Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2008: Curtis Fuller

Sam Chrol

Written by:

Sam Chrol is a nineteen-year-old reed player just entering her second year in the Jazz Studies program at the U of M. Already she’s made an impact on the musical world—she was the first Canadian to win an Outstanding Wind Soloist at the Essentially Ellington competition in New York City, and this summer she received the prestigious Oscar Peterson Grant for Jazz Performance. Jeff Kula, her band teacher at River East, singles out “honesty, integrity and selflessness” as Sam’s important qualities—I think everybody who knows her would second that. Keep an eye on this one!

When did you first play music?

My first instrument was piano at around two-ish. I was a curious little sister who believed my older brother’s music lessons were not spectator events.

What are your most important musical experiences to date?

Three years of high school music with Jeff Kula at River East Collegiate! Specific highlights would be…

  • three years of patience, determination, and team-work to get to the finals of the Essentially Ellington competition in New York City. Making it to the finals in Grade 12 meant so much more because of all the work, lessons, and memories.
  • playing lead clarinet on Rhapsody in Blue with the wind ensemble in Grade 11. It’s such a powerful piece, and we worked hard to prepare it for the annual spring concert.
  • playing xylophone on Sabre Dance with the Grade 12 percussion ensemble at the annual winter concert. I’d played mallets but never xylophone, and I had to work really hard to get up to performance level.

Who are your most important teachers/mentors?

Musically they would be Jeff Kula (high school band teacher), Steve Kirby (university jazz director), Ken Gold (long-time sax teacher) and Ron Carter (Essentially Ellington mentor). Others? Many of my teachers. My mom, dad, brother, and extended family. Terry Fox, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan, Kim Fuc, Martin Luther King Jr.

What music or musician most inspires you?

I love and am moved by jazz music, but to be honest I am motivated by many types—gospel music, world music from different cultures… I love music made by musicians who are young at heart, people who are eager and happy to share their music—they are serious about having fun with their art. The music I am often drawn to is usually very pure, genuine, heartfelt and accepting, which I believe is at the heart of all music, for me especially jazz music.

What dream band would you record with?

Just one? Well, I would love to record with a world class symphony. Yo Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges, Ella Fitzgerald and Paul Simon would all be welcome to a chair in this symphony. In order to pull it off, we would all have to work together, accepting and appreciating each other’s art—that is how really amazing progress is achieved.

What was it like to win the Oscar Peterson Award?

Winning was surprising as heck and welcome as pie. I figured my chances were slim because the applications would be very competitive, but Steve and Anna-Lisa Kirby seemed to think I had something worth submitting. I was stunned, thrilled and honoured to be chosen by the Hnatyshyn Foundation.

When you’re not being a musician, what do you love to do?

I love to cook and play basketball. I also love learning about history, absorbing knowledge in all kinds of fields and keeping up to date with what is happening in the world. Spending time with family and swapping emails with friends is nice.

What’s on your CD player today?

In my CD player today is some Chopin, and after that Ella Fitzgerald’s Daydream: The Best of the Duke Ellington Songbook.

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