Miles Finlayson

This week’s featured artist is guitarist Miles Finlayson, who participated in Jazzology in 2011.

A native of Toronto, Miles found an interest in music at the age of five through playing the piano and occasionally receiving lessons from his father. While attending Sir John A. Macdonald C.I., Miles performed in various ensembles and received numerous accolades for his work.

Following high school he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Special Honours in Music at York University, where he was awarded the Douglas Menzie Philips Jazz Scholarship for excellence in jazz ensemble performance. He studied privately with Brian Katz, Lorne Lofsky, Mike Murley, and David Occhipinti, and performed ensembles directed by Mark Eisenman, Kelly Jefferson, Kevin Turcotte, and Jim Vivian. 

As a leader, he has performed at many venues and festivals, including the Scarborough Town Jazz Festival and the Brantford International Jazz Festival. In October of 2011, Miles played in an ensemble of guitarists during the Toronto premiere of Tim Brady’s “20 Quarter-Inch Jacks” and was also a member of one of the acts on the main stage at the 2013 Canada Day celebration at Queen’s Park.  Most recently, Miles was seen playing in the pit band for the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of the musical, “Spring Awakening”.

Miles took a moment to reminisce about his experience in the Jazzology program and updated us on his more recent musical events:

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

I participated in Jazzology as part of my course work for the 4th Year Jazz Theory course at York University, which at the time was taught by Mike Murley. It was a pretty unique opportunity to be part of such a great radio program. My favourite part of the experience was being able to share examples of music that I found to be particularly moving and/or inspiring at the time, as well as bringing in music that I had written myself.

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

The thing that stands out the most in my mind is how great it was to hang out and chat with like-minded people who share my love of this music. The only funny thing that I can remember off the top of my head was Brad Barker’s response when I told him that as a child, I had heard Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album before hearing Thriller. I believe what he said was, “Well Miles, generationally this is like a slap in the face.”  We both got a good laugh out of that.

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

I would certainly recommend Jazzology to other young musicians. It’s a great outlet to share music that is important to you and to talk about music/arts in an environment that nurtures these types of discussions.

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

One of the best lessons I learned from this experience was how to clearly articulate my thoughts while speaking in the moment. The interview pushed me to address this, and to do so while thinking on my feet. From a professional standpoint, it was great to meet members of the JAZZ.FM91 team and connect with them face to face. 

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?

I would explain to them how I feel about Jazzology, which is that it is one of my favourite programs. I listen to it whenever I’m able to catch it. I like knowing that I can always listen to this program and learn about the music and arts that are inspiring and motivational to my fellow musicians. I would definitely thank JAZZ.FM91’s donors and sponsors greatly for consistently making arts education initiatives a possibility. I would also thank them for their support of the Jazzology program in particular, and for the one-of-a-kind experience that it provided me with.

6) Why is music education important?

Music education is important because it teaches people about the performing arts in a way that they may not have been exposed to otherwise. Music education certainly provides a wide array of great artists/composers/improvisers/players/etc. to listen to and check out. It is also crucial because it teaches new ways of approaching the listening process and appreciating music.

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

Since participating in Jazzology and finishing at York University, I have been gigging as a freelance musician in the Greater Toronto Area. I’ve met a lot of great players and made some important connections. I have also been teaching guitar at a place called Melody School of Music, which has been great. I just finished playing guitar in the pit band for Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of the musical, “Spring Awakening”. 

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

I’ve been listening to Keith Jarrett a lot, in particular his solo on the tune “It Could Happen to You” from the album, Tokyo 96. I have always been a fan of the overall vibe of Keith’s renditions of standards, and this solo is full of beautiful melodic lines with very deliberate rhythmic delivery. I regularly check out the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin by Johann Sebastian Bach. They are basically a perfect example of the linear-based language of Western harmony. I also really like Greg Howe, who was the on-tour guitarist with Michael Jackson for a while. He is very much a rock guitarist, but also knows how to deal with more complicated rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic situations similar to those found in jazz.  There’s also a great guitarist in Toronto named Robb Cappelletto, who I try to go and listen to pretty regularly. He’s a great player who has an astounding level of control over all the elements of his sound.

9) What are your plans for the future?

I suppose the most obvious thing is that I just want to continue practicing and writing music, working on my sound, and making music with like-minded players. Now that Spring Awakening is finished, the musical director of the show wants to take the pit band into the studio to record some of the tunes, so that will be something cool that’s coming up soon. In the not-too-distant future, I hope to record an album of mostly original compositions. I would also like to do my Master’s in Music Performance if possible.

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

I am in the process of constructing a website.  In the mean time, you can feel free to find me on Facebook if you wish. My profile is under my name – Miles Finlayson. I usually post my gigs and things on there. 

You can also feel free to e-mail me at if you have any questions about what I’m up to. 

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

Thanks for having me!