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Jon Chapman

This week’s featured artist is bassist Jon Chapman, who was a member of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band in 2010-11.

A native of Waterloo, Jon took up electric and acoustic bass and later enrolled in the Humber Community Music School during high school. In addition to winning numerous awards, he was selected to be a member of the Yamaha All-Star Band and National Youth Jazz Combo. He also received the Kando Award, which is a grand-prize award in a scholarship audition at MusicFest Nationals.

After being selected for the 5-Week Summer Jazz Workshop at the Berklee College of Music in 2012, Jon began his full-time undergraduate studies at Berklee, where he is currently a student. His teachers have included Terri Lyne Carrington, Rick DiMuzio, John Patitucci, Eddie Gomez, and Hal Crook.

Jon will perform at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival with the Anthony Fung Quintet at the Youth Jazz Showcase on Saturday, June 28th at on the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square.

Here Jon discusses his experiences as a member of the Youth Big Band, as well as his recent musical activities:

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

Well, I entered the program by a stroke of luck. I grew up in Waterloo, which is about an hour away from Toronto if you travel by car. I grew up hearing JAZZ.FM91 on the radio every once in a while by my father's influence, but I never followed along enough to learn about the Youth Big Band program. One day, my high school music teacher recommended I audition for the group, so I took his advice and my wonderful mom drove me to Toronto (for the first time of many). I entered the audition to find myself standing before Jules Estrin and saxophonist Alex Dean. They gave me a sight-reading passage to play along with a recording, and I also performed a solo rendition of Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood.” I remember being nervous during the audition process, but the response I received was reassuring.

My mother and I made the commute from Waterloo to Toronto every weekend onward to fulfill my commitment to the ensemble. I would describe my experience within the ensemble as monumental for my development. I found it very inspiring, especially as an out-of-towner, to be surrounded by a group of hard-working and focused peers. The repertoire ranged stylistically from Swing to Funk to Latin Jazz, and each selection challenged our reading skills, listening skills and musical consciousness. Jules would push our playing by focusing on the fine details of each piece, but still kept things fun by allowing for everyone to have the opportunity to improvise in each selection. Our live performances were my favourite part about being in this group. The band played in a range of venues including the Rex and University of Toronto's Convocation Hall. 

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

The first memory that comes to mind was performing with the great Bucky Pizzarelli at the Old Mill Inn in November 2010. This was the group's first performance, and it was a great bonding experience for all of us. I wasn't the only new member in the group, so there was a bit of shyness going around throughout the ensemble, but we took some time before the show to hang out backstage, take some group pictures and chat. We entered the stage as friends with good energy in the air and subsequently the show ended up being spectacular.

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

I would highly recommend this program for any young musician in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond. Learning to play in a big band setting did wonders for my development as a young jazz musician. This band always challenged my overall musicality, which lead to rapid growth in my personal development. Plus, the ensemble gives you the opportunity to interact with other skilled musicians of similar age which is an invaluable resource as upcoming musicians. Not to mention, the program is free to participate in. I would highly recommend.

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

As I mentioned, in this band you get to work with other talented musicians in your generation of players. For me it has translated into a network of musicians, many of whom I've worked with in a professional setting since meeting in the band.

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?

Needless to say, I would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the generous donors who support educational programs like this one through JAZZ.FM91. I would like to emphasize that these opportunities are essential to the development and continuation of the art of jazz performance through the upcoming generations. The experiences I have gained from this program have made a difference in my development as an artist, and your contributions help strengthen the growth of the future of Canadian musicians. I would like to let each donor know that their contribution really does make a difference.

6) Why is music education important?

As we venture deeper into the information age with endless distractions, the role of music education becomes increasingly vital as a source for creative development and discipline. I must admit, if extra curricular programs like this one through JAZZ.FM91 didn't exist, I personally probably would not have gone through with pursuing music full-time. Although I say this, it's not because I don't love music, but rather it is because (especially being from a smaller city with less readily available opportunities) without the medium to hone and develop my skills, I wouldn't be technically proficient enough nor confident enough to realistically pursue music.

The reason why music is important is because it serves as a universal medium to connect the human race. In a society often driven by greed and desire, music is what can penetrate the division of class and mind to directly connect to the heart. I want to create music that can provoke an emotional response, because one thing that is often forgotten is the peace and connection that music and performance can bring.

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

I am currently working towards a 5-year dual major bachelor's degree focused in Performance and Music Education from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship. Since moving to Boston, I have had the pleasure of learning from some world class musicians including John Patiucci, Eddie Gomez, George Garzone and Hal Crook among many others. I recently recorded on the debut album of a close friend of mine; Anthony Fung. The album is set for an upcoming release in the near future. Funny enough, we were both in the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band together, and now we are working together on a professional level. I'll be going on tour with Anthony's Quintet this summer, where we will be performing in the TD Toronto and Montreal jazz festivals. Other than that, I've been working a lot on composing material for some upcoming projects in the Boston area, and just trying to keep busy where possible.

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

These days, I'm finding myself looking towards a few specific groups that I find inspiring. I find myself revisiting a lot of the music that I used to listen to in my youth. These artists include bands like Rush, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. As a young musician trying to establish a unique voice and music approach, it's important to remain open minded. With these specific examples, I have always marveled at their ability to create peaks and their energy they projected through their performances.

9) What are your plans for the future?

Looking ahead, all I can be certain of is that I want to continue to perform and develop musically. I am looking to complete my studies at Berklee College of Music in the next few years, and where I will end up after that is a mystery as for right now. I'm just enjoying the journey.

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

If you'd like to know what's going on, I primarily keep things up to date through my personal Twitter. Feel free to follow my account: @thejonchapman.

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

Thank you for this opportunity to get my word out to the general audience. As always, a huge thank you goes to JAZZ.FM91 for helping sustain the public accessibility of jazz music, and for paving a strong path for the youth of tomorrow. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I received through JAZZ.FM91 and the support of their donors.


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