemble doing this kind of thing and said a lot of complimentary things about the student performance.

On Wednesday morning, the 4th-year small ensemble class (5 different groups) played tunes from Bill's huge catalogue of compositions. The students had independently selected and prepared very creative and original interpretations of his music and Bill was really impressed with their playing and originality. There were many highlights in this session.  At one point, Bill was working at the piano with one group to show them Carla Bley's counterline for his tune “Throughout”. Later in that session, one of the students, Jonathan Mueller, had written lyrics to one of Bill's tunes and had somehow intuited a great deal of the intention and emotional meaning behind the tune and captured it in the lyrics. Jonathan gave Bill a page with the lyrics printed on them and Bill just stared at that page for the whole tune.  When I looked over at Bill, his glasses were completely fogged up and there were tears on his cheeks. It was a moment of great poignancy and beauty that really showed how music can profoundly connect people from different generations and places. It was a sacred moment.  

I was especially impressed with the students who participated in the two morning sessions, who took time out to learn Bill's music, to perform for him, and to do the background research that made the questions and comments so meaningful.  At the end of that Wednesday session, Aaron Andrada asked Bill what he had though of the residency experience.  Bill told the students that Cap is a very special and unique place.  He said he was especially impressed with the openness and goodwill among the students, the non-competitive and musically supportive atmosphere, the degree of musical freedom allowed to student ensembles, and the degree to which the students used that freedom to make creative choices.  This was certainly my proudest moment as coordinator of the program. As great as the final concert was, I think that Wednesday morning session was the highlight for me. I was so incredibly proud of our students.

The final concert included compositions by both Bill and Brad and featured the ensemble in various configurations including quartet, trio, and a beautiful Bill and Brad duo version of “Body and Soul”. I thought Luke's acoustic guitar playing was really special. It reminded me of a lot of the multi-tracked Frisell guitar records, but live in real time. Luke and Bill are so connected that Luke plays like an extra pair of hands. It was sometimes difficult to know who was playing what. Ted's drumming was really inventive and tended to serve textural and orchestrational roles more often than time keeping, but the guy can really swing and play great time too when the situation demands. They played a wide range of material from Sonny Rollin's rhythm changes tune, “No Moe”, to a memorable cover of the James Bond movie theme, “You Only Live Twice”.  Brad's composition "Wishing Won't Make it So" was a dedication to his mother and one of the highlights of the show for me along with “Too Soon”, a beautiful suite of through-composed works composed and premiered especially for the event.  Brad really poured his heart out through that horn on "Wishing" and I thought the material really fit in exceptionally well with Bill's new compositions.  Despite his nervousness, Brad acquitted himself nobly in every respect and proved himself more than equal to the task, playing trumpet, flugelhorn, and cornet with great emotional depth and beauty of sound.

I have been truly uplifted by this whole experience and I'm sure you all have too. I have been especially impressed by Bill's kind nature, his humility, and sensitivity. He has a greater range and variety of smiles than I have ever seen on any other person and seems to be delighted with and pleasantly surprised by music and life all the time. He is not only a master musician, but a true role model and enlightened human being. Bradshaw Pack observed that his visit has actually changed the department and changed all of us at the molecular level and I think that is true. I hope we will keep the lessons we have learned close to our hearts and apply them in our interactions in this school community and in our music.

We all express heartfelt thanks to Bill for an amazing three days.
Many thanks are also due to Fiona Black at the Blueshore Centre who has been quietly working behind the scenes for years to make this possible, and to Bill's manager, Phyllis. Thanks also to our former Dean of Fine and Applied Arts, Dorothy Jantzen for donating funds for the residency and to our current Dean, Jennifer Moore for being so supportive of this project.

Cap Jazz alumna and saxophonist, Laura Dunfield, took the performance pictures you see here.  You can contact her at her website:

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Company B Jazz Band Triumphs in New Orleans

Company B Jazz Band returned recently from an incredible trip to New Orleans, where they were invited to perform in a unique event in honour of vocal jazz pioneers, The Boswell Sisters. Company B comprises six Cap Jazz alumni: Jennifer Hodge (bass), Shannon Scott and Juhli Conlinn (voice), Bonnie Northgraves (voice/trumpet), Dave Taylor (guitar), and Jens Christiansen (saxes/clarinet).

On Oct 10th, Company B Jazz Band performed in a Boswell Sisters Revue concert at the Old US Mint in New Orleans. The event was organized by the granddaughter of Vet Boswell and featured her pick of bands from around the world who perform Boswell repertoire including: O Sister! from Spain, The Boswell Project from Australia, The Hazelnuts from Israel, YazooZazz from Washington DC, The Pfister Sisters and Banu Gibson from New Orleans, and Company B.  Company B also performed at the renowned New Orleans jazz venue, The Spotted Cat.

Company B has been together since 2006, when they started transcribing Andrews Sisters arrangements. This led to an interest in the Boswell Sisters, who had been the Andrews' original inspiration. The Boswells were classically trained multi-instrumentalists from New Orleans who worked with the best jazz musicians of their day. Tunes and arrangements from the Boswells have formed the core repertoire for Company B for the last few years and the group has been very successful playing dances, clubs, and festivals around the Lower Mainland.

The event was covered by the Wall Street Journal - read the article here.

Watch the concert online here.

These wonderful young musicians are creating rewarding careers for themselves playing the music they love and we're so proud that they got their start at Capilano U.

Friday 10 October 2014

Cap alumni Jesse Zubot produces Tanya Tagaq's Polaris Prize winning album

Jesse Zubot is a a violinist, producer, composer, band leader and owner of the Drip Audio record label.  Zubot studies music at Capilano U in the early 90s.  Since then, he has become one of the most sought-after musicians in Canada.  He works in an astonishing range of musical styles as a violinist and has produced and distributed some of the most consistently creative and original recordings in the country including albums by Rachet Orchestra, Dixie's Death Pool, Peggy Lee  Band, Gord Grdina Trio, and Fond of Tigers. As a performer, he has toured and recorded with Tanya Tagaq, Dan Mangan, 7 piece art-rock ensemble Fond of Tigers, Stars, Hawksley Workman, Ndidi Onukwulu, Jim Byrnes, Kelly Joe Phelps and many others.

Perhaps his mode widely recognized work to date has been as the producer of Tanya Tagaq's Polaris Prize winning album "Animism".  Jesse also plays in Tagaq's band along with Montreal drummer, Jean Martin.  Tanya Tagaq is an incredible Inuit throat singer/composer/recording artist who is taking the sounds of the North into completely new territory.

If you haven't heard Tanya Tagaq's music yet, you should do so as soon as possible! She is truly extraordinary. Some samples below.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Brad Turner wins Mayor's Award - Matt Choboter named Emerging Artist

I am very pleased to announce that Brad Turner, one of our Jazz Studies faculty members, has been given the Mayor's Arts Award for music.   Recipients of this award have the opportunity to name an Emerging Artist for an award as well.  Brad chose recent Cap grad, Matt Choboter.

Brad is well known nationally and internationally for his accomplishments as a musician. His extraordinary abilities encompass a huge range of activities: playing the trumpet, piano, and drums, teaching, engineering and producing recordings in his own studio, and composing for top-flight ensembles at home and abroad. He has been a key part of the music scene in Vancouver for many years performing and composing for many different ensembles in jazz and many styles of music.  His impact as a teacher has been equally impressive and far-reaching.  I know I speak for everyone when I say that we all feel very fortunate to have him as part of our Cap Jazz family and we couldn't be more pleased that he has received this recognition.  For those not yet familiar with the remarkable Mr. Turner, here's a video interview featuring Brad and his quartet.

Brad's choice of Matt Choboter for the Emerging Artist award will be no surprise to those who know Matt and his music.  He was an exceptional student at Capilano and is working hard to create an original voice as a player and composer.  Here's a video clip of Matt with his trio at Capilano's Blueshore Centre.

This is not the first time Cap Jazz students and faculty have received the Mayor's Award. A quick look at the past recipients shows that faculty member, John Korsrud, took the award in 2012 with Cap Alumni, Cole Schmidt and Evan Arntzen named as emerging artists in 2013 and 2010 respectively. Korsrud is known internationally as a composer and leader of the Hard Rubber Orchestra.  Schmidt won a Juno last year with some other Cap alums, and Evan is enjoying a very busy career performing in New York City.

Congratulations again to Brad and Matt.
What an amazing community of artists we have at Cap!

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Cap Jazz Student Travels the Spaceways

Students in the Cap Jazz program are busy with a lot more than just their classes.  They are creating their own careers while they learn new skills and ideas.

Xander Miller is a bass player and songwriter in the program who has interests in electronic, rock, cinematic, and experimental music. He will be releasing his first debut album 'Planetarium' on September 12th. Along with the release, he will be having a album release party on September 12th at the Vancouver Planetarium. 

Here is what Xander has to say about the project:

"Planetarium is a concept album that travels through our Solar System intending to take the listener on an audible journey through space. Characteristics of each galactic feature, such as climate, terrain, and size can be felt through the musical ideas and motifs that continue to impress emotions and discovery with each listen. Throughout history we have marveled at the stories and themes that our Greek and Roman ancestors brought to life through the tales of the planets; it is these ideas that inspired the provoking lyrics and rhythm heard throughout the album. With such depth in each song, listeners will find themselves taking in each track numerous times while continuing to unravel new layers in the process. Take a journey through the great expanse of the Solar System and view the planets from a new perspective - welcome to a sonic planetarium."

As Sun Ra used to say, "Space is the Place!"  We wish Xander all the best for this ambitious and creative project! 

Hear the music here:

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Alumni profile: Neelamjit Dhillon

Cap Jazz grads do amazing things!

In his latest musical project, Komagata MaruNeelamjit Dhillon explores BC's history of xenophobia and social injustice through the lenses of Jazz, Indian classical music, and his Sikh faith. The band includes Chris Gestrin (piano), Cap faculty member, Andre Lachance (bass), and fellow Cap alumnus, Dan Gaucher (drums). Dhillon has created a multi-media project that tells the tragic story of the Komagata Maru and commemorates 100 years since this dark chapter in our past. On his website, Neel describes the purposes of the project this way: "The performance of this 60-minute work speaks to where we have come from as Canadians, where we are and where we hope to go. Canadians have come a long way and strive towards societal ideals of equality and justice. We pride ourselves on an inclusive society but the reality is that many people in our social fabric are still marginalized. The project uses this unique musical landscape to expose the racism in this story and unveil some of the more sinister aspects of human nature. Exploring this part of our history gives us a sense of where we are today and helps us to shape our future."

Neel's first instrument was tabla, but he graduated from Cap in 2003 as a saxophone major.  He also plays various flutes and sitar.  Following his studies at Cap, Neel completed a B.Ed in Secondary Music Education at UBC and an MFA at Cal Arts in Los Angeles.  He is now attending Cal Arts as a doctoral student and the Komagata Maru project is part of his research for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree.  He is a tabla student of two of the greatest living tabla players, Swapan Chaudhuri and Zakir Hussain.

With all of those academic accomplishments, you might think Neel wouldn't have time to play music, but you'd be wrong.  He is extremely active as a musician in Los Angeles and Vancouver and his music has recently taken him as far as Brazil and Somalia.  Neel plays saxophone and tabla in many different groups in jazz,world music, and Indian classical music including: Sangha, Birds of Paradox, Aditya Prakash Ensemble, and The Microscopic.

Komagata Maru will premiere at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival on June 21 Performance Works on Granville Island.  Don't miss it!

Here is Neel performing with Aditya Prakash on KCET television.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Cap Alumni Dan Hersog heads for New England Conservatory in Boston

Trumpeter, Daniel Hersog, graduated from Capilano University in 2007.  Since his time at Capilano, Daniel has had a busy career as a performer, composer and educator.  He has performed as a leader at the last three Vancouver International Jazz Festivals, formed a professional big band featuring many Capilano alumni and faculty, toured North America with various musical projects and worked as a music educator for the Burnaby School District.

We are pleased to share the news that Daniel has been accepted into the M.Mus. program in Jazz Composition at the pretigious New England Conservatory in Boston.  NEC is widely considered one of the foremost institutions for jazz studies in the world and placement in the graduate program is very competitive.  Says Daniel: “ Capilano prepared me for the versatility that is required of the modern day professional musician.  My teachers transformed my trumpet playing, mentored my writing and inspired to me to pursue further education.”  


Tuesday 15 April 2014

Cap Jazz Students win Fraser MacPherson Scholarships

More news in what has been an incredible string of successes for Cap Jazz students...

The Fraser MacPherson Scholarship winners have been announced and Cap students have won 5 of the 7 awards this year.  Competition for the scholarship is province-wide and students receive a cash award between $500 and $2000 dollars.  The winners can use the funds as they wish to further their musical education and careers. Congratulations to all the winners, but especially to our Cap Jazz students!

David Blake - guitar
Miles Wong - drums
Jonathan Tobin - piano
Matt Choboter - piano
Stephen Edwards - bass

Monday 14 April 2014

Greg Drummond band wins FACTOR grant.

The Greg Drummond Band  has been extremely successful playing gigs all over BC, has recorded a great album "Walking Man", and has been featured on the CBC's "On the Coast".  They have just been awarded a $21000 grant from the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Record (FACTOR) to record their next album.

The band is powered largely by Cap Jazz students and graduates. Mike Meroniuk plays guitar and sings backing vocals for the band while Marshall Hunt holds down the bottom end on acoustic bass. Both are graduating from Jazz Studies program this semester. When the band needs a horn section for bigger gigs where do they turn?  To more Cap Jazz alumni of course! Quinn MacDonald (trumpet, BMus 2013) and Chris Barnes (saxes, BMus 2013) have also been playing with the band recently.  Alanna Pearce (BMus 2013), the band's drummer, is the rhythmic backbone of the band and writes horn arrangements.  Alanna is also completing the teacher training program at UBC.  She was very fortunate to be chosen to do her practicum with Brent Taylor at Point Grey Secondary, a school with an exceptionally fine music program. The coming year for her will combine gigs with Drummond and teacher-on-call work.   More news to come on our other music education grads and the great things they are doing....

It is really exiting to see our students and alumni getting out there creating a musical community and making an impact on the scene in many styles.  I couldn't be more proud.  Congratulations to everyone on the receipt of the FACTOR grant and for all your musical successes.  I'm sure the new recording will be fantastic.

Friday 11 April 2014

The people in our Capilano Jazz Studies community are so active in doing great things that it is hard for me to keep up.  In writing the last two blog posts, I somehow forget to mention that student, Wylie Ferguson (graduating this year) and faculty member, Réjean Marois, both had their compositions selected for performance in the annual Sonic Boom Festival.  Vancouver Pro Musica's Sonic Boom has for many years been the premiere showcase for BC composers. Both Marois and Fergson composed works for the Erato Ensemble, which was the ensemble in residence for this year's festival. Congratulations to both of them!

More exciting news to come next week.....

Tuesday 8 April 2014

More alumni success stories: Lyle Hopkins awarded Fellowship at U of Oregon

I'm pleased to report yet more good news about our wonderful alumni.  Bassist and composer,  Lyle Hopkins graduated with his B.Mus. from Cap U last year. Since then Lyle has been very active as a performer on the Vancouver scene leading his own trio and working with Brad Muirhead Quartet, Vancouver Improvisers Orchestra, Music and Movement Mondays, Pillow Talk Trio, and other groups around town.

Lyle has been accepted to the Master of Music in Jazz Studies program at the University of Oregon and has been awarded a Graduate Teaching Fellowship.  The Fellowship provides a full tuition waiver and teaching assistant work at the University for the duration of his studies.  The School of Music at the University of Oregon  in Eugene, Oregon, is widely regarded as one of the foremost music schools in the Western USA.  I know Lyle will have a great time studying and teaching and working with my old mentor, Steve Owen, in the Jazz Studies Department.

Monday 7 April 2014

Alumni success story: Eric Wettstein

We are really proud of the great work our graduates do when they leave Cap U and head out into the wider world to make music.  Even before he graduated, composer/guitarist/singer, Eric Wettstein was busy outside school with his band Criminal Caterpillar.  Since he graduated in 2013, Eric has been working hard to create his own career as a musician and teacher.  He has just been awarded an Early Career Development Grant from the Canada Council.  This award provides substantial funding for Eric to pursue a mentorship opportunity with John Korsrud and the Hard Rubber Orchestra.  Eric will work with John and Hard Rubber to learn the ins and outs of non-profit societies, running a large ensemble, grant writing, and production and will also have the opportunity to study composition with John and write music for the band.  This is truly an amazing award for Eric and one that he has earned through hard work and dedication to his craft.  Congratulations!