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Anthony Fung

This week we feature drummer Anthony Fung, who was a member of the Youth Big Band in 2009-10. A native of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Anthony began playing the drums at the age of ten.

After discovering Miles Davis and John Coltrane and getting into jazz, Anthony participated in the Summer Jazz Workshop at the Berklee College of Music. In 2011, Anthony was selected as a member of the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, embarking on an extensive tour in the US. He has also performed at the Paris Conservatory, the Toronto Jazz Festival, and the Jazz Education Network conference.

Currently, Anthony is a member of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College of Music, where he studies under the direction of Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Ben Street, Joe Lovano, and George Garzone. Anthony also leads his own group, the Anthony Fung Quintet, which will be releasing their debut recording in this summer as part of a Canadian tour. The group will be performing at the Youth Jazz Showcase as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival on Saturday, June 28th.

Anthony took some time to reflect on his experience in the Youth Big Band and to discuss his current musical activities:

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

During the time with the big band, I had many amazing opportunities to perform with the band, learn from visiting artists and also to make new friends who share a common love of Jazz music with me. My favourite aspect was the sense of community within the group.

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

My strongest memory of the program was when we performed with Bucky Pizzarelli at the Old Mill Inn. At that time, I was listening a lot to John, his younger son who is also a guitar player.

3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?

Yes I would definitely recommend this experience to other young musicians. This is because it really developed my sense of group playing and chance to learn the repertoire of many big band arrangers. Also, because the musical instruction I had was great for me. Jules Estrin, the band director is a phenomenal teacher and also mentors. I dedicate a lot of my musical upbringing to him.

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

This experience has helped my personal development because it helped me to become a more of a role model and team leader in other aspects of my life. As far as my professional development, the big band required me to be a punctual and responsible individual, which has followed me into my career now.

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?

If I had a chance to thank them personally, I would tell them how grateful I am for the experience that was given to me. It gave me a path to follow within my music. Without that band experience, I don’t know where I would be now. I would also encourage them to continue to donate so other newcomers can have the same rewarding experience as I did.

6) Why is music education important?

Music education is important because musicians hold a responsibility for this music, especially jazz. We carry around the baggage of the musicians that have passed down to us including: John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Wayne shorter, and Roy Haynes just to name a few. We should use music as a tool for social change and world peace as Herbie Hancock has started with International Jazz Day. It is definitely possible, and there should be a larger emphasis on music education so the generation after us will continue to do so.

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

Since participating in the program, I participated in another all star big band called the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, where I had an opportunity to perform in Monterey California alongside Joshua Redman, Benny Green, and Donny McCaslin in 2011. After that, I received a scholarship from the Berklee College of Music and auditioned into an honour program called the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, where I study closely with Danilo Perez, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Adam Cruz, and Ben Street. This is an institute that focuses on using music as a tool for social change through community service trips in Boston. I am also in the final process of my debut CD entitled The Chronicles, which will be finished by June 1st. I will be performing this repertoire on my Canadian tour this summer, which takes place from June 25 to July 6th.

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

Currently I am listening to the music of Danilo Perez, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Wayne Shorter and Lee Konitz. I find this music interesting for different reasons. With Danilo, Ruben and Celia, I am learning the rhythms of Latin America because as a drummer, it is important to study all types of music, not just jazz. I listen to Wayne and Lee because I can hear that both musicians are searching for something transcendant of the music. This is a feeling of gratitude and happiness that is received at the highest level of music.

9) What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are to complete a masters degree in the Global Jazz Institute program at Berklee College of Music, then moving to New York to meet new musicians. As far as my long-term plans, I hope to travel the world to inspire others the way others have inspired me. If I can touch the hearts of even 20-30 people, my job as a musician is more than fulfilled. I also want to start a music school that reflects the teachings of the Global Jazz Institute.

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

People can learn more about my activities by going to my website or following me on twitter @AnthonyFDrums.

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

Thanks again for this amazing opportunity, and I hope that this interview reaches many audiences, especially of the potential young students who are thinking of pursuing a career in music.

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