Nick MacLean

This week we feature Nick MacLean, a composer, arranger, pianist, synthist, educator and band leader. Nick holds a Masters of Jazz Performance from the University of Toronto, studied extensively with many of Canada’s top musicians including David Braid, Chris Donnelly, David Occhipinti and Andrew Downing. He participated in the Jazzology program in 2014.

We reached out to Nick to see what he’s been up to!

1) When did you participate in the Jazzology program?
I was in the program two years ago during the 1st year of my Masters in Jazz Performance degree at the University of Toronto.

2) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was you favourite aspect?
I enjoyed the program a lot. Sitting down with Heather Bambrick to talk about music for an hour or so was a great deal of fun but also gave me a great deal of insight into the making of a radio interview.

3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians? Why?
I would definitely recommend this for other young musicians. This program forces you to figure out how to talk about your music – a necessary skill for musicians and often one that isn’t given enough thought. It’s done in a very supportive and low-pressure way and it gives you a great snapshot into the inner workings of radio broadcasting.

4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?
This experience has helped me to focus the direction of my projects. To be able to talk about one’s music one must be able to define what one’s music is all about. A clear and meaningful definition of a musical project’s purpose can be difficult to pin down, but once you have it your group suddenly has a clear purpose. A well defined purpose or direction is important to give a band’s sound focus and

5) This program is made possible by our generous donor…. thank them in person, what would you say?
Apart from the obvious ‘thank you very much’, people like these donors are important. The music industry is in a very precarious state – at every level. With the decline of album sales and the steady devaluation of recorded and live music it’s hard out here and there is the ever-present temptation to jealously guard whatever small piece of the pie one has managed to carve off. But I don’t think that’s the way to go because if we all link arms and support each other we’ll all be stronger for it. These donors are contributing to that community-building ideal and I think it’s a beautiful thing.

6) Why is music education important?

When asked this question there are many people who will say things like ‘music education makes you smarter’ or whatever. Whether or not that’s true, I hate arguments like that because they gloss over the most important one – music education is important because music is important! Music is everywhere in our society – shows, movies/television, restaurants, gyms, etc. It permeates just about everything in some shape or form and we use it to express our individuality, to convey emotion and to tell stories. Music is a language that can communicate things our spoken language cannot. Without some sort of music education you can’t take part in that abstract conversation with any sort of depth.

7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?
Since participating in the program I graduated from my Masters in jazz performance. These days I make my living primarily from teaching piano as well as the odd jobbing gig. But most of my time is spent developing my musical projects. Snaggle, the electric jazz band I talked about during my Jazzology interview (Snarky Puppyish kind of sound) is going very well. We’ve been hard at work making our 2nd studio album in collaboration with acclaimed trumpet player Brownman Ali. Brown and I have become very good friends and he has been an amazing source of knowledge and guidance through the process. The rest of the band have also been amazing – I’m really proud of those guys! We tracked the record at the end of January and we’re just about to start mixing it. Things are sounding really good and we’re really excited for the final product! Apart from that I’ve been working on a quartet project (Nick Maclean Quartet). This project is based around an exploration of slightly more straight-ahead jazz (well, maybe ‘straight ahead’ is the wrong word). We’re aiming for a Herbie-inspired sound but with original, modern tunes. We actually did our debut quite recently with a tribute show to Herbie Hancock.

8) What are your plans for the future?
Snaggle’s album is going to be released sometime late summer, early fall. I’m really looking forward to that, things have been sounding really great so far (completely unmixed right now too) so I can’t wait to hear what the final thing sounds like. Both Snaggle and the Nick Maclean Quartet will be doing some shows during the Toronto Jazz Festival. Snaggle is doing a date on June 28th and then NMQ is playing a number of tribute shows throughout the festival at May Cafe.

(Set 1: Classic, Set 2: Electric), $10adv/$15door
Tue-June-28, 8pm: SNAGGLE w/ special guest Brownman
(Jazz-funk), $10
Thr-June-30, 8pm: TRIBUTE TO HERBIE HANCOCK feat. Nick Maclean
(Set 1: Blue Note, Set 2: Headhunters), $10adv/$15door
(Mainstream jazz), $10adv/$15door

The Nick Maclean Quartet will hopefully be recording our debut album sometime next year. Apart from that I’m working on an original repertoire for solo piano. I don’t have enough tunes to gig with that yet, but in the next year or so keep an eye out!

9) How can people learn more about you and your activities?
For anything Snaggle related the best place to go is or Snaggle’s facebook page

That band also has a monthly newsletter you can subscribe to for updates on upcoming shows, album progress, and whatever else the band is up to:
For updates on the Nick Maclean Quartet, my solo piano stuff or anything else, the best place to go is my website