Phil Nimmons started with a big band and teaching improvisation in 1973 at the Faculty of Music. After adding another big band and some more jazz courses, it was clear a formal program was needed. But who would lead?
Enter Paul Read.
Graduating from the Faculty of Music in 1970 (he later added a Master’s degree in 1991), Read was a member of the Humber College Music Faculty in Toronto from 1979 to 1991, where he taught and served as Program Coordinator (1982-1987) and Director of Music (1987-1991).
In 1991, he founded degree programs in jazz studies at the Faculty of Music, where he was Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies. Prof Read was Canada’s Representative on the Board of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) from 2002-2008, and was the founding Director of the National Music Camp (NMC) Jazz Program (1987 to 2006). Prof Read retired in 2009 after a brief stint as Director of Graduate Jazz Studies.
In 2015 Prof Read received the Muriel Sherrin award for international achievement in music from the Toronto Arts Foundation. From the TAF site: “The Toronto Arts Foundation Muriel Sherrin Award is a $10,000 cash prize that celebrates an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto through outstanding achievement in music or dance. The recipient will also have participated in international initiatives, including touring, studying abroad and participating in artist exchanges.”
With the foundation laid by Prof Read, Jazz Studies continues to thrive and evolve at the Faculty. There are now about 100 undergraduate students and 21 graduate students in the program.
Students perform weekly on Mondays at the Rex, at the Upper Jazz Studio at 90 Wellesley, around the city, as well as in Walter Hall.
Tonight, the U of T Jazz Orchestra and 11 O’Clock Orchestra play with three time Grammy-nominee trumpeter Tim Hagans (the John and Claudine Distinguished Visitor in Jazz), performing Andrew Rathbun’s The Atwood Suites, which sets the poetry of Canadian icon Margaret Atwood in two three-part suites for vocalist and jazz orchestra. Undergrad Jenna Pinard and Doctorate of Musical Arts in Performance (DMA) student Meghan Gilhespy will be singing.
The DMA for jazz is new for the Faculty and in Canada. When Meghan completes her program, she will be the first woman to receive a doctoral degree in jazz performance in Canada.