Hot on the heels of our new Artistic Associates announcement, we are excited to welcome another new member to our production team. Spectrum Music welcomes Jay Vazquez, guitarist, vocalist, and founder of JV Music, and invites you to learn a little more about him below!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself! What got you into music in the first place? What inspired you to keep pursuing it as a career?
I was born and raised in Mexico. I grew up surrounded by music as my father is an accomplished guitar player and composer/arranger, while my mother is a singer and my older sister was a professional ballet dancer. My father took it upon himself to educate me and my sister in the arts, especially in music. At the same time we were learning in school how to read and write, at home he’d teach us the basics of music and an instrument. There are things in my musical education that I can’t remember when I learned.
My first love was the piano. I studied classical piano for a number of years and that eventually led me to composing and arranging as well. While I always worked and performed (mainly original projects when I was younger), when I was in university I studied Life Sciences at the National University of Mexico. After a couple years I switched into the Literature program there. But a few years later I left my university program again to pursue music full-time. Music won! I guess being raised in a house where music brought us a living, it was natural for me to eventually follow that path.
2. As we mentioned briefly, JV Music is your entertainment company; tell us more about that and your other musical endeavours.
When I came to Canada I met many great musicians that were interested in pursuing music professionally and were very skilled. An idea came to me to have a core-group of musicians that could understand the musical language spanning different genres – Latin, soul, rock, jazz, etc. And so, establish a way to offer high quality entertainment in the form of different themed shows, using for the most part the same group of performers – all under the same umbrella, JV Music.
I’m a strong believer in the idea that music knows no frontiers because it resonates with the basic nature of being human regardless of ethnicity, geography, or time period. I also believe that music is a social phenomena. That’s why I came up with the idea of founding a collective of talented musicians, a band if you will, comprising people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and have everyone contribute in the creative process to achieve a unique musical blend that represents a call for unity, both in the arts and society. I’m very excited to put out some of that great material in the near future.
3. Before we approached you to join our team, you composed a movement of Shannon Graham’s “Woman with Many Names” for Tracing One Warm Line, and later contributed “Westeros” to Literary Landscapes. What excited you about composing for Spectrum Music? Did your process change in any way from how you usually compose?
I always had great respect and admiration for what Spectrum is trying to do. The collision between the two musical institutions of our time (in North America) – jazz and classical – is no easy task. Add to the equation some elements of world music and you have a truly realistic representation of our world in the 21stcentury. Being a part of this attempt to build musical bridges while working with the best musicians in Toronto (and abroad) has been my main motivation.
Shannon asked me to write a movement of her piece “Woman with Many Names” (based on the Indigenous-Mexican character of La Malinche) as she consulted me about the history and sociology of the story. Given the ensemble available for this piece I decided to give it a classical approach with a tinge of Latin-American music. With “Westeros,” the ensemble available was strongly jazz-oriented so I aimed to combine jazz and classical elements in the creation process. I’d say, overall, composing for Spectrum has given me the freedom to put together musical elements in non-canonic ways. Also, it’s given me the chance to explore composing with a programmatic approach.
4. What are you most looking forward to in your new role with Spectrum Music?
I’m looking forward to composing for the concerts. Every concert, given its theme and instrumentation, represents a challenge that enriches my vocabulary as a composer. Spectrum also presents a great opportunity to work with and get to know great musicians from this city and beyond that I might not otherwise meet. Also, I’m eager to bring my ideas and experience to the collective and see Spectrum grow as a cultural statement. I’d like for people out there – of all ages and backgrounds – to know that the music we do is fun and engaging while also bursting with artistry and originality.
5. You’re stranded on a desert island. What are your five must-have items?
1) Explorer’s knife – a sturdy one
3) A notebook
4) A guitar
5) One of my favourite books – complete works by Khalil Gibran