This week’s featured artist is saxophonist John De Simini, who participated in Jazzology in 2010.
A native of Toronto, John’s initial studies on saxophone began at St. Michael’s College School with Johnny Griffith. He then completed his Jazz and Contemporary music degree at Humber College, studying with Al Kay, Pat LaBarbera, Brian O’Kane, Mark Promane, Don Thompson, and Mark Promane. Upon graduating, John received the JAZZ.FM91 Award for his outstanding academic and musical achievements at Humber.
As a freelance musician, John has played with Terence Blanchard, David Byrne, Hilario Duran, Geoff Keezer, Boy George, Josh Groban, Geoff Keezer, Pat Labarbera , Don Thompson, Reg Schwager. He has performed throughout Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States, including the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, and tours of British Columbia and the Bahamas.
John is also an active woodwind doubler in the musical theatre community. He has performed in shows and national tours of Company, Gypsy, Jersey Boys, and Legally Blonde, while conducting several musicals as musical director. Now living in New York, John continues to tour with various musical theatre shows and freelance around the city.
John took a moment to reminisce about his experience in the Jazzology program and provided an update on his more recent musical activities:
1) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?
I grew up in King City and lived at home while attending Humber College, which translated to about 2 hours of commuting every day. I listened to JAZZ.FM91 during my morning and evening commute. To have the opportunity to share my musical story and have my music be played for such a large audience was pretty thrilling. Jazzology is such a unique program and we are so lucky to have something that helps to connect emerging talent to the existing jazz community in Toronto.
2) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?
Absolutely. Any time a musician has a chance to describe their work, experiences and influences, he or she must always take advantage of the opportunity. I think it is a great way to enhance your music as well as the listening experience. People are offered a very personal tour of your musical mind!
3) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?
I never had been interviewed before Jazzology. The experience really helped me to focus and reflect on why I was writing the music I was writing at the time. It helped me to think back to those who had played such a vital role in my musical development. I wouldn’t be where I am without them and am thankful that I was able to take some time to really think back and thank them.
4) 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?
I want to thank them for helping to support and promote emerging talent in Toronto. By supporting programs such as Jazzology, the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band, and the station as a whole, jazz education is vibrant in Toronto. The donors are a large reason why musical generations are getting stronger with each passing year.
5) Why is music education important?
Formal music education, aside from teaching me the fundamentals of my instruments and theory, allowed me to explore different concepts of creativity and originality. As music students, we are lucky to learn, not only from our teachers, but from our peers. Through discussions, ensembles, and solo performance classes, we all inspire one another and help to push each other. I was fortunate to study with so many great teachers at Humber College, some of whom have continued to take me under their wing five years after graduating. We are lucky as music students to develop these kinds of relationships with our teachers. Two of my teachers, Mark Promane and Don Thompson, have not only remained mentors to me, but have also become great friends. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them or my strong education in music.
6) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?
I participated in the program during my final year at Humber. In the fall of 2010, an opportunity came up for me to travel, practice and make some money performing so I went on tour with Legally Blonde: The Musical. We toured through 96 cities in North America over 9 months. As a recent graduate, it was an incredible experience to travel and play music with nine of the strongest musicians I’ve played with to date. After Legally Blonde, I returned to Toronto for six months and gigged around town with my own group as well as being a sideman with other projects. Some of my favourite gigs that summer were with my own group at the Pilot Tavern and with La Nai Gabriel and the Free People at the Beaches Jazz Fest. Don Thompson and I also put together a big band concert of his music, which was a highlight of my career, thus far.
In the fall of 2011, I went back on the road with the musical, Jersey Boys. Lucky for me, the majority of the band was jazz players. In certain cities, we would record, write music, and gig on our nights off. One of the highlights was recording a Christmas CD at the world famous Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash once laid down their famous “Million Dollar Quartet” session.
In July of 2013, I became a Cannonball Saxophone Artist. They are a company based in Salt Lake City, Utah and I’m happy to be a part of their family. I left Jersey Boys in March of 2014 and have since gotten married and moved to New York with my wife, Kaleigh, who I met on tour. She is a performer in Cabaret on Broadway and we are happily living in Queens. This spring, I will be off to Austin, TX to rejoin Jersey Boys for a week and then back to New York where I will sub into the orchestra for the Rockettes Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. I’m very thankful for all that has happened and very excited for what lies ahead.
7) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?
Lately I’ve been on a bit of a funk music kick and have been listening to an amazing EP, Night Off. It is all music written and performed by a friend of mine, who I met and worked with on tour with Jersey Boys. His name is Carlos Valdes. If you watch ‘The Flash’ he plays Cisco and he is one of the greatest musical minds I’ve met. I highly recommend everyone go out and get his EP on iTunes. Carlos’ musical ability and melodic writing continues to inspire me.
8) What are your plans for the future?
I’d eventually like to write some music and put out an album. It’s been on my to-do list for awhile and I hope to buckle down and release something in the next year or two.
9) How can people learn more about you and your activities?
Visit me online at www.johndesimini.com!
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®.