Jazz Winnipeg hosts virtual summit

Musicians gather online for workshops and gala performances

Allison Au is one of the composers and performers taking part in the Canadian Jazz Summit.

Jazz Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Desautels Faculty of Music have been hard at work planning the Canadian Jazz Summit.

The summit, held virtually due to the Omicron wave of COVID-19, will have workshops hosted by award-winning jazz professionals Jodi Proznick, Allison Au and Brad Turner. It will also include a virtual concert from Feb. 4 to 5.

Both Au and Turner will have music they have written performed by U of M students. Au is a Juno award-winning saxophonist, composer and arranger based in Toronto, while Turner is a Juno-winning trumpeter, pianist and composer who currently teaches at Capilano University in North Vancouver.

“Originally, I was scheduled to come in person along with Brad Turner, and we were to host several workshops and then do a gala performance on the final evening,” Au says. “But because of Omicron, everyone’s just trying to play it safe.”

During the planned gala performance, musicians from the U of M were originally going to perform music written by Au and Turner. Instead, they performed and recorded the music so it could be streamed online.

“I was really disappointed that I couldn’t play the music with them. I was really looking forward to that,” Turner says.

On the brighter side, Turner and Au will offer one virtual workshop for summit participants free of charge. The workshops will explore “elements of jazz history, composition, conducting and performance and will be led by masters in the field.”

While both Au and Turner say the pandemic has hit musicians hard with a lack of live events, they’ve found ways to keep their spirits high until things open up again.

“When you get out of school and you start working professionally and teaching, life creeps in, and you don’t have as much time,” Turner says.

“When things all shut down, I was able to get back to work and do things that I’ve been kind of missing being able to do on a regular basis for a long time. I am working on the musicianship on the instruments that I play (and) practicing a lot.”

Au also spent a lot of time practicing, but she took time to read and “noodle around” on her keyboard.

“I’ve just been trying to find inspiration within myself. I have started taking some saxophone lessons myself with a musician in New York who I find really inspiring, so that’s really helped just kind of keep my spirits high, and it keeps me hungry for new material,” she says.

One thing Au misses most is the community aspect of the music she plays.

“I think music is a way to connect with people,” Au says. “And now it’s become more of like a pursuit of community for me, in terms of the collaboration that’s involved in bringing a piece of music to life and then ultimately sharing it with an audience. That process has become really valuable to me and being able to connect with other musicians and listeners.” For more information and access to the virtual workshops and gala, visit Jazz Winnipeg’s Eventbrite site at bit.ly/32P8uEK. Tickets to the gala are $11.62.

Published in Volume 76, Number 16 of The Uniter (February 3, 2022)

Related Reads