This week we feature saxophonist Abigail Neale, who was a member of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band in 2010 – 2011.
A Toronto native, Neale is a saxophonist, clarinetist, flautist, composer, and arranger who is currently completing the final year of her Bachelor of Music degree at Humber College. She has received a number of awards including the St. John’s Music Award, the Moe Koffman Universal Music Award, and the Dave Stillwell Arranging Award.
Her teachers have included Alex Dean, Nick Morgan, Pat LaBarbera, and Mark Promane and she has performed with Robert Pilon, Doc Severinsen, and Bucky Pizzarelli. An emerging artist on the Toronto music scene, Abigail leads the chamber jazz group Transcendental, and the Abigail Neale Quintet, both of which feature her original compositions and arrangements.
Abigail shares her memories of the Youth Big Band experience and provides an update on her current activities:
1) Describe your experience with the Youth Big Band program. What was your favourite aspect?
My favourite aspect of the program includes all of the amazing experiences getting to meet, perform, and connect with inspiring guest musicians and music educators, such as Bucky Pizzarelli, Kelly Jefferson, Alex Dean, and Andy Ballantyne to name a few.
2) What is your strongest memory of the Youth Big Band program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?
There are so many fond memories of my Youth Big Band experience, the strongest being the friends I made in the band. In particular, the saxophone section was a fun bunch of guys to hang and play with. I remember every so often when the music was too easy or they were bored, they would play everything up a semitone from the band. It was really funny, and as much as I would’ve liked to join in on the fun, I felt that I was sort of the moderator for the section, trying to keep silly shenanigans to a minimum.
3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?
I would definitely recommend the experience to aspiring young musicians. There isn’t anything quite like this program in Toronto. Not only do you get an enriched opportunity to play music, but you’re in a very supportive environment that constantly challenges your abilities and allows you to play with many great musicians and work with clinicians that are there to help you be your best.
4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?
The Youth Big Band experience helped develop my musicianship at a young age. More specifically, it helped me learn the nuances of section playing in a big band, which has lent itself to many other big band playing experiences since leaving the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band.
5) This program is made possible by our generous donors and sponsors who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?
Thank you so much for your generous support! Your donation and sponsorship goes a long way in giving an unbelievable music education that has ultimately influenced my life and career as well as enriched the lives of so many young people with the privilege of an arts education.
6) Why is music education important?
It is important to cultivate music creativity in young minds because this type of education goes beyond learning music; music education promotes teamwork, self-awareness, perseverance, a strong work ethic, and so much more through music. Not only that, but music is an outlet that can expand our minds and thoughts through creative expression.
7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?
I have been studying saxophone, woodwinds, composition, and arranging at Humber College. The past three years I have worked in many pit bands/orchestras for local theatre productions with The Lower Ossington Theatre (Avenue Q, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shrek the Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, & Hair the Musical), Scarborough Theatre Company (The Wizard of Oz) and the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company (Stars of David). I’ve also been pushing my own music and gigging around the Toronto area with the Abigail Neale Quintet, and most recently, I’ve been recording my original compositions at Humber’s Recording Studio with my jazz infused chamber group, Transcendental.
8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?
Right now I’m checking out Igor Stravinsky and Bela Bartok. 20th century music, including orchestral and chamber music, sounds so beautiful to me and it is inspiring me to think and compose in new ways.
9) What are your plans for the future?
I’m excited to be working in the studio this year with Transcendental and recording an EP of my original compositions and arrangements. I would love to take things even further with the group in the future and eventually apply for a grant to do a full album and tour for a bit.
Transcendental will be having its debut performance on November 13 @ Array Space (155 Walnut Ave), 8-9pm. Come on out to hear me perform some original chamber jazz compositions with some very talented musicians. I’m also performing with saxophonist Donny McCaslin, April 1, 2015, 8pm at Humber College Lakeshore Campus. As a long term career goal, it would be a dream come true to play in a professional pit orchestra for a theatre production, which I plan to practice hard towards so that I’ll be ready when the opportunity arises.
10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?
11) Is there anything else that you want to add?
Thank you to JAZZ.FM91 for their continued support, and a shout-out to Jules Estrin, who does a great job leading the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band each year!