Heather Segger

Our featured artist this week is trombonist Heather Segger, who took part in Jazzology in 2008.

Heather Segger is an active member of the Toronto jazz and improvised music communities as trombonist, composer, bandleader, curator, and educator.

A native of rural Alberta, Heather now makes Toronto her home. She holds a Master of Music in Jazz Performance from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance from St. Francis Xavier University. She also received a Composition Diploma from MacEwan College and attended the Banff International Jazz and Creative Music Workshop. In 2013, Heather studied improvisation with Michael Moore, Wolter Wierbos, and Mary Oliver in Amsterdam with support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Currently, Heather is a member of the Kyle Brenders Quartet, DanJam Orchestra, Interstellar Orchestra Mark Segger Sextet, and John Oswald’s Radiant Brass. Heather also leads her own ensembles and participates in projects involving site-specific composition, improvisation, visual art, and movement. She is a co-artistic producer of both the Spectrum Music composers collective and the annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival. 

Heather has performed with a broad range of artists including Broken Social Scene, Sylvie Courvoisier, Dave Douglas, members of the ICP Orchestra, and Owen Pallett. 

Heather reminisces about her experience with the Jazzology program and discusses her recent musical activities:

1) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?

It was nice chatting with Larry. I also enjoyed putting listening examples together of other artists I was interested in and influenced by. It’s very interesting thinking back on that now.

2) What is your strongest memory of the Jazzology program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?

Thankfully I didn’t have any incidents! I was a bit nervous leading up to it, but Larry was very easy to talk to and I think it went pretty smoothly, actually.

3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?

Yes I would.

4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?

At the time, it was really good for me to sit down and figure out how to present myself as an artist – what I was up to, interested in, where I was coming from, and where I was heading. It’s helpful to think about these things. As an artist I’m constantly explaining what I do to different people (including granting panels) and this takes some consideration, vision, and practice. Since then, I’ve continued to re-evaluate these definitions for myself in order to be open to artistic and personal growth – to not get stuck to any self-prescribed ideas if it’s not positive or doesn’t move me forward.  It’s also a lot of work to be a freelance musician, and sometimes it’s nice to look at all the amazing things I’ve had opportunities to be involved in and remind myself: “hey, this is pretty great!”

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?

Many programs and opportunities for artists so often struggle to operate, or are difficult for artists to access, without the generosity of time, resources, and/or funds from those who are able to help move things forward and connect artists to resources; when you help an artist grow in their practice and get their art out into the world, the benefits to the communities that artist serves are immeasurable, really.  It may seem obvious but it’s huge, and it’s a gift that pays forward to many. So thank you! 

6) Why is music education important?

Music is engaging; it connects people with other people, with their environments, with their own emotions. It fosters cognitive, emotional, social, psychomotor, and language development, creative thinking, a sense of self and contribution/expression. Also, quite simply, it can be beautiful, and it can be fun!

7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?

I’ve been performing in quite a wide variety of situations, from rock bands and folk to jazz to Contemporary Classical/New Music to improvised music and performance art – often involving dance or visual art. I love it all. I’ve also been curating some performance series, helping to organize the Annual Somewhere There Creative Music Festival, and recently joined Spectrum Music composers collective. Last summer I spent a few months studying improvisation with some ICP Orchestra members in Amsterdam, thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts, which was an artistically life-changing experience; I’m still processing from that. I am becoming more involved with composing pieces specific to the acoustics of a given space or room – essentially creating a sonic environment. This has been an exciting new branch for me. I also really enjoy teaching and have been doing so privately for a few years now. 

8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?

My Europe trip last year triggered a renewed interest in my own personal history and cultural identity as Canadian jazz-trained trombonist. Recently I’ve started going back and listening to artists from my childhood – such lovely storytellers as Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, George Jones (I did grow up in rural Alberta after all!) and that’s been an interesting and inspiring journey. I am also open to whatever life presents to me; last week I went to a metal concert that my brother-in-law played in, and surprised myself at not only how much I enjoyed it (with ear plugs of course!), but that it gave me some fun ideas to work with. Sometimes I get inspiration from an unfamiliar bird song that catches my attention, or my daily humming along with the coffee grinder, or something comes up on Shuffle on my iPod that I’m not expecting. I like the element of surprise – it keeps my ears open. I also get a lot of inspiration from other art forms – the shape of a building for instance, or a painting or sculpture – anything that can shift my perception or awaken my senses.

9) What are your plans for the future?

I’ve started spending more time in Edmonton near my family, and I’m seeing where that will take me. As far as projects go, I’m constantly looking for interesting spaces / buildings to write performance pieces for. I’m gradually getting some material written for some new projects, and I’m really excited about playing in other Toronto bands I continue to be involved in. I’ll be touring Canada with the Kyle Brenders Quartet in January, the Mark Segger Sextet will be releasing an album early next year, and I also hope to take a trip to Europe in 2015.

10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?

My website is www.heathersegger.com. I welcome emails through the Contact form.

Jazzology is proudly sponsored by RBC Emerging Artists Project.

About RBC and the Arts
RBC sponsors a wide-range of grassroots and local initiatives that contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. Proud to support events and passions that resonate with our clients and all Canadians, RBC provides opportunities for up-and-coming artists through programs such as the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world; and the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition, part of our commitment as the Official Bank and major sponsor of the world’s top public film festival – the Toronto International Film Festival®.

Learn More about the RBC Emerging Artists Project