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Sum of its Parts is a blog series from Spectrum Artistic Producer, Shannon Graham where each of the Spectrum composers (and special guests) provide answers to questions about music, art, and life interfering with both… Whether art imitates life or life imitates art, we hope that you’ll find something to relate to in these contemplations from five chamber-jazz composers. Musicians and Listeners: feel welcome to share your answers as well in the comments section below!



What was your favourite moment in Spectrum’s 2013-2014 season?

For this installment of Sum of its Parts, we reflect on our favourite moments from throughout the season. We would love to hear what your favourite moment was!


Ben Dietschi answers: This truly was a special year for Spectrum. I noticed a convergence of many things we were striving to improve over our formative first few seasons. I’m proud of how far this company has come in such a short time, and the artistic heights that we reached this year makes me excited to get started on our next season.

“As I precariously balanced on a crate while holding a handful of prop swords I thought ‘This is what self-produced concerts are all about!'”.

My most memorable moment in 2013-14 was climbing around in the prop room looking for items to create a fantasy atmosphere for “Atlas of Imaginary Places”. The “Prop Room” is actually an utterly chaotic pile of props no doubt collected over years of performances assembled in a dusty room adjacent to the stage. As I precariously balanced on a crate while holding a handful of prop swords I thought “This is what self-produced concerts are all about!”. I brought back the whole Spectrum team and we playfully picked through the mess like kids in a candy store. In the end we were able to add a nice air of fantasy to the stage, all without a set designer. I’m thankful that the Annex Theater was kind enough to trust us rummaging through their props.


Heather Segger answers: When I try to think of one particular moment that stands above the rest so many great things come to mind; there was a lot of diversity through the entire season, and so many special performers and composers were involved in presenting fresh new local music.

“I enjoyed composing and recording layered tracks in an electronic medium; this was a new challenge for me and opened up a new avenue of exploration in my writing.”

Since I have to choose, I think the Interface season launch was especially exciting for me; I had just joined Spectrum so it was the first concert I was involved in presenting with them, and I was excited to see what the other composers would bring.  I also enjoyed composing and recording layered tracks in an electronic medium; this was a new challenge for me and opened up a new avenue of exploration in my writing.


Shannon Graham answers:

“The atmosphere in the theatre was supportive, encouraging, and hopeful- a few things every musician needs now and then!”

This season was a great year of programming and performances, but it was with Spectrum’s outreach that I began to see a new direction for this collective that I didn’t expect three years ago. After presenting Matthew Robert’s Interface project in the public library (for New Music 101) I had an interesting conversation with one of the participants about improvising and structure vs chaos. That moment gave me the impression that there are opportunities for discussions about art music in our community and I’m excited to explore that further. My jadedness was further challenged during the culmination of the New Voices Composer Residency (with Nick Lavkulik) at our season finale concert. The atmosphere in the theatre was supportive, encouraging, and hopeful- a few things every musician needs now and then!


Jesse Dietschi answers:

“after over a year of planning and coordinating behind the scenes, I finally had the opportunity to hear the ensemble play through Chauvet for the first time”

Early Expressions was my first venture in being the lead producer of a Spectrum Music concert, which gave me a more intimate perspective on the event than any venture I had been involved with prior. I remember the feeling I had when, after over a year of planning and coordinating behind the scenes, I finally had the opportunity to hear the ensemble play through Chauvet for the first time. It was the moment where emails, contracts, grants, and other logistics finally took a pause and everyone’s attention was directed fully towards the most important element- the music and artistic process! I was very excited at how quickly the ensemble prepared the music, and was happy to have been a part of such a fantastic production.


Matt Roberts answers:

“I was really delighted by the creative energy that I felt the room”

I think the highlight for me was watching the creativity of the audience during the Interface season launch party.  I was proud of how we created something quite unique (harder and harder to do in this interconnected age of information). The audience then had to decide how they would react to this novel experience. I was really delighted by the creative energy that I felt the room. (Felt n a literal sense, because people had to touch my skin to operate Interface!) Since the launch party we’ve re-staged Interface at the reference library, and we will do it again at the new Fort York Library as part of the New Music 101 series, 7:30pm on May 28th.


Mike McCormick answers:

“Watching Braid craftily steer the quartet towards his musical goals was really inspiring”

Joining the Spectrum team as an Artistic Assistant was certainly a highlight of the season for me. I had previously enjoyed my role as an audience member at Spectrum concerts, but joining the group in a supportive capacity revealed to me the amount of thought and effort that goes into each production to create the unique experience offered at every Spectrum show. As I was only involved in the last show of the season, my favourite moment since joining Spectrum was definitely the first rehearsal with David Braid and the Ton Beau String Quartet in preparation for the Early Expressions concert. Braid’s pieces required some improvisation from the string quartet, which can be intimidating for some groups that don’t have much relevant experience, but Ton Beau fully embraced the opportunity. Watching Braid craftily steer the quartet towards his musical goals was really inspiring, and the end result was a fantastic musical collaboration with contributions from the entire ensemble.


Spectrum will announce our exciting 2014-”15 season soon! Don’t miss out! Join our mailing list, and like us on Facebook to stay in the loop!

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JazzFM.91 publishes a “Where Are They Now” series where they interview past guests on their Jazzology program, which features local emerging artists. The column recently profiled Spectrum’s Managing Artistic Director Ben Dietschi. The original article can be found on the JazzFM.91 website. Here’s what he had to say:


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.


- Ben Dietschi


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®.

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Hailed in the Canadian press as “A jazz genius to call our own” (MacLean’s Magazine), Two-time Juno award winning David Braid is among a new generation of Canadian artists making his mark on international stages. Braid has performed across Western Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, Australia, Brazil, the United States and Canada. Combining harmonic intricacies fundamental to European classical music and the spontaneity of American jazz, Braid’s original music engages audiences with melodic lyricism and rhythmic pulses that do not conform neatly to any one musical genre.


We feel very lucky to host David as he briefly touches ground in Canada, after a tour of the UK,  before he sets off to play Tianjin and Prague. David tells us about the inspiration behind “Chauvet”, a highlight of our upcoming concert Early Expressions, on April 17th:

A few days before Christmas in 1994, three hikers along the Ardèche region of southern France found their way along a particular rock face, searching with their hands for the passage of air that might indicate the presence of hidden caves. They broke open one narrow cavern that at first did not seem unusual beyond being particularly beautiful. Further exploration deeper into the cave revealed what renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog describes as “the greatest discovery in the history of human culture.”


Until the discovery of Chauvet Cave by Jean-Marie Chauvet, this pristine cave was completely sealed for tens of thousands of years, containing the perfect climate to preserve astounding paintings created between 20,000 and 32,000 years ago. The paintings appear fresh however a film of calcite deposits on some of them indicates they are not a forgery. In fact, these are the oldest known paintings, more than twice as old as any other. Recent archeological research shows that humans never lived in this cave and so it was used as a place for painting and possibly ritual. Even more astonishing is the paintings were created over a period of 12,000 years – an inconceivable amount of time to us.


“…to me, their art symbolizes pure expression, unaffected by modern life: economy, or materialism. Their expression prompts in me the question: ‘Why did the first musician play music?'”


I have never seen a film twice before, but I returned to the cinema eight times to watch Herzog’s introspective documentary “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” Chauvet Cave is a frozen piece of ancient history. If one of our modern art galleries remained closed until 20,000 years from now, it is impossible to imagine how a future person could reconstruct our world through examination of our art. We have the same inability to recreate the world of the artists of Chauvet Cave. What drew me back to watch the film again and again is not precisely clear; however, I wanted to spend more time with this ancient creativity; I wanted to remember the images of these artists throughout my whole life – to me, their art symbolizes pure expression, unaffected by modern life: economy, or materialism. Their expression prompts in me the question: “Why did the first musician play music?” Certainly, it was not to make money.



The piece you are about to hear is my musical recreation of a descent into Chauvet cave. The musical themes and moods represent the various narratives expressed in the paintings, such as: the fierce and gentle faces of the animals, the mysterious clues of long forgotten dreams, the millennia of solitude – you may also encounter echoes of the original artists, and maybe, even possibly encounter yourself.


- Ben Dietschi

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