Spectrum Music is excited to welcome Chelsea McBride as our new artistic producer. Chelsea is a saxophonist, composer, and big band director. Let’s get to know our new team member! Here are 5 questions with Chelsea:
You recently graduated from the Humber College Contemporary Music Program. How does it feel to be finished school?
It feels great to be done school! I had a really fantastic four years there, and I’ve learned so much from the wonderful faculty and from my incredibly talented classmates, but I’m really excited to take that knowledge and that network and now be left to pursue my own goals, hopefully a little wiser than when I started out.
Tell us about your big band the Socialist Night School and the experience of releasing your first recording.
Well, to start from the beginning… I started the Socialist Night School right around the time I realized that the best way for me to get an audience for my own music was to get people together, book a show, and basically put my music out there. I’d been experimenting with writing for big band for a while, and when I got the initial group together, I probably had about five pieces, maybe a few more. After the first rehearsal, somebody came up to me and told me to book a gig, so I did, and the rest is history I guess. We played our first show at the Trane Studio, and then have been playing at the Rex since.
“The themes that Spectrum takes on every year provide so much space for composers to find their own niche, make their own statement”
The record is something I’d been planning for a while. Part of Humber’s degree program is that you get allocated a certain number of hours in the recording studio to record a demo, and go through the whole recording/mixing/mastering process. After Socialist had played a show or two and I realized this was a serious project that I wanted to keep going, I decided that I wanted to record the big band as part of this final project.
Recording a band of this size would normally cost thousands of dollars, but with studio time built into the program, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a big band record, and I wanted to do it in case I never got the chance to again. It ended up being an incredible experience – I had a wonderful production team to guide me through the logistics and keep me focused on the recording, I got to bring in William Carn and Daniel Jamieson as special guests (William takes one of two real improvised solos on the record, and Dan conducts the tunes that I play on), and I had a fantastic group of musicians that put a TON of time and effort into making the music come alive. I’m so proud of the record, and of all the effort that everybody put in, and to release it at the Rex in a room full of friends, family, and curious strangers… That was such a fun and beautiful way to finally put this record out for the world to hear. It is available on iTunes, but to directly support the band, buy it on Bandcamp at crymmusic.bandcamp. com, because we’d like that a lot.
What other projects are you involved in?
I also lead a pop sextet called Chelsea and the Cityscape, playing all my original pop tunes, and we have two EPs that are also available on iTunes and Bandcamp and a few other places (Google Play, etc). That’s a fun project for me because I pretty much do the complete opposite of what I do in the Socialist Night School – it’s a lot looser, the tunes are more readily accessible, and the band is also always great. Aside from that, I’m also found playing with the Brad Cheeseman Group (www.bradcheeseman.com), which is a great contemporary jazz quintet with some unbelievable writing, and I also play with the Devin Chubb Sound Collective – this is contemporary jazz sextet, led by trombonist/composer Devin Chubb, who also plays in the Socialist Night School. And Tom Upjohn’s Conundrum is a really fun tentet with tricky all original music and some of the city’s finest almost-20-somethings, which makes for a great sight reading challenge for me!
What are you looking forward to doing with your new role with Spectrum?
I’m really looking forward to seeing these concerts through, and being around all of the super-creative people that are producing and performing in and writing for these concerts. The themes that Spectrum takes on every year provide so much space for composers to find their own niche, make their own statement, and I think that’s part of what makes Spectrum and its programming so unique. The themes really tie everything together, but there’s room for writers of all stripes (and performers of all stripes) to say something within them, and make their own creative voice heard.
Of course as the name suggests, Spectrum’s artistic producers occupy the gamut of musical personalities between free music and through-composed music. How would you describe your spot on the spectrum?
After spending time as a copyist and writing so much for big band, I think my spot is definitely much closer to the through-composed side! But I find that recently, it hasn’t so much been one or the other – as my parts get more specific, the sections in which I let the band let loose all of a sudden get much less restricted. I think that whatever it is, I’m just trying to find the best way to get my musical intention across to the musician, who will then get that across to the audience. I find that a lot easier to do in a through-composed fashion most of the time (or at least, a shorter thing to read), but who knows – maybe after some time working with Spectrum, I’ll be writing a lot more free music in the future.
- Shannon Graham