When we first came to Winnipeg, one of the first things we started was the Monday Night Hang. That was a lot of fun because it was the place where I got to meet everyone and everyone got to meet me. It was exciting to see symphony musicians and blues musicians and jazz musicians, young and old, mixing it up on the stage. Now that I think of it, it’s still a bit like that today.
Back then I met a lot of people that I didn’t realize were going to be central to many things that I do. I met a crazy singer from Steinbach there—Amber Epp. I met Walle Larsson there and Will Bonness and Heitha Forsyth and Dave Lawton and Janice Finley and Charlene Diehl and many others.
I met a young drummer there who was so awful that I made him stop playing as soon as he started—for awhile he stopped more than he played! Fast forward eleven years later and Curtis Nowosad is a featured artist in the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival and many other festivals across Canada. Get this irony: he hired me to play in his band and it’s all I can do to keep up with him!
This young man is really making a name for himself these days, and there are many others like him, developing right here in front of us.
The jazz culture in Winnipeg is a living, breathing thing and it’s growing and changing every day. Even a decade ago, it was so hard to keep up with all that was happening that we started this magazine. Over the years, I made a lot of my goals and visions for jazz in Winnipeg very public. I wanted a vibrant jazz scene with lots of internationally connected artists. We’re getting that now. I wanted a strong inner city presence. We’re getting that. I wanted a boutique program known for its faculty, alumni and curriculum as well. We have that in the Jazz Studies program at U of M!
I wanted Winnipeg to be the Jazz Capital of Canada, and we really are becoming known internationally. Visiting artists take away the news, and many of our young players—like Curtis and Luke Sellick and Devon Gillingham and Karl Kohut—are representing us brilliantly.
We have many high-powered musicians in our midst and more young players coming up. The challenge is that they have to go to where the industry is so that they can make “it.”
Our talent is no less amazing than any others in the world, so my question is, Why can’t “it” be right here in Winnipeg? Why can’t there be a recording industry or a Jazz @ Centennial Hall or a Village Vanguard right here in the Jazz Capital of Canada?
Success is when talent and preparation meet with opportunity. We have the talent and we have this amazing opportunity. Let’s build our own jazz recording and presenting scene and export the sound, not the people.
Let me know what you think!