Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fred Stride's Birthday

Today is the birthday of the wonderful composer and educator, Fred Stride.

Fred was very important in my early development as a musician. In the summer before my grade eleven year at high school, I went to a summer music program at UBC and was playing first clarinet in Martin Berinbaum's wind ensemble.  After only a day or so of playing in that group I was not having fun playing that music and was beginning to think that all the work of preparing and auditioning for that group had been a waste of time and that being a musician was not such a great thing. I felt anonymous and unappreciated in that huge ensemble and felt no emotional connection to the music.

During a break I happened to wander from the Old Auditorium over to the music building and discovered that there was a jazz orchestra of other young musicians rehearsing there.  Fred was directing the band.  When I heard the music they were playing I felt what I can only describe as a call from the music, I felt a connection inside and I knew that I wanted to play in that band and to ditch the wind ensemble as soon as possible.

 At that time I was playing guitar with some competence in a jazz quartet with some friends and we had even played some gigs, but to that point my jazz playing had been almost entirely by ear. I really had no idea what the guitar was supposed to do in a jazz orchestra (still trying to figure that out in some ways!), my music reading on the guitar was terrible, and the music Fred's band was playing was much more difficult and demanding than the stuff we were playing at my school.  I have never been a timid sort and so I boldly approached Fred and told him I wanted to quit Marty's wind ensemble and join his group. I don't remember exactly what he said, though I had a sense that this sort of thing was not often done and what I was asking was not particularly appropriate.  I wanted to leave the group for which I had auditioned in the middle of rehearsals for a concert to join a band where there was really no space for me and for which I was not really musically prepared.

Fred must have somehow sensed my sincerity and desire to play jazz because he arranged things with Marty and later in the afternoon there I was sitting in the jazz orchestra, happy as could be.  I learned a whole lot in those next few days of playing and was in awe of Fred's knowledge of the music.  Many lessons were learned that have stayed with me over the years.

Tonight at the Len Aruliah Sextet gig at Presentation House Studio we'll be playing Len's arrangement of my tune, "For Fred Stride", and sending good vibrations his way.

Thanks for everything, Fred, and happy birthday!


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