This week we feature saxophonist and composer Ben Dietschi. A native of Winnipeg, Ben has made Toronto his home since completing his graduate studies at the University of Toronto, where he studied performance and composition with Tim Ries, Andrew Downing, Gary Kulesha, and Terry Promane. He has appeared at major festivals and venues across Canada, Europe, and the U.S. and he has performed as a sideman in many of Toronto’s top jazz and creative music ensembles.
Ben’s musical vision reflects a broad spectrum of expression and a continual desire to seek out new ways to affect people with creative music. An accomplished arts administrator, Ben serves as Artistic Director of Spectrum Music and Outreach Programs Manager at Soundstreams, a leading presenter of Canadian new music.
Ben took time to discuss his experience as a participant of Jazzology in 2008 as well as his various musical activities:
Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?
Jazzology gave me a platform to share my music with the world, at a time when much of my artistic activities existed within the nurturing but limited academic bubble. I was very exciting to be interviewed about this music in which I was so deeply invested. JAZZ.FM91 represented a point of contact with my future career—it was comforting to know that there were entities out there offering a voice for the next generation of jazz artists.
What is your strongest memory of the program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?
Larry Green is a riot on any day. On the morning of my interview he had a flat tire, and rushed in at the last minute. He raced through my interview with great expediency and efficiency. When I heard the end product, I would have had no idea that we rushed at all, it sounded polished and well-paced. This was a valuable lesson for me about “show-biz”: It’s important to be able to get the job done under less than ideal circumstances. All that really matters is what your audience hears and sees, not what good or bad things happen offstage…so learn to keep your cool and always have your game face ready when the curtain goes up!
Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians? Why?
Learning to talk about your own music and your artistic process sheds light on your own creations in a way that you don’t receive through performance alone. Participating in a program like Jazzology will not only teach aspiring professionals about radio, but also keep them honest about their own artistic intentions.
How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?
Having a few radio interviews like Jazzology under my belt really helped when I encountered other situations later where I had to speak about my music to a crowd. It was also a great feather in my cap, and a nice addition to my portfolio.
Jazzology is made possible by our generous donors and RBC Royal Bank who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?
Thanks to JAZZ.FM91 and your supporters for keeping this kind of education and outreach a part of your mandate. It has a huge impact on the careers of the next generation of jazz musicians.
Why is music education important?
My short answer to that enormous question is that music education not only fosters the creators and listeners of tomorrow, but also contributes to the development of holistic individuals, and in turn a more balanced society.
Since participating in the Jazzology program, what have you been doing?
I’m Artistic Director of Spectrum Music, a group of Canadian composers who create and present genre-defying themed concerts. With one foot in the jazz world and the other everywhere else, we like to explore points where art music and the ‘real’ world collide.
I’m also the Outreach Programs Manager at Soundstreams Canada, a leading presenter of new music by Canadian and International composers. There I’m lucky to be tasked with engaging communities through a variety of education and outreach activities. We launched a very cool initiative called SoundMakers this year, which lets anyone make remixes of our commissioned works with a free iPad app.
Tunnel Six, my main performance outlet is a border-crossing contemporary jazz sextet with members from cities all over Canada, the US, and Europe. The group met in Banff in 2009 and has since completed four cross-continental tours, and released two records.
What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?
Tim Garland has a great third-stream-ish record called Libra. It’s gorgeous and a true synthesis of the jazz and ‘classical’ worlds. I love Stan Getz with the Oscar Peterson Trio. I keep coming back to that one—you don’t need drums to swing hard. That and Stan Rogers—can that man ever tell a story!
What are your plans for the future?
I’m finally at point in my career where various disparate threads have more or less intertwined, so I’m going to keep weaving! It’s on heck of a juggling act, but that is what we signed up for with a career in the arts isn’t it?!
How can people learn more about you and your activities?
Spectrum Music has some great concerts coming up. http://spectrummusic.ca
Soundstreams is a world leader in contemporary music, I’m proud to work there and any curious listener would be blown away by their productions. http://soundstreams.ca
Tunnel Six continues to prove that you don’t need to live near your bandmates to create music with great chemistry. You can hear our music at http://tunnelsix.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®.