In the years since graduating from Capilano University as a student in the Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies program, trumpeter, vocalist, and composer Bria Skonberg has made a name for herself.

She’s toured internationally (North America, Europe, China and Japan), graced the cover of Jazz Times, been named 2013’s Up and Coming Jazz Artist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists’ Association, and according to the Wall Street Journal, “is poised to be one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation.” The Chilliwack native turned New Yorker will return to Vancouver this June to perform at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival to deliver her trademark mix of classic New Orleans jazz and contemporary infusions to a hometown audience.

Forging her own sound

After graduating from Capilano U in 2006, Bria was already managing two bands and travelled extensively playing jazz festivals up and down the West Coast, playing gigs at the PNE, Vancouver swing dance events, and spent time in Europe as a soloist. At a reception for the Jam Award on behalf of the Vancouver Jam (Jazz) Festival and CBC Radio—for which Bria was an award recipient—she met Dal Richards and subsequently was part of the Dal Richards Orchestra until her move to New York City in 2010.

“I played at all sorts of wonderful gigs and special events,” Bria says of the time. “Before I left B.C. we played in the Olympic ceremonies at the opening of the Paralympics. That was a big climax!”

Since her move to New York in 2010 Bria has continued on her wave of success, releasing three solo albums Fresh, So is the Day, and Into Her Own. She’s also become involved with the New York jazz scene, as a co-producer of the New York Hot Jazz Festival. Another special gig since moving to New York was a “pinch me” moment performing in Queens, New York, at the home of the one and only Louis Armstrong. The home, which Bria describes as a “casual and loving atmosphere” has been turned into a concert hosting museum, complete with BBQ. Currently, Bria is gearing up for a nationwide Canadian Festival Tour due to a Canada Council grant, which will see her and her band travel across Canada. At the end of the summer she’ll be recording her fourth album. Stay tuned to her website for details on an upcoming kickstarter (PledgeMusic) campaign.

Bria describes her music as a melting pot, attributing travel and living in New York as huge inspirations.

“The music I play is rooted in New Orleans grooves and old style jazz, the roots of jazz with contemporary sensibilities, the challenge is finding a cohesive way to pull it all together. At the moment I’m surrounded by the right people to play it! “I love world music and percussion and I take a little bit from everything. I always have eyes up and ears open!”

Returning to roots at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

 “It was so much fun and you have these superstar guests that come in and play along with the band and it’s a thrill,” says Bria of one of her favourite memories at Capilano—performing in the big band led by instructor Rejean Marois.

She still maintains connections with fellow Capilano alumni like Cat Toren, who will also be playing at the jazz festival and notes that great matches for private trumpet instruction with instructors Kevin Elashchuk and Alan Matheson were important in laying her foundation for musical success.

 “It gave me a lot of really useful skills, like the discipline to practice!” she says of the program with a laugh. “Having a full schedule of playing music and studying music and being immersed in it was so crucial to me becoming a musician and being in an environment where everyone was so excited about the same thing I was, that was so exciting.”

Bria stresses that finding success as a jazz musician requires a lot of work—but is well worth it, citing the love of freedom as a top perk of her career.

“I get to choose a lot of what I do and where I do it and with who. That’s why I play jazz—to have the freedom of choice and I don’t take that for granted.”

Starting out isn’t always easy, especially in potentially intimidating situations like jam sessions, she says, but can reap huge benefits. “Study your music, learn your craft, but take the time to go out and try to get gigs and network. Get out there! Always be searching for ways to put yourself into the music. It can be one thing to recreate and study specific things, the mechanics of music, but keep it connected to the human part of music too though writing music or playing the blues by yourself. Stay connected to the music with your own heart.”

Bria Skonberg will be performing at the TD International Jazz Festival on Friday June 26 at 7 p.m. at Performance Works. Tickets are $35. In addition to her performance she will be offering a workshop master class at Long and McQuade on the afternoon of the 26th—a free and open event sponsored by Bach/Conn-Selmer which she eagerly invites Capilano Jazz students to attend.For more info about Bria, read this Georgia Straight article

This year’s Jazz Fest (running June 18-July 1) will see 38 Capilano alumni and 15 faculty performing in 58 events. A memorial concert for the late Capilano University Instructor Ross Taggart will be held, performed by Jill Townsend’s big band featuring many Capilano faculty members and alumni.

This is the first post as part of Capilano’s #myCapUroots series – stay tuned for more stories on Capilano U alumni doing amazing things.

Submitted by Marketing & Communications

Related links: