Jazz Educator Profile: Tara Davidson

Tara Davidson is a shining example of the best that music education has to offer. She first picked up the saxophone in her seventh grade music class; in high school she studied with Mike Murley and played in what is now known as The Toronto All Star Big Band. She went to the University of Toronto where she continued to learn from Murley and a roster of skilled musicians and teachers. Today Tara is a multi-Juno nominated saxophonist who teaches at York University and The Humber College Community Music Program.

Since 2004 Tara has played on approximately thirty recordings as a side musician, and has produced five of her own. Her most recent recording Duets was nominated for a Juno and is one of a handful of albums featuring her former mentor, Mike Murley.

Recently I got a chance to sit down with Tara to talk to her about her experience as a player and educator.

DC: You are very busy as a teacher - what is your approach to teaching?

TD: I have a structure in mind that I think everybody needs to get through. I am mostly seeing students at York in a one-on-one setting, so I spend some time when I meet them to see where they’re at and what I can try to do to help them move forward. So it’s going to be different for every person and even personalities - you may have to be a little flexible with how you’re going to have to try and help them. My approach is very individualized.

DC: When you first started to see the saxophone as something your really wanted to pursue, who were the players that most inspired you?

TD: It was Mike Murley. My parents took me out to see him perform, and I was 100% convinced that this was a good person to study with. So I remember finding his number and I called him up. He was with Dave Restivo at the time; I said, “Mr. Murley I’d like to get lessons” and thankfully he agreed. So he had an enormous impact on me because he was my first jazz teacher, but also I really did align with his sound and playing style. It was just a really agreeable pairing. Who would have known that we would become colleagues and friends? So I really looked up to him. He taught at U of T at the time when I was thinking about university so that was a big reason why I decided to go to U of T.

DC: And you’re going to be playing alongside Mike as part of this years TD Toronto Jazz Festival, correct?

TD: So on the 24th, its my Duets project - for which I made a recording and he was on it - but the Duets thing is hard to recreate in a concert setting. So I've formatted the show as a mix of quartets, trios and duos - we will start big with the quartet and then pare down to trio and duo, and then eventually back up to the full quartet. It will be all originals, my own and also theirs; they contributed a tune or two as well to the program, so it’s a mixture. Then on the 25th I will be playing with his [Murley's] septet.

Be sure to catch the Tara Davidson Quartet Friday June 24th at The Rex. You can also catch Tara playing with the Mike Murley Septet on Saturday June 25th at The Rex. For music and more information please visit www.taradavidson.ca.

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