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Canadian colleges with good music programs

Discussion in 'Orchestral Auditions [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Jan 4, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Looking to apply for music schools (colleges, specifically, or universities that don't require a grade 6 in piano) next year. Right now, the top (and only) on my list is Humber, in Toronto. Apparently, you can stay an extra year and get a BA, and you can transfer out for a year to almost any music school on the continent (including Berklee :D). I want a really strong jazz program, and to be in a good city for music (Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal). Anyone have any suggestions?
  2. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC

    I am the bass instructor at Vancouver Community College, and one of the bass instructors at Capilano College. I like both programs, and both are held in high regard. (I have heard great things about McGill in Montreal as well. In fact, one of my VCC students is going there now, and happens to be in town this week).

    Let me know if there are any questions I can answer you about the bass programs at either school if you are thinking more about B.C.
  3. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    BC isn't out of the question, but I'd like to know more about McGill. From their audition requirements and whatnot on their site, they seemed pretty "all about classical". Is the jazz program good there, too? What about at Capilano?
  4. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
    Okay, we're both online and FAST!

    McGill has a strong classical program, which is a really good thing. If you are a jazz bassist there, you still need to learn to use the bow and play some classical studies. Capilano is the same way, but we don't have an orchestra for you to play in. At VCC you can get credit for playing in the Vancouver Philharmonic.

    If you don't play double bass (-maybe I should say if you don't play it yet?) then your choices get a bit more limited. VCC or Capilano will take electric bassists, but many students choose to get involved with double bass as well. I don't think you can get into McGill on electric, but don't quote me on that.

    A good idea would be to visit these schools websites, and ask for catalogues and info to be mailed to you.

    Hopefully some of the "east coast" (T'ronna, Montreal. . . :confused: Sorry, I'm from BC couldn't resist!) teachers or students will fill you in.

  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Thanks! Sorry, I had to sleep for a few hours before school...and then go to it...and then jazz and concert band ;). I just started DB yesterday, and I'm very much interested in classical technique and bowing, so I'm definitely up for plenty of that. Do you know any of the specifics of the percentage of jazz vs. classical in the schools? I'd very much prefer a majority of jazz, personally.
  6. Brian K

    Brian K

    May 21, 2004
    Toronto, ON

    I went to Humber for four years. It was really good to me, and I don't think there's another school in the country where you will spend as much time with your instrument in your hands.

    That said, Humber (and probably any music school) is really what you make of it.

    After a few years out of school, I miss it and I'm preparing to audition for U of Toronto's classical program. The jazz program there is highly regarded, but as far as I know only accepts a couple of bassists a year.

    A friend of mine is at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC, and having a great time.

    If you have Humber questions, feel free.
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Grant McCewan College in Edmonton used to be (ahem, 20 years ago) well-regarded for jazz. Didn't York University also have a decent jazz program? Again, my contacts there go back 20 years, but some very capable players came outta there...

    Also, to give LM's input a little independent distance, I'd also say that in recent years Capilano College has come on extremely strong in producing top players.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Coming from a friend's girlfriend who went to York for operatic training (and is a fantastic jazz singer/woodwind player), York's jazz program is not the greatest of such.

    Brian: I've got tons of questions! I would PM, but if anyone else is in my position, it'd be easier if they could just see your answers in this topic.

    First, auditions. What did you do for your audition pieces? What were the sight-reading parts like? What did they look for in the constructing basslines part -- especially the bossa section? Most bossa stuff I've been exposed to (not much) is just root-fifth. Also, for these (or at the very least the bossa), is there a drummer present? Also, Classical Thump wouldn't happen to count for the classical audition piece, now would it? ;)

    Since you went for 4 years, did you get the BA in music from BCOU?

    You mentioned that there's a LOT of time spent with your instrument -- does this mean there's a lot of performances and ensemble activities within the program that aren't part of the 21/23 hours per week in class? As such, is there still time to hold a part time job and not be intensely stressed all the time?

    What's the ratio of electric vs. upright playing in the program? As it's jazz, I'm expecting a heavy, heavy majority of upright requirements, but to my understanding, it's possible to do the audition entirely on electric. Does this mean a lot of the bassists that are accepted are generally learning upright at the school for the first time?

    What's the general ratio of time spent with other people playing your instrument/musicians in the same section (drummers, pianos in large ensembles)/horn players and vocalists? While I enjoy hanging out with other bassists (which is why I spend so much time here on TB), I'm definitely hoping for a lot of duo and trio playing.

    Speaking of such, what's the general size of the ensembles? I'm somewhat used to the whole big band thing (I'm in an award-winning 17 piece jazz band at my school), but I looooove playing in small ensembles (I'm in a trio and a quartet at the moment, starting another quartet soon). It's just a lot more intimate and there seems to be more of an ability to play off of each other, rather than what's written out.

    Did you go into the performance or the composition side during third year? Could you possibly tell me the ups and downs of both? If you do composition, is it expected to play piano fairly well?

    Do you know anything about the thing where you can transfer to another school? I've got Berklee in mind, personally ;).

    Thanks a whole bunch!
  9. Brian K

    Brian K

    May 21, 2004
    Toronto, ON
  10. peteswanson91

    peteswanson91 Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    I;d check out McGill....I know a lot of players from Canada that are now here in NY, that are burning who went to that college. From what I hear they have a great program, and they have a lot of talent.
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Wow! Thanks Brian! Can you offer a little more detail in how the ensembles are chosen? Did they pick you based on based on your abilities and/or tastes? Also, how did the latin one become a latin one -- did they just get paired up, and decide to do latin, or was it an assigned thing?

    Peteswanson91: I'm pretty sure at most universities in Ontario, you have to have a grade 6 in piano for ANY instrument. I'm not sure about in Québec though, so I'll check up on that -- I've got a meeting with my guidance consellor on Tuesday.
  12. Contra|Brett|


    Oct 6, 2004
    I have a friend who goes to McGill and she really loves it.
    ROFL, there's this hill that goes up do the dorms (I think, but it does go to a building that most people have to travel to and fro). Anyway, it gets so slippery and icey in the winter, that they have to tie a rope at the top for people to pull themeselves up with. I've heard some great stories about that rope.

    Anyway, she studies harp, and doesn't really play the piano that much. She could probobly get her way around one, but she's not a pianist by any means.

    i'll try to talk to her again soon and get you some good info if ur still interested.
  13. PunkerTrav


    Jul 18, 2001
    Canada & USA
    I had a chance to check out the McGill Jazz ensemble performing in Banff last year. They blew me away. One of the tightest big bands I've heard. Not that I've heard an outrageous number of big bands, but damn, they were smokin'.

    Good Luck
  14. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    I talked to my teacher and got some info on McGill -- WOW. There's just so much more there than I expected there to be. I'm definitely gonna check 'em out...can't wait for the time for schools to start doing tours and whatnot to begin! :D
  15. hunta


    Dec 2, 2004
    Washington, DC
    Is anyone here a US citizen that has gone to attend a canadian music school? I'm just curious, as I'm currently attending SUNY Fredonia, which is ok, but I really would like to go to canada. I'll just say the US stresses me out and a change of scenery (and people) would be nice.. lol..
  16. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Awesome news -- I met and got the home phone number of the bass teacher at Humber on Friday :D.
  17. I'm curious as to why you've posted this thread in the "Orchestral Auditions" category. Do you want to also study orchestral bass playing or just Jazz?

    I went to York (in the '80s), at first, for the opportunity to study with Ed Tait (Assisitant Principal Bass of the Toronto Symphony). Ed is a wonderful orchestral player and equally fine teacher. I couldn't recommend anyone more highly as a teacher.

    I don't know if York is different now, but when I was there, there was a very fine Jazz program, and as far as I know there still is. Al Henderson and Don Thompson were both teaching Jazz bass there at the time.

    Anyway, the school has had some definite strengths and weaknesses over the years, but mostly I would recommend it. All around, the faculty is outstanding. In particular, I found the musicianship training there to be extremely comprehensive. For example, what I've learned about rhythm at York seems to have outstripped what many of my collegues in the professional world have learned from other so called 'great' classical music schools. And that is just one area.

    Perhaps the most interesting thing York has going for it is that it really encourages students to study MANY kinds of music rather than strictly pigeon-holing people into one particular area (which you can certainly still do if you wish). It really provides the student with more freedom to get a really well rounded musical education. Far too many music schools force students to specialize very early on which can lead to a very narrow focus.

    York isn't for everybody. If you require a lot of structure and having somebody really map out your education in order to focus you, you might consider another choice. But if you are very independent, disciplined and motivated, York has some huge intellectual and musical resources that are just waiting to be tapped.
  18. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    To be honest, I didn't know where else to put it -- all the other music school posts were here, so I figured this was the place to put 'em. Yes, I plan to primarily study jazz (but continue taking private classical lessons and studying orchestral bass on my own.)

    I own 2 recordings on which the current jazz bass teacher at York plays on (Artie Roth), and have had the pleasure of both seeing him perform with the Greg Runions Big Band and of speaking to him after the performance. York has crossed my mind as a possibility and it will definitely find its way onto my audition form. However, I do have a slight apprehension about the school. One department is not indicative of the attitude of another, but when my brother went for a tour of York's "theatre" program, he found a very negative, bitter attitude from the presenting faculty. Of course, from my experience with Artie, this is most certainly NOT the case at the moment for the music program, but it is (for me) something to consider at the very least.
  19. I would say McGIll cuz i like that school, but if you want a college then i say Mohawk! Really interesting ontario college! i almost went there for playing the trumpet, and i have a few friends who do go there.
  20. Interesting point...Mohawk College is another option. I understand they have a pretty decent Jazz program and it's dirt cheap to live in Hamilton compared to the other places you've mentioned (and Toronto is still only a hop and a skip away).

    They don't have much of a classical program but I know of a pretty good classical bass teacher in the area ;) . I've had a few students from the Mohawk Jazz program come and study with me for classical training.

    Anyway, it seems to me that the Jazz faculty at Mohawk is pretty reputable - they import a lot of folks from the Toronto Jazz scene as well.

    As for York, I didn't realize Artie Roth was teaching there now. He's a great guy! We went to school at the same time. I remember Artie from before he switched to double bass. He used to play an early '80's Ibanez electric bass when he started there! I understand he's become a very heavy Jazz player (I don't listen to Jazz much, so I don't know firsthand - his reputation is very fine though).