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Sam Dickinson

This week’s featured artist is guitarist Sam Dickinson, who participated in the Youth Big Band program from 2007 to 2009 and the Jazzology program in 2012.

Born in Toronto, began playing guitar at the age of eight. He studied jazz during high school as part of the Humber College Community Music, followed by studies at New England Conservatory and Humber College.

He has studied with Emile D'eon, Mick Goodrick, Lorne Lofsky, Ben Monder, Joe Morris, David Occipinti, Ted Quinlan, Brad Shepik, and Geoff Young, and has shared the stage with Jerry Bergonzi, Jack DeJohnette, Pat LaBarbara, Kirk MacDonald, and Danilo Perez.  A recipient of the Steve’s Music “Outstanding Guitarist Award” two years in a row, he also received five gold awards at Musicfest Canada.

While primarily a jazz player, Sam enjoys rock, Brazilian music, and other styles, and incorporating everything into his jazz playing. Having recently relocated to Montreal, Sam will begin a master’s degree at McGill University in the fall.

He 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?

The Youth Big Band was a great opportunity to meet players of a similar age and caliber. The fact that we rehearsed every week, rather than just prior to gigs/engagements, gave us a real sound, and time to really polish our repertoire. 

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

The trip to Southampton for the big band festival was a lot of fun because we got to really get to know one another socially, as opposed to just musically. It was never just music anyway though - I have great memories of doing lunch every single Saturday (quasi-religiously) with Adam Arruda and friends at the Liberty Village Market.

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

I would, because as a young person it’s intense enough to nurture your music and teach you things, while also being relaxed and fun enough never to be daunting or discouraging musically.

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

At the time I was also doing Community Music (at Humber College), attending an arts high school, and starting to do some gigs around town, so it’s hard to say what did what. I do know it was a great intro to big band music though, which I hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with.

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’d applaud them for their support of an art form that isn’t always supported here in Canada. Jazz is wonderful and appeals to a wide variety of people, but similar to a lot of “art-music” styles, it tends to need some subsidy. I really appreciate people who donate to an art form that can easily get overlooked.

6) Why is music education important?

Music education is very important to EVERYONE because it not only helps the next generation of players, it helps inform the next generation of listeners. Much of the music we’re bombarded with in popular culture isn’t very complex or unique, and for styles like jazz or classical to live on, we need education at an early age.

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

I went on to do a year of school at New England Conservatory in Boston, then moved back to Toronto in 2011 to complete my degree at Humber College. Throughout all this I’ve been playing a lot, working on my own music as well as accompanying others.

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

I’ve been recently discovering Frank Zappa, who I’ve always been aware of but haven’t checked out extensively. Having grown up with rock/pop, then studied jazz and checked out a lot of things in between, I’m lately really drawn to music that’s daring to be different. The Zappa stuff is that in a nutshell to me.  I’m a huge fan of classical music, and Zappa combines some of those sensibilities with jazz and funk elements, as well as some sounds that border on the absurd.

9) What are your plans for the future?

I’m moving to Montreal in mid-August, and will be pursuing a masters at McGill come September. This has always been one of my favourite cities and I’m looking forward to exploring it more, as well as taking my music somewhere different. Once settled there, I’ve been meaning to work on more composed trio music- something I did more of in the past, and got a little burnt out with.

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

My most up-to-date page is , but that’s not saying much, as it’s all at least 6 months old. I’m on Youtube as well, but have yet to amalgamate these into one more functional website. I have a Facebook artist page that I used to be more active on, so maybe with a few more “likes” I’ll be encouraged to put more tracks up.

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

Between this and my 2012 Jazzology experience, it’s been nice to not only share my experiences, but to actually have to think back a bit and relive them. Thanks guys!


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