It is incredibly humbling for me to think about all of the wonderful, generous people who’ve come into my life. I have been blessed not only with super supportive family and friends but a music community that truly cares.
Soon after I suffered my brain injury in 2010, sax great Walle Larsson took me under his wing and taught me the saxophone for 2 years while refusing to accept anything but friendship in return. Walle’s an amazing person and a fantastic musician. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without him. www.wallelarsson.com
At my first lesson with Walle, he shared how David Sanborn overcame polio and paralysis to become one of the most influential musicians of our time. Dave’s been my hero ever since and I’ve had the honour of not only meeting him several times but talking to him at length. You can check out the dig! magazine article I wrote about David here – http://digmagazine.ca/2017/03/david-sanborn-master-mentor/
In my Grade 12 year, I had the distinct pleasure of not only studying sax with Craig Bailey but playing lead alto in the jazz collective that he led. Craig was Ray Charles lead alto player for 17 years and to say that I learned a lot about R & B, soul, jazz and a musician’s life from Craig doesn’t begin to tell the story. https://www.craigbaileyjazz.com/
My sax professor for the past 4 years has been Jon Gordon. Jon is a New York native and an incredible alto player who was a protégé of famed jazz saxophonist Phil Woods. Jon is a passionate musician and caring teacher who’s inspired me to dig deep and work hard on my weaknesses. www.jongordonmusic.com
Moving over to the piano, Glory St. Germain, was my teacher from 8 to 16 years old and built my musical foundation. I spent a lot of time at the St. Germain home growing up not only with Glory, but her son DJ who taught me guitar, daughter Sherry who schooled me in jazz piano and husband Ray St. Germain, who gave me a few voice lessons. https://ultimatemusictheory.com/
Nancy Nowosad – mother of NYC based jazz drummer Curtis Nowosad – led me on the keys for 2 years post injury, and I certainly have her to thank for challenging me and getting me through my Grade 8 classical piano exam.
At about the same time, I approached Dave Restivo about jazz piano lessons. Dave was all in, inspiring me with a video of pianist Horace Parlan, who despite having a right hand badly disfigured by polio, developed his own style and went on to play with legends Sonny Stitt and Charles Mingus. https://www.daverestivomusic.com/
Will Bonness was my first jazz piano teacher when I was 13 and it has been great to reunite with him as my piano prof at the U of M. Will is an exceptionally gifted musician who has taught me a ton about the jazz language on piano. http://www.willbonness.com/
My high school music teacher Bill Kristjanson truly made a difference in my life. Mr. K. had unwavering faith in me and because he believed in me, I began to believe in myself. I can’t thank Mr. K. enough, although I tried to when I wrote this article about him.
http://rtam.mb.ca/summer2016.html (see page 25)
Everyone in the University of Manitoba jazz faculty has greatly influenced my development – Derrick Gardner, Quincy Davis, Larry Roy, Steve and Anna Lisa Kirby – and I’ve absolutely loved being a part of the Jazz Studies program. http://umanitoba.ca/faculties/music/programs/JazzStudies.html
Another community that I’m proud to be a part of is Love Your Brain/Zeno. Established by Adam Pearce and his brother, former Pro-Snowboarder Kevin Pearce – the subject of the hit documentary, ‘The Crash Reel’ – Love Your Brain is about brain injury prevention and healing. I’ve been very fortunate to attend their annual Love Your Brain Retreat for TBI Survivors since its inception in 2014 – such an inspiring group of people! www.loveyourbrain.com
The Love Your Brain Retreat is held at Zeno Mountain Farm in Vermont. Zeno, which is run by the awesome Halby family, hosts camps year round for people with mixed abilities. Imagine a world where people with disabilities are true equals. In 2014, I played the Clarence Clemons roll in Zeno’s summer musical and in 2017, I laid down sax and piano parts in NYC for their upcoming movie, ‘The Homecoming.’ www.zenomountainfarm.com
The list is much more than I could capture here and I am so grateful to all of the amazing people who have supported me and the tremendous healing power of music that has guided me. It has been quite the ride and I can’t wait for what the future has in store. As I often say, ‘I’ve been given a second chance at life and I’m going to make the most of it.’