Jazz Hands Around the World





On April 30th, 2016, you’ll find Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall and Sting at the White House.  There will also be some jazz music featured in Bologna, Italy in the Jazz 4 Peace Celebration, and in the Quartet Diminished in Concert show at Niavaran Hall in Tehran, Iran.

Jazz music brings together the improvised solo expressions of individual instruments into an artistic whole in a combo.  That’s the message of UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, celebrated this year on April 30, 2016.

“UNESCO (United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared this day a day that celebrates creativity and diversity of Jazz music,” says in-the-know saxophonist Mark DeJong.

DeJong, who’s the new Artistic Coordinator at MRU Conservatory, has composed a special something to celebrate at the TransAlta Pavilion, “We are celebrating some of our renowned jazz alumni. We’re featuring a great local vocalist by the name of Aimee-Jo Benoit. She has a great following with indie bands like Woodpigeon. Joining her are some former grads of the Jazz Program.”

The program is made up of some jazz standards, “She’s going to dive in to the American Songbook for those ‘tin pan alley’ chestnuts.” DeJong continues, “then some jazz originals and really creative interpretations of some of her favourite Canadian icons like Joni Mitchell and Neil young.” No matter what the source inspiration is, DeJong insists that Benoit promises to, “breathe new life into them.”

He would know first hand.

DeJong is among the esteemed alumni joining Benoit onstage with saxophone in hand. “This is my first presentation as the new Artistic Coordinator at MRU Conservatory.” he says, “One of the things I wanted to do was be involved in the early shows both as a programmer and on the ground on the stage.”

jan 15 jazzonthewingsmall
Tim Tamashiro – host of Tonic on CBC Radio 2

As a unique UNESCO moment, DeJong and the combo are excited to have CBC’s Tim Tamashiro take the stage as guest emcee. “Anyone who’s a jazz fan in Canada knows Tim… not only with his incredible career as a jazz vocalist, but as the host of CBC Radio 2’s Tonic.” The ‘drinky’ jazz crooner will be on hand to spread the harmonious message to the jazz community, “he’s such an energetic and creative personality,” DeJong says, “We’re really delighted that he’s able to join us.”

Benoit, DeJong and Tamashiro are warming their chops for April 30th. To celebrate UNESCO International Jazz Day with the rest of the world, click here, or head to the White House.

  • by JLove

Popular music classes coming to Conservatory

Popular music classes are coming to the Conservatory this fall: instructor James Desautels is teaching from experience. The award-winner is leading classes in songwriting, music industry business, rock bands and orchestra and more.

Even if you haven’t met James Desautels yet, chances are you may have already heard him.

The newest Conservatory strings faculty member (and Academy alumnus) is enjoying more than two decades working full-time in the music entertainment industry.

If you watched the final episode of NBC’s The Office, you were hearing Desautels as first violinist during Dwight and Angela’s wedding scene. Here he is performing what we heard:

From Itzhak Perlman to Pearl Jam, Desautels has toured the world sharing the stage with stars of the classical world, famous rockers and everyone in between.

Now, the award-winning Calgarian is sharing his experience as an accomplished songwriter, composer, producer, conductor and Grammy voting member by offering a host of new classes in popular music at the Conservatory.

This fall, the Conservatory is offering new classes in songwriting, rock bands and rock orchestra, country, rhythm and blues, music industry business, history of popular music and more.

“Popular music is timeless. Great songs live forever,” said Desautels. “Popular music is for everyone. This opportunity for musical expression and performance is unparalleled.”

New group classes for rock band offers an opportunity for people who are looking to play with other musicians and strut their stuff on stage.

“The thrill of live music is universal,” he says. “Great things happen when we come together to share music.”

Performance opportunities lead to confidence and practical training in popular music, says Desautels.

“Many people are  interested in taking their playing to a higher level. The Conservatory offers Rock band courses for all combinations of instruments Faculty and students can dream up. This offers a unique opportunity for students to collaborate while studying and performing together.

Rock orchestra is “a one of a kind opportunity and life changing experience for students to be a part of a massive sonic landscape,” said Desautels.

The classically-trained violinist (who also plays piano, viola, mandolin and guitar, says expanding performing opportunities and introducing songwriting for Conservatory students offers them a unique experience.

“It’s freeing to write what I’m feeling. I find that collaboration is key — co-writing is magical. The flow that comes with another person cannot be matched alone. And it is thrilling to create something that wasn’t there before. Performing this music the energy exchange between the stage and the crowd is immediate.”

Desautels got his start studying classical violin at age five. Two years later he began studying fiddle, country and bluegrass music. As a teenager he toured internationally, performing classical and fiddle music, and earned a Bachelor of Music degree with distinction at age 21. Desautels received a Master of Music degree from the University of Arizona and moved to Austin, Texas to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree.

Desautels says popular music classes offer students of all backgrounds and abilities opportunities to enrich themselves.

“We are completing Mount Royal Conservatory’s music with all the branches of the musical tree.”

Watch for more announcements about popular music at the Conservatory. Sign up for our enewsletters to receive the latest news.

Sherri Zickefoose, Jan. 20, 2015