Matt Lagan

This week’s featured artist is saxophonist Matt Lagan, who was a member of the Youth Big Band from 2011 to 2013.

Born and raised in Toronto, Matt started his musical education by studying jazz and classical piano with his parents before starting saxophone at the age of thirteen. In addition to being a member of the Youth Big Band during high school, Matt also took part in the Community Music School and Summer Jazz Workshop at Humber College.

Matt has studied with David French, Kirk MacDonald, Lorne Lofsky and Jane Fair, and performed with Alex Dean, Kelly Jefferson, Pat Labarbera, Kieran Overs, Tom Scott, and Lew Tabackin. Matt has appeared at the Rex Hotel, the Beaches Jazz Festival, and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. In 2012, he performed at the SONY Centre with spoken word poet Mustafa Ahmed as part of TEDx TORONTO.

Now completing his second year in Humber College’s Bachelor of jazz and Contemporary Music program, Matt took time to discuss his experience with the Youth Big Band program and his more recent musical activities:

1) Describe your experience with the Youth Big Band program. What was your favourite aspect?

I had an incredible experience in the JAZZ.FM91 youth big band. I met some of my best friends through the band and I learned so much. My favourite aspect about the band was performing in so many great places and with so many fantastic guest artists.

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

My strongest memory with the band is the 2012 performance at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. It was an outdoor concert and by the middle of our last set the rain was pouring down. There was no sheltered area for the audience but there was one guy who sat it out and watched us in the rain! It was a really fun concert and a fun trip.

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

I strongly recommend this band for any serious young jazz student. The band required hard work and lots of practice, and the opportunities I had through this band I could get nowhere else.

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

The JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band taught me how to play in a large ensemble. Playing saxophone within a section is very demanding and requires a very different sensibility. Many of the connections I made through this band have led to other great opportunities in my professional career, such as my performance at TEDx TORONTO 2012.

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. Supporting young talent in music directly influences the music of the next generation. For me, the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band enriched my musical education by exposing me to great music and great jazz musicians from Toronto and beyond.

6) Why is music education important?

Good music education teaches the music of the past and the importance of tradition. Music education is important because it brings students together with great professional musicians and teachers who know how to direct them in the right direction and give them valuable guidance. This is valuable because it gives students an insight to what it takes to be a professional musician.

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

I’ve been studying music at Humber College, studying saxophone with Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald. I’ve been playing, recording, and touring with Garrison Creek, a rock group that I’m a part of. I’m also writing and performing my own music with my own group.

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

Sonny Rollins’ playing is a big influence on me. His rhythm, his harmonic sensibility, and his playfulness are things that I want to adapt in my own playing. I also really love the music of Chris Cheek. His sound and his melodies are very inspirational for me.

9) What are your plans for the future?

As for the next few years, I’m studying and practicing hard at Humber College. I plan to spend some time in New York and tour the world with my own band.

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

You can check out where I’m playing next and what I’m up to at my website:

11) Is there anything else that you want to add?

Thank you so much to JAZZ.FM91 for the time I had in the band. It was an incredible experience and I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without it.