Our most recent addition to the team is Tiffany Hanus, local vocalist/composer/jazz musician, and by way of introduction, our Manager of Education and Outreach Chelsea McBride sits down to talk about what she’s most looking forward to with joining the team!
C: Tell me about yourself. How did you get into music? What kept you in the field?
T: I began classical piano and voice lessons when I was 10 years old. My parents were very supportive and did not hesitate to put me in music lessons when I asked. Through somewhat of a random selection from a list of teachers, I was paired with a fantastic voice and piano teacher, Jill Kelman. Jill is so skillful at instilling healthy vocal technique in a young student. At the time I took her approach for granted, but looking back, I am so grateful (and just plain lucky!) to have had such a knowledgeable and attentive teacher while I was first discovering my voice. In conjunction with my private lessons, I attended a performing arts high school. Later, I completed a BMus at Humber College and now I teach and perform regularly throughout the city. I have also been studying composition with Roger Bergs for the last two years.
I am inspired by other musicians in the community and the drive and dedication they put forward. Upon graduating from Humber, I continued to study privately with vocalist Shannon Gunn. I always leave a lesson with her reminded of why I chose music in the first place. In the arts, the idea of reaching a goal which is seemingly unattainable can be both debilitating and motivating all at once. Though at times a struggle, if I remind myself to focus on the process rather than the outcome, musical development becomes the most rewarding and invigorating part of my life.
I am also inspired by going out and hearing live music. Barbara Hannigan is coming to Koerner Hall in November, I know that performance will keep me buzzing for months to follow!
C: What projects are you currently involved in that we should know about?
T: I am in a duo project (though we often expand to a trio, including a drummer) with guitarist Jeremy Bellaviti, called The Shraggs (www.theshraggs.com). It is an original genre-bending project with a strong emphasis on improvisation. Typically, I will work on a melody and text knowing full well it will morph into something different on stage. This project has encouraged the most discovery for me as a musician. Truthfully, it is really Jeremy’s inventive style of playing and innovative compositional approach that challenges me.
I also perform as one third of the “Tiffany Hanus Trio” (www.tiffanyhanus.com). I feel like a bit of late bloomer to jazz. My first real introduction was at Humber and it was the years to follow that I started to take such pleasure in singing jazz standards (Ellington and Porter are favourites of mine). We perform throughout the city, you can check us out at our monthly residency at the Gate 403.
C: We first met you at Tales of the Unconscious, where we first heard “Dumuzi’s Dream”. Talk to me about composing for that concert – what was your experience like? Is there anything specific about that piece that you found challenging, or exciting, or both?
T: It was a wonderful learning experience! Prior to “Dumuzi’s Dream” I had always written my own text and it is often something I do in conjunction with composing the melody. With the decision to extract text from the Epic of Gilgamesh came a new challenge for me. In the end, this new constraint on my rhythmic and melodic choices felt like more of a strength as it steered the piece toward a markedly austere and somber sound, which suited the story of “Dumuzi’s Dream” nicely, and which I probably would not have otherwise produced. With a scored-out choir part, another challenge was incorporating the jazz trio. It was crucial for me to have the trio improvise and not suppress their capabilities. How do I integrate the choir and improvising trio, and achieve a cohesive sound? What fun!
C: What are you most looking forward to about working with Spectrum?
T: I had such a positive experience as a guest composer for Spectrum. Now I will enjoy being behind the scenes and collaborating with the other members of this collective. Spectrum is made up of a group of creative, goal oriented people. I look forward to learning from them, improving my administrative skills and sharing new ideas. Since each Spectrum performance has a distinct theme and usually a crossing of genres, I love how I am challenged as a composer. Not to mention, at each concert I get to hear new works by my peers!