Now Playing:

Ben Hognestad

This week’s featured artist is pianist Ben Hognestad, who participated in our Jazzology program in 2013.

Born in Saskatchewan, Ben came to Toronto in 2009 to pursue a degree in jazz studies at the University of Toronto, where he studied with Phil Nimmons, Chase Sanborn, Gary Williamson, and Dave Young. He also had the opportunity to participate in an ensemble led by faculty member Andrew Downing, which has since developed into the working ensemble Canvas. The group is soon to release its first recording. Ben also recorded the album Reflections with the University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra, featuring compositions and solos by saxophonist Mike Murley.

An emerging artist on the Toronto scene, Ben performs regularly and recently travelled to Mexico to perform at the Northern Lights Music Festival with the Richard Underhill quartet featuring Terra Hazelton. Ben also leads his own trio, which has performed for several years at Music Niagara as well as the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival, the Grand River Jazz Society, and venues around Toronto.

Ben took some time to discuss his experience with the Jazzology program as well as his more recent musical activities:

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

I picked a few tunes and then got to chat with Brad on air about my musical choices and my experiences in music school.

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

I just remember how easy it was to sit and talk with Brad. I think it could have been a nerve wracking experience but Brad was very easy going and I was very comfortable. 

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

Absolutely! Taking time to reflect on your life and experiences is a very helpful thing. I think it can help you see things in different ways and gain perspective. 

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

Choosing the music for the show gave me a chance to listen to one of my favourite piano players in a bit more depth than normal, and that’s always a good thing. Hopefully some people heard my interview and maybe they might recognize my name if they saw or heard it again.

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?

Thank you for supporting the arts!

6) Why is music education important?

I think music is important, so I think music education is important. I think developing an appreciation for music (especially jazz) creates active listeners, and I think that active listening goes beyond music and creates awareness and mindfulness in all facets of a person. 

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

I’ve had the good fortune of playing with many fine musicians and gigging fairly regularly around Toronto. Some highlights were recording a CD called Reflections with the University of Toronto Jazz Orchestra that featured Mike Murley, recording a composition of mine called “A Day at the Beach” this past November, and travelling to Mexico for two weeks in February to perform with Richard Underhill, Jesse Dietschi, Daniel Barnes, and Terra Hazelton at the Northern Lights Music Festival.  

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

A friend of mine just showed me a piece of music by Steve Reich called “Tehillim” which is really amazing. Steve Reich’s music has always resonated with me for some reason, and I’ve tried to replicate elements of his music in my own. 

9) What are your plans for the future?

Well, in the short term, I have a gig at the Jazz Bistro that I’ve been preparing for in the last little while. It’s happening on Tuesday, August 5th at 8:00pm, and joining me will be bassist Malcolm Connor and drummer Evan Cartwright. We’ll be playing some of our favourite tunes as well as some of my own original compositions, including the aforementioned suite “A Day at the Beach” with some very special guests playing viola and cello.

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

I have a bandcamp website HERE, where you’ll find “A Day at the Beach,” as well as another composition of mine called “Heart Of The City,” recorded live at Chalker’s Pub with the Richard Underhill Quartet.

HERE is a link to a promo video I made for my suite.

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

It would be great to see some JAZZ.FM91 folks at my gig on August 5th at 8pm at The Jazz Bistro. Please drop by and say hi!

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


The Jazz Messenger

Sign up to receive our weekly e-newsletter, The Jazz Messenger.

Jazz Calendar Login

Forgot your password? Forgot your username?