Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


tune-up

Luke Sellick

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I first met Luke in 2008 at the U of M Summer Jazz Camp. There were a few standout bass players that year, but Luke had an edge on the best of them.

Of course I wanted him to join us in the Jazz Studies program at the U of M. At that time, the rap was that if you wanted to have a melodic approach to the bass, you studied in Toronto; if you wanted a rhythmic approach, you came to U of M.

Several promising players went away to study, but I was able to convince Luke to stay. I told him he’d get some real practical connections from high profile artists, and he’d have the added benefit of meeting and learning from visiting musicians with international reputations—people who are featured regularly in Downbeat.

It worked. Luke agreed to stick around, and suddenly I was facing the responsibility of teaching one of the fastest and most gifted learners I had ever encountered. It was frightening!

I set him up with some of the things I was working on myself. He waltzed right through the material like a hot knife through butter! Luke has an uncanny ability to see the end goal of an exercise right from the outset, then choose the best path to get there. I gave him the impossible task of memorizing Paul Chambers’ monumental soliloquy of a tune, “Visitation.” It has endless choruses of improvisation—it’s a daunting task. Luke did it, mastering in the space of a month what most people take years to do.

In his first year, I entered him in the Hnatyshyn Foundation’s national competition for the Oscar Peterson Grant for Jazz Performance. He aced the $10,000 scholarship prize. Over his four years of study with us, the entire Jazz Studies staff has thrown him whatever they had, and he has mastered every single feat.

My latest and greatest challenge to him? Audition for Juilliard. Well, guess what? He made it through their notoriously rigorous screening process, and has been accepted into their distinguished graduate program in jazz.

A year’s tuition at Juilliard weighs in at $54,000(US). The school itself has offered him a scholarship for $25,000 and he has already secured another $4000 in scholarship support. So his latest challenge is not musical but financial.

I will certainly do my best to help him find the resources, because I think it’s important that a Winnipegger, and especially a Winnipegger from the jazz community, be counted among the elite group of Juilliard graduates. He stands alongside Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis in being accepted. He’ll be keeping company with Tito Puente when he graduates.

I want to be one of the people standing in the hall clapping when he crosses that stage to collect his degree.


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