Thank you Paul!

On Wednesday night I attended the University of Toronto jazz program’s tribute to Paul Read, who, after 17 years as director of the program, is stepping down at the end of this year. Simply called "Thank you, Paul!" , it was a great night—the 10 and 11 O’Clock Jazz Orchestras performed Paul’s arrangements and compositions, and the graduate ensemble added one tune (also a Paul Read original) to the mix. There were solos by special guest faculty members (Chase Sanborn, Jim Lewis, Alex Dean and Terry Promane) and some touching words. Kudos to everyone who performed and organized the event.

I first met Paul twenty or so years ago as a camper in National Music Camp’s jazz division. I knew him then as the director of the camp, and also the conductor of the camp’s faculty big band. That band was always amazing - great players and great tunes. It can’t be a coincidence that, after seeing that band perform for five years as a camper, I would one day be inspired to start my own band...

Over the five years as a camper, I got to know Paul and his fantastic wife—vocalist Trish Colter—and when I made the decision to pursue jazz at university, I was excited about working with Paul in a new way. I remember my audition: it was towards the end of what I can only imagine had been a long day of auditions. Paul and Phil Nimmons were on the panel. And they were, I think, a bit slap-happy at that point. The audition was a blast. They made me feel welcome and relaxed. I don’t remember how I actually played; but I do remember having a great time. In the end, they saw something they liked and I entered the program.

Under Paul’s direction, U of T’s jazz program took me—a young musician with a pretty basic knowledge of jazz—and instilled in me a passion for the music. I learned a ton. I played under Paul in the 10 O’Clock Jazz Orchestra and learned how to run a big band (and how, when the conductor stops the band, and with a blank look on his face says “Perfect!”, he means it really wasn’t perfect...). I learned from Paul about the importance of always being professional, about learning the history and context of the music I play, and about having a sense of humour about it all. (One day, in the elevator, he told me he had figured out the answer to playing high on trumpet: “It’s easy: less air, more pressure!”)

As I finished my last year of the undergraduate program, I needed some direction. I wasn’t sure what I should make my next step, and Paul’s door was always open. He took the time to chat with me about different possibilities, and was honest with me about what he thought might or might not work for me. I valued those conversations; it was great to hear his perspective get some honest feedback. So when I got out of school, with Paul’s advice ringing in my ears, I made a variety of decisions which, well, have ultimately led me to where I am today.

So thanks, Paul, for everything: for creating a summer camp environment in which a passion for jazz could grow; for taking a chance on a somewhat inexperienced trumpeter; for giving me great tutelage and advice; and for being open to my questions and queries now just as much as you were then. Good luck on this next chapter. I look forward to hearing the results (via the Paul Read Orchestra) and to working with you for many years to come.

Josh

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