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Dylan Bell

This week we feature multi-instrumentalist Dylan Bell, who participated in Jazzology in 2013. A graduate of the music program at York University a number of years ago, Dylan recently returned to school to complete his Masters in Jazz Performance at the University of Toronto in May 2014.

Equally adept a piano, bass, and voice, Dylan has established himself on the Canadian music scene in many musical genres. Dylan has sung with many of Canada’s premiere vocal ensembles such as Cadence, Hampton Avenue, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, and the 1980s-era vocal pop group Retrocity. He also freelances as a keyboard player and bassist, working with varied artists from classical violinist Lara St. John, to world-music's Autorickshaw, to veteran rockers Honeymoon Suite.

Dylan's work as a composer, arranger, engineer, and producer has garnered many awards including JUNO nominations, the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition Best Jazz Song Award, and the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award. As an educator, Dylan has given master classes at numerous universities, educational conferences, and choral workshops throughout Canada, the United States, India, and Europe.

Dylan took part in Jazzology in 2013 while completing his studies at the University of Toronto. He shared his thoughts on the Jazzology program and updated us on his recent activities:

1) Describe your experience with the program. What was your favourite aspect?

My experience was very positive. I’d say my favourite aspect was the chance to delve deeply into my background, and talk about how it affected my music. Brad was a great interviewer: he was well-prepared, and was genuinely interested. In between interview segments we would continue talking off-air, which served as a jumping-off point for the next interview segment.

2) What is your strongest memory of the program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?

My strongest memory was probably Brad laughing over the lyrics to a couple of my more humourous pieces:

“Gringo Samba”

“Chennai Traffic”

3) Would you recommend this experience to other musicians?

I would definitely recommend it. It is important for musicians to know how to work with the media, to give interviews, and so on. It can be exciting to hear yourself on the air, if it’s new for you. Good media relations can go a long way in furthering your career.

4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?

JAZZ.FM91 has a strong listener base, and one that is focused on precisely the music I make. Doing this progam offered my exposure to a large audience, and I had several calls and emails after the program aired.

5) This program is made possible by our generous donors and sponsors who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?

I would thank them for recognizing the value of the arts as a whole, and for recognizing that the arts are not a profit-making game. It requires outside investment to flourish, and that investment pays itself back tenfold. People forget that the arts have always developed thanks to some form of support or patronage. I’d thank them for keeping this tradition alive.

6) Why is music education important?

Music is math, language, a communicative art, a memory enhancer. Music is culture. It is part of a overall education for an enlightened, informed citizenry.

7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?

I have continued what I was doing before, and during, my course of study: working as a full time musician through touring, performance, recording, and some teaching. Immediately after my final classes I played for a Mirvish production called Arrabal, then played for a CD release for a band called Autorickshaw . I’m the bassist and keyboardist, and mixed the album. Up next are a few local gigs, the SING! Toronto vocal festival, then a tour of Europe with my group FreePlay Duo.

8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I’m not learning music for a particular project, I often consider silence to be my “rest”, so I don’t always listen for leisure. One thing I have done recently is to listen to songs on my iPod in alphabetical order, just for a random sampling of my very eclectic collection. I try to draw influences from all styles of music: jazz, world music, classical, pop, you name it.

9) What are your plans for the future?

I’ve spend a lot of my career working in collectives, or as a sideman. Working on my recitals gave me a hunger to do more work under my own name, and that is what I’m doing more of these days. I have a series of duo concerts lined up at the Musideum: two with trumpet maestro Brownman, one with the Ghanaian multi-musician Kobena Aaqua-Harrison, and one with vocalist and longtime collaborator Suba Sankaran. I’m also using the bass-voice chops I worked on to start a Police tribute band.

10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?


11) Is there anything else that you want to add?

That’s all for now!

Jazzology is proudly sponsored by RBC Emerging Artists Project.


About RBC and the Arts
RBC sponsors a wide-range of grassroots and local initiatives that contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. Proud to support events and passions that resonate with our clients and all Canadians, RBC provides opportunities for up-and-coming artists through programs such as the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world; and the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition, part of our commitment as the Official Bank and major sponsor of the world’s top public film festival – the Toronto International Film Festival®.

Learn More about the RBC Emerging Artists Project

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