My parents got me started on piano at age 6.  When I went to Africa at age 9 we took an accordion in case there would be no access to a piano.  At age 15 I studied grade 8 piano performance and grade 2 theory at Albert College, a boarding school in Belleville, Ontario, and later at Medicine Hat College Conservatory.  I attended Grant MacEwan jazz college for a year, and then made a living on the lounge and bar circuit in Western Canada, which has always paid more than the over-supplied market in Toronto, for several years in my late teens and twenties. 

    I taught music at Scarborough Music for a year after returning from Japan.  I opened my own private teaching studio in west Scarborough, and did well, but after a year of that I got accepted into Teacher's College, so I closed my studio.  I completed the Music Specialist program along with my other
teaching qualifications.  For a few years I ran public school music programs, choirs and bands.  Then I moved into other subject areas, and played less, but I returned to music as retirement approached.  I have played steadily over the past two decades.

         I love casual beach jams, campfire jams, yacht club and backyard jams.  I read music, but I play by ear as well. 
I play keyboard, accordion, and melodica; trumpet, cornet, baritone; clarinet and alto sax; fiddle, guitar, 4 and 5 string banjos, and my most recent musical toy, a tenor guitar.  I've tuned my tenor guitar in violin fifths (GDAE but an octave lower).  I can sight read fiddle tunes with it, and I've puzzled out the chords I need to play 1920's era jazz tunes with chord melodies.  I have good improv skills on all instruments, and I'm good at vocal leads or improvised harmonies.
        Here is a collection of youtube videos we've collected for pure fun, for family and friends and for the online fundraising projects we've participated in during the Covid19 lockdown.  I also learned to record and mix tunes in my basement on very basic equipment, playing all the different instruments and vocals myself. I uploaded them to a Soundcloud account.

        I have done repair and rebuilding work on acoustic instruments: pianos, guitars, mandolins, and violins. 

         Deborah plays her tenor or baritone uke, or her  banjolele.  She runs the projector for our hundreds of charts at our community centre bands  We ran these groups for up to four days each week, as volunteers, for three years until Covid19 shut us down.  Our Sunday afternoon vintage jazz group had eight to a dozen players.  We ran and played for a Tuesday evening Sing Along.  Our Wednesday evening "all instruments play along" had up to seventeen participants at a time, mostly guitar players, filled out by bass, keyboard, and hand percussion.  We ran a guitar circle and a ukulele choir for five years, at our yacht club and in friends' homes.  In July of 2021 we started our community centre guitar circle up again in the back yards of two of the participants who live near to the centre.  A dozen people came back, after eighteen months away, and we had a great time playing and singing our favourite pre-pandemic choices.
         
        In the past two decades
I've gigged for pay at pubs and casinos, but I hate gigging for pay.  I play for charity fund raisers when asked, including some online fundraisers during the pandemic. 
I've played with an 18 piece swing band and a seven piece jazz combo at retirement homes.  Deborah and I performed as a keyboard and ukulele singalong duo in a senior's care home.  We did Christmas shows in womens' shelters for a few years.  At my yacht club I've organized British Pub Night singalongs, Pirate Day songs for sailors and their children, Oktoberfest dances and Talent Nights.   I have a tiny collection of youtube video samples.  When we are released from Pandemic Prison, I anticipate making new choices, possibly involving travel and playing with other groups, attending rural fiddle and folk festivals, and family gatherings out west.




   
       

            My taste for musical activities evolved as I got older.  The industry has changed drastically since I actually made a living at it in my twenties.  There are many more eager young musicians, DJ's, and too much free music on the internet. Bar owners fill their stages with "Open Mic" participants who are not vetted for talent or reputation, and who are willing to play for free for "exposure".  Every stage they crowd removes a venue for paid musicians with better chops and more polished performances.  It erodes their livelihood.  No longer are young people in every town excited to hit the bar or dance hall because a new touring band has come to town.  I toured at the tail end of that era.  Very competent musicians that I played with then now make their living by teaching, selling in music stores, or both.  I was lucky enough to complete university and take a sharp left turn into public school teaching in my early thirties, so now I have a pension and will never have to rely on music for a pay cheque. 
             That's a darn good thing, because I no longer enjoy late nights and commuting, and lugging equipment to gigs.  I began going out to play nearby open mics with a younger friend but quickly realized that I was providing a free service for bar owners who pay all their other employees but not the musicians.  They don't offer a free drink, a meal, or even their parking costs, and they don't have decent instruments set up for musicians.  One legendary downtown dive had an out of tune piano with five broken keys, even though perfectly good pianos are free for the asking every week in this city. 
We played in rooms full of shouting bar patrons who force you to crank up your volume and sing through a p.a. to be heard, in a room with a packed-in capacity crowd of less than a hundred people.  At my community Play Along I can sing while a dozen musicians are playing, and I can be heard without a p.a.  At the open mics, I dragged my thousand dollar keyboard to each venue and set it up to do just a handful of songs for them, but the open mic organizer expected me to leave it set up for other players to use, possibly knock over, or spill their beer on.  At another venue, a girl leapt on stage and thrust her tiny phone into my face to chord for her from a very bad arrangement that didn't match what she wanted to sing, in the wrong key, to accompany her for three minutes of "fame" singing in public, karaoke-style.  This drunken party behaviour was considered normal and acceptable by the open mic organizer.  What a horror show.  I felt exploited.  Like many older musicians, my drinking days are behind me, especially while performing; but bar owners expect open mic musicians to draw in their friends to buy drinks, and to create a party atmosphere that will encourage other customers to stay and buy more drinks.  Open mic musicians are, in effect, "animators" like the ones employed at resorts and on cruise ships; but they are expected to perform the same function without being paid.  To me that's completely bonkers, and profoundly dissatisfying.
            In casting about for a more satisfying musical outlet, I started organizing groups of musicians to rehearse and play down at the yacht club, and then a ukulele group that ran for a few years in a private home, and a guitar group that we ran at the yacht club which migrated a year later to someone else's home.  Finally I stumbled upon the fact that community centre managers are eager to find people who can organize community programming.  The facilities provide free space, and sometimes free equipment for our use.  Birchmount Community Centre provides us with a really good keyboard and a projector.  
Grateful musicians responded to my invitation, and in effect, the musicians are their own mutually appreciative audience.  And we get home to bed at a reasonable hour.  For all of this, I happily organize and play for free.  I'll also play for free in a park with other musicians, for charity, for school fundraisers, and for nursing home and hospital audiences.  Those venues make me feel appreciated. They are grateful that you bring your music to them. 



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