Now Playing:

Anthony Szczachor

This week’s featured artist is drummer Anthony Szczachor, who was a member of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band in 2007-8.

Born and raised in the east end of Toronto by a Chilean mother and Polish father, Anthony’s parents exposed him to a broad range of music at an early age and encouraged him to try different musical instruments, settling on the drums at the age of thirteen.  While music was a fun hobby, he began to get serious about pursuing music as a career as a result of three opportunities in his final year of high school: studying drumset with Steve Mancuso at the Humber College Community School, taking theory lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and performing as a member of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band.

Following lessons with renowned teacher Jim Blackley, Anthony completed his music degree at Humber College.  Focusing specifically on the traditions of jazz and Cuban music, he studied under the direction of Mark Kelso, Steve Mancuso, and the Cuban percussionists Chendy Leon Jr., and Jorge Luis Torres.

Since graduating, Anthony has been established himself on the Toronto music scene, performing with numerous artists including Chilean singer Jose Seves, folk singer Elizabeth Morris, Charango virtuoso Freddy Torrealba, Brazilian singer Chocolatte, Columbian singer/guitarist Diego Marulanda, and bassist Dave Young.

While his work as a sideman has taken him across Ontario and the United States, he has also stepped out as the leader of his own piano trio. The group has just released his debut EP, Stepping Stones, which features pianist Brian Dickinson and bassist Julian Anderson-Bowes. The trio is performing in the Toronto area and hope to tour the jazz festival circuit in the near future.

Anthony took some time to discuss his experience in the Youth Big Band program as well as his more recent musical activities:

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

My experience with the Youth Big Band program was nothing short of amazing. I was introduced to so many other talented young musicians of the same age I would have otherwise not have met, and having the experience of being mentored by Kelsley Grant was something that impacted my growth as a musician deeply. It created new windows of opportunity for me as a young player, and being able to rehearse at the radio station was always exciting. My favourite aspect of the experience was being able to share the drum chair with one of my best friends, Adam Arruda.

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

There wasn’t so much of one single memory that strikes me more than others, however I think the overall feeling of satisfaction and excitement that I was part of a program where we were performing jazz around and outside of the city built confidence and enforced the idea that people really do enjoy music that is played with conviction.

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

I would absolutely recommend this experience to other young musicians because it is becoming more and more apparent that high caliber music programs are slowly fading away. Any opportunity to workshop great music with established musicians is only beneficial for one’s own growth as person and musician. One of the most important parts in the development of a musician is playing as much as they can, and to learn and absorb everything they can.

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

The experience of the program helped in my personal and professional development because it showed me where the bar was from a playing perspective. In order to grow, I was shown that you needed to immerse yourself in the music, the culture, and the people. Music goes far beyond a lesson on your instrument or a note on the page. What we are learning to do is interpret and transfer knowledge and information, and it is best to do so with the utmost of understanding of where everything came from. It is not very often that I have the opportunity to play in a big band anymore and that is why I felt so lucky to have been able to participate in the program.

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 the opportunity to say thank you to the generosity of the sponsors and donors that contribute to programs like these, I would tell them how important programs like these are. This did not only help me, but over 20+ young musicians for one year of the program. It goes beyond just the performers and affects everyone who sees the band as well, because it also inspires younger generations as well. It is all relative and does not stop at just one single person. Although there might not be an instant or immediate success with a particular individual, these lucky participants are and will be the next generation of Canadian musicians to release the new era of Canadian jazz. So I would say a deep “thank you” from the bottom of my heart, and invite them to continue and come to my projects, listen to my recordings and see what they contributed towards; an investment into the future.

6) Why is music education important?

Music education is important because it is another avenue that is desperately in need of a boost in our education system. Just like mathematics, languages, sciences, and physical education are important, music is an equally important skill and subject that goes beyond education. It is a representation of our culture and our understanding of what makes us who we are. Music is an important part of our everyday lives whether one notices it or not, and is beneficial to anyone that partakes in studying it.

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

Since playing in the Youth Big Band in 2007-2008, I went on to get my degree in music at Humber College in Toronto, where I received the Zildjian Scholarship that I was very grateful for. I have travelled abroad and studied in countries such as Brazil and now my current focus, the music of Cuba. I have been able to share the stage with many artists, in numerous genres, from around the globe that continues to inspire and challenge me to keep learning and to master my instrument. Currently I am in the midst of releasing my first EP, which came out on August 1st, featuring all original compositions available in physical format and online. It’s an exciting time for me!

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

Currently I have been listening to mostly a lot of Cuban Timba bands, more specifically that of Manolito Simonet y su Trabuco, and Alexander Abreu y Havana D’Primera to name a few. I am particularly drawn to these bands because of their elaborate arrangements, high caliber musicians, and high-octane performances. There is something so contagious about these bands that leave me always wanting to listen to more.

9) What are your plans for the future?

I hope to continue travelling to and from Cuba to keep studying percussion and the music. The traditions there run so deep and there is an endless amount of inspiration. In the future I intend to play with my jazz trio around the city and make the transition to taking the group across the nation to different jazz festivals.

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

You can keep in touch with me via my website, where you can see updates, upcoming performances, and other things related there. Next step is to come out to a gig!

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

I wanted to additionally add that without the support of my Yiyi, brother Seb, mother Elena and father Greg, the rest of my family and all my friends. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of you.


The Jazz Messenger

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

Jazz Calendar Login

Forgot your password? Forgot your username?