Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

July/August 2014: Curtis Nowosad

Jazz Camp: The Wonder Years

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The summer after grade 8, I went to music camp. The first week I was there, I met a tuba player who was a year younger than me and ten times a better player. There was a bassoonist who spent his spare time conducting (with a real baton) as he listened to Beethoven on his Walkman. And I signed up for the jazz band slot and played a short tuba solo in “Woodchopper’s Ball.” The guy next to me, a trombone player, also played a solo, but I was completely astonished when his solo was different every time, and none of it was written on his score.

I learned a lot that week, and it changed my outlook on music, and on how my life was affected by music. I learned from Patrick Sheridan, who is now a professional tuba soloist, that there will always be someone who is way better than me. I learned from the bassoonist that it can be cool to be passionate about music. And I learned from Bob Fraser, who now plays in the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, that music isn’t always written down.

Now a few decades later, I have come back to summer camp. Two years ago I decided to attend the University of Manitoba Jazz Camp as a vocalist, to rekindle my passion for jazz. In the past two summers I have soaked up as much of the summer camp experience as I could, learning alongside students who were my kids’ age. I listened to all the other vocalists work on repertoire and experiment with improvisation, and when my turn came I got up and sang with the rhythm section and enjoyed every minute of it.

This year one of my daughters finished grade 8. Anni has been playing flute in her school band program for a couple of years now, and I see in her the same sense of wonder about music that I had. I asked her if she wanted to go to Jazz Camp this year and she jumped at the chance. I’m still excited about going to camp myself, but now I’m also looking forward to watching her experience it and seeing how her musical horizons are broadened.

Now both of us will be able to learn from the amazing experience that the Jazz Camp faculty brings—the wit, playfulness, musicianship, and vast knowledge and experience of people like Steve Kirby, Will Bonness, Quincy Davis, Jon Gordon, Curtis Nowosad, and Anna-Lisa Kirby. And the many U of M Jazz Studies students and alumni who lead the small ensembles will no doubt inspire Anni and many other young students to see that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

The University of Manitoba Jazz Camp takes place August 17-23, and there’s still time to register! The Faculty Concert on the Wednesday evening at the WAG will be another spectacular show, and everybody is welcome to take in the final concerts on the final Saturday under the canopy at The Forks. It’s amazing what kind of music kids (and adults like me) can prepare in just a week!

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