Brad Turner playing with guitar virtuoso and Capilano U artist-in-residence, Bill Frisell

When he started out, Brad Turner never imagined he’d become a teacher one day. “I thought I was going to have red carpets rolled out for me and I’d be playing gigs all around the world,” says the accomplished jazz musician whose hard work recently earned him the 2014 Mayor’s Art Award for Music. An instructor in Capilano University’s Jazz Studies program, Brad inspires his students to open up their minds, but most of all, to “practice, practice, practice” in a program he calls one of North America’s best. 

“I’ve taught and performed at countless universities and colleges in North America and I think the faculty at Capilano are the best performing faculty I’ve ever heard,” Brad says enthusiastically.

Much like an English student whose teacher’s brilliant writing makes her aim higher, the same can be said for musicians. “The students know that we’re not all talk, we can really play and demonstrate what we’re trying to teach them,” Brad continues. You can take his word for it, having been a part of the Jazz Studies program at Capilano since 1992, starting as a trumpet instructor after completing a master’s degree at the University of West Texas. “The best thing about teaching at Capilano is that all these great musicians teach there, but they’re also very good teachers, which is a strange combination. The tendency is that the better and ‘higher end’ you become, the harder it is to relate to young people who are still learning,” Brad says.

Brad still teaches trumpet—he also plays piano and the drums, a level of multi-instrumentalism unique to the West Coast, according to him—and is now the director of the student ensembles, A Band and C Band. Despite his busy teaching schedule, he’s managed to win two Juno Awards and several National Jazz Awards, including Jazz Trumpeter of the Year, Jazz Composer of the Year, and Musician of the Year. He has seven albums under his belt, five as a trumpeter with the Brad Turner Quartet, and has performed and/or recorded with artists like Joe Lovano, Kenny Wheele, John Scofield and—just a few weeks ago—Bill Frisell.

“I like the mix of teaching and playing and composing. I’ve played drums in a rock band and I was in the house band in a Yaletown club for 10 years,” Brad says. Some of those ‘gigs’ have been out of necessity, though, according to Brad. The key to making a living in the business is being open-minded, something that Brad tries to instill in his students.

“It’s very important to us that our students have an open mind so we expose them to all sorts of music, from 90s grunge to hip hop to the Vancouver Symphony,” Brad says, adding that that’s the way to widen the job prospects, being able to play all kinds of music. None of that matters, though, if you don’t practice, Brad quickly adds, “first, you have to master your instrument and it’s not until then, that your imagination can come through it.”

Recipients of the Mayor’s Art Award are invited to select an emerging artist in their discipline who shows great promise. Being very involved and connected with his students, Brad says he could have picked from dozens. One name, however, the one of piano player Matt Choboter, jumped out. “He plays the way I wanted to play when I was his age. I can play that way now, but it’s different when you can at such a young age,” Brad says.

Winning the Mayor’s Award has reinforced Brad’s decision to stay in Vancouver. The humble Langley native likes to draw—he claims that’s weird—and spend time with his twin 12-year-old boys. He feels lucky to have been able to stay at Capilano for this long and has no intention of abandoning a career that has given him so much. The award is a testament to all the scrambling he’s gone through in his career because, to his surprise, there was no rolled-out red carpet as he set foot outside grad school. “I was very proud to receive that award and I thought, ‘yeah, I’ve worked hard, I deserve it!’” 

See Brad Turner’s website for a list of his works and upcoming shows.

Submitted by Marketing & Communications

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