Volume 26 Issue 2 - October 2020


Following the Goldberg trail from Gould to Lang Lang; Measha Brueggergosman and Edwin Huizinga on face to face collaboration in strange times; diggings into dance as FFDN keeps live alive; "Classical unicorn?" - Luke Welch reflects on life as a Black classical pianist; Debashis Sinha's adventures in sound art; choral lessons from Skagit Valley; and the 21st annual WholeNote Blue Pages (part 1 of 3) in print and online. Here now. And, yes, still in print, with distribution starting Thursday October 1.

Small ensembles, small audiences and plexiglass.

Big Bands Aren’t Back

But I’m getting ahead of myself… As I mentioned in my last column, I

teach jazz part-time at U of T, and the Jazz Department has elected to

leave some of the choice between remote and in-person instruction

up to individual teachers and students. Of course, all group classes are

being taught remotely, and larger ensembles such as big bands and a

12-piece group have been scrapped as they’re neither safe nor practicable.

But the program also involves private lessons and many small

ensembles. After a number of Zoom faculty meetings and consultation

with other teachers and my students, I’ve arrived at a compromise, at

least for the time being – a blend of remote and in-person teaching

based on individual needs and (I hope) a dollop of common sense.

I’m teaching my two bass students remotely because we play the

same instrument and there’s a lot of back-and-forth exchange of

information and mirroring going on, so it seems doable. But my other

two students are a guitarist (whom I teach every other week), and a

trombonist (whom I teach weekly). As these lessons mostly involve

me playing with them and guiding/critiquing them, they seem better

done in person. The trombonist, I should mention, has some understandable

and considerate concerns about in-person lessons – something

about “an ill wind that nobody blows good” as Oscar Levant

once described the oboe – so we’re alternating remote and in-person

lessons for now, which cuts down on the frequency of contact. I’ve

also decided to teach my ensemble in person because, truth be told,

I haven’t yet got my mind around the technical pitfalls of doing it

online. As I wrote last time, old dog, new tricks and all that. As conditions

could turn worse on a dime, I’m continuing to investigate the ins

and outs of teaching an ensemble online so I’ll have a backup plan.

Mask Me Now

As one would expect, there are a lot of protocols and guidelines in

place at U of T for in-person teaching. Private lessons are no longer

taught in small studios but rather in larger classrooms which allow

for physical distancing, and these are cleaned regularly and thoroughly.

Everyone is required to wear masks except for wind players

and singers, who are required to wear them when not playing. These

measures are ramped up for the ensembles, which all take place

now in a larger concert space rather than classrooms, with plexiglass

baffles in front of wind players/singers and social distancing in

place. Windows are to be kept open, though that will become a challenge

when it gets colder. There are piano-cleaning measures and the

room is to be cleared ten minutes early for cleaning, with a 30-minute

interval between ensembles to allow for airing out. The room has

been equipped with an AV cart with a computer, microphones,

cameras and other gear, which the students must learn to operate in

case everything has to go online. In the past, each U of T ensemble

has done three public performances every year but these have been

discontinued and replaced with videotaped performances which can

be streamed online. Like everything these days, this is all somewhat

up in the air, a work in progress.

My ensemble has yet to meet but I’ve taught one in-person lesson

and five online ones; and so far, so good. Having acquired the necessary

gear – a condenser mic with a USB audio interface and headphones,

which took a while because they’re in high demand these

days – and having learned how to use them with Zoom – I’ve overcome

a lot of the sound problems and have been enjoying the online

teaching more than I expected. It’s nice not to leave the house and

there’s a scheduling flexibility that in-person teaching doesn’t have.

This is a good thing, because although I prefer the directness of

in-person teaching, there’s a good possibility everything will have to

go online. In a sense I’m buying time to negotiate the steep learning

curve of coaching an ensemble remotely. As we’re constantly discovering,

jazz involves improvising in more ways than we thought and

this now includes teaching it.

Rebooting the Jazz Audience

Ray Koskie, director of Jazz Performance and Education Centre (JPEC),

recently announced the creation

of the annual Rochelle Koskie Jazz

Student Scholarship, named after

his wife Rochelle who passed away

suddenly last spring, and who

was a passionate advocate of jazz


This award is for the most

viable solution of attracting

and sustaining the interests of a

broader jazz audience, with a focus

on a younger demographic. There

will be four awards of $2,500

each, for one student from each

of the four Ontario Jazz Colleges:

Mohawk, Humber, York, and U of

T. This comes at a most opportune

time and is a fitting legacy for a

Rochelle Koskie

lifelong jazz fan.

Deadline to apply is

November 20, and details can be found at jazzcentre.ca.

Toronto bassist Steve Wallace writes a blog called “Steve

Wallace jazz, baseball, life and other ephemera” which can

be accessed at Wallace-bass.com. Aside from the topics

mentioned, he sometimes writes about movies and food.

“I salute these attempts at reopening

because what else can they do? We have

to start somewhere and somehow after

months of nothing.”


Performance listings

(live, livestreamed, hybrid, … free).

Don’t wait. Send us yours!

The beat goes on at thewholenote.com

Steve Wallace

thewholenote.com October 2020 | 29

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