Continuing with our season launch and introduction of new personnel: we are so thrilled to welcome saxophonist Olivia Shortt to the team! Keep reading for more of Chelsea McBride’s interview with Olivia, in which we find out about her, and get a little taste of Olivia’s first lead-production this season, “Tales from Turtle Island”.
O: When I was around 9 or 10, I heard piano being played and I wanted so badly to learn that instrument. I had to beg my mother for a year before she would let me have lessons. She wanted to make sure I actually wanted to learn the instrument so that I would enjoy my time playing piano. After that, I was introduced to the saxophone (my weapon of choice) in middle school. I’m a magpie, so of course when the teacher showed it off, I couldn’t resist this metal monster with all its pearl keys. Eventually, in high school, I ended up playing baritone sax and would later meet Shirantha Beddage (an alumni of my high school) and one of my favourite saxophone players. His career really inspired me to continue playing saxophone and the fact that he also grew up in North Bay, Ontario (my hometown) made me think that working in the arts was possible.
For a long time I thought that I wanted to go to veterinary school and work with animals but then I realized how much I loved music and that although I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do within that medium, I did know I wanted to pursue studies in it. At seventeen I moved to Toronto to study classical saxophone at UofT and have been here ever since.
I took a break from playing music for a few years to pursue other endeavours but I ended leaving those jobs because I knew what I was passionate about. I’ve come back with a renewed passion and am currently working on my Master’s in Performance.
C: What projects do you have going on right now that people should know about?
O: I am part of a saxophone duo with saxophonist, Jacob Armstrong and we have two exciting upcoming projects with Canadian composer, Robert Lemay that include a feature concert as part of his 5-Penny New Music Concerts this fall and a performance in Spring 2017 (underground) at the SnoLab (a research centre where they are looking for Neutrinos). With Stereoscope, I am performing in an Emergents Concert in May 2017 at the Music Gallery where we will play a number of new works for sax duo plus electronics and dancer.
One of my other passion projects is working as part of the team for the Toronto Creative Music Lab. Now in our second year, we work to create an inexpensive, peer mentored workshop that brings together performers and composers from both national and international perspectives. I’m very proud of this project because it highlights the need to work more with the people who understand what it’s like to be an emerging artist: our peers. It also provides a platform to discuss the issues within the arts that are sometimes overlooked, such as social justice, accessibility and lack of representation in the arts.
O: The concept of this concert is quite simple: bring together Indigenous Artists and Allies to tell their stories. It’s a chance to highlight some of the incredible Indigenous talent that we have in this country. It’s a very personal project for me because of my Indigenous background and my journey to understanding my own family’s heritage and culture. Storytelling is such a vital part of most cultures histories and everyone has a story to tell.
C: What are you most looking forward to about working with Spectrum this season?
O: Honestly, I love learning from other people in the arts. The chance to work with Spectrum is an opportunity to learn from a group of people that I really respect. I’m always trying to pick up new ideas and concepts in arts administration and the best way to learn much of this is from your peers. I’m so excited to join Spectrum this season!