Ottawa jazz guitarist and educator Tim Bedner celebrates the 5th Anniversary of his “Inside the Music” series this Saturday. John Geggie, the first double bassist in the series, will join a long list of notable musician guests that Bedner has hosted over the years to the benefit of keen listeners, musicians, and himself.
“I am a lifelong student. I'm a bit selfish because I want to learn, so what better way to get inside folks that I admire [than to] sit there with them and listen and ask questions?
“We all love a good story and every individual has a story. When you get a chance to see an artist and hear their story about their music, who they are, how they've developed - we're drawn into that and it's fascinating to me,” Bedner said.
Bedner won't be the only one listening and asking questions on Saturday and in the future. Peak attendance in the workshop series, which includes the guest artist talking about him or herself, playing some music, and musical and verbal interaction with the audience, has doubled since the series started.
Bedner and his wife/musician Elise Letourneau moved to Ottawa from Pittsburgh in July 2006, not knowing anyone (Letourneau was born in Canada and lived here previously.) Prior to moving to Ottawa, he and Letourneau “were always trying to do things in the community bringing the music and people together. We would host open mic nights, workshops.” He became involved in running a summer guitar workshop at Duquesne University, where he later obtained his masters degree and taught music for eight years.
“I was looking for people to meet and get to know in the shortest amount of time. Best thing to do would be to create a workshop and invite them to be the showcased artist.”
Bedner's first guest was the accomplished guitarist Mike Rud, who helped Bedner get started in the local scene five years ago. “I thought it was a good way to learn more about his musical skills. Mike is a stellar educator.”
American, Canadian and local musicians have all appeared as guests over the years. Who has appeared has been largely because of the intersection between Bedner's and the guests' availability, which has become more challenging as everyone rushes around to make a living and get from gig to gig. And, although he plays guitar, Bedner said that the larger number of guitarists who have appeared as guests is “coincidental... I've learned so much from all the instrumentalists and vocalists who have come through.”
Speaking highly of his session with Jeri Brown he said “She's a world-class jazz vocalist. [I enjoyed] listening to her talking about her humble beginnings, where she has gone. What she has done. The technique - she really is like a horn. She can sing in any key and make it sound like that was the key for her. Brilliant musician.”
And of guitarist Charlie Hunter, who performed in Ottawa and Bedner interviewed last April:
“Gobsmacked... He certainly sticks out... And he's such a nice guy... You could hear a pin drop.” Hunter talked about how his mother was a hippie who loved blues music and played bass around Europe: background that listeners would never otherwise know about him, Bedner said.
Each inside the Music session typically starts with Bedner talking with his guest. “One of the questions I like to ask is 'Tell us about your musical upbringing.' That can lead to 15 or 20 minutes of interesting stories,” he says.
“I happen to be the fellow facilitating so I can get my questions answered (laughing).. what did you do here or what did you do to lead up to this point? Once I start asking questions, other folks realize 'I can ask a question too'.”
Guests will play music, sometimes with Bedner or an audience member, and sometimes may distribute a handout like an explanatory sheet music sample. Questions will be asked and answered, interspersed with more playing.
“You have the opportunity after a performance or a statement to say 'wait a moment' and ask for clarification. You can't do that on a CD or live performance... I've just seen so many 'aha moments' from students and folks that enjoy the music. Non-musicians have said 'I understand more than I have before',” Bedner said.
And the musicians continue to surprise him – even by the time they arrive. “They don't call me 'Downbeat Ellias' for nothing”, guitarist Roddy Ellias said as he bounded in with his guitar and amp, exactly on time – and not a beat too early. Bedner usually likes to fix the guest a tea or drink and chat for a few moments before commencing the event.
When asked about what musicians and listeners have thought of the workshops, Bedner replied “Overwhelmingly, [participants] have said 'I'm looking forward to the next one'.”
This Saturday's event will be the first Inside the Music session held at Alcorn Music Studio's GigSpace studio since it opened. The new space can accommodate the growing interest in the series with better acoustics and greater comfort than the former location on Carling Avenue.
Bedner is expecting to run more Inside the Music workshops in 2012, as opportunities arise. Sometimes he can book musicians a couple months in advance, and sometimes the tight schedules for travelling musicians means a much shorter lead times. But normally, he said, there should be at least a week's notice.
He quotes Clark Terry: musicians “need to understand and observe and imitate, [and] assimilate so they can innovate”. And he expects these workshops to continue to provide Ottawa musicians with an opportunity to do that.
– Brett Delmage
Inside the Music Guests
- Bill Coon – Oct 2007 - guitar
- Alain Tambay – Sep 2008 - guitar
- Dave Liebman – April 2008 - saxophone
- Roddy Ellias – Oct 2008 - guitar
- Ted Warren – Nov 2008 - drums
- Paul Meyers – Nov 2009 - guitar
- Lorne Lofsky – Jan 2009 - guitar
- Gene Bertoncini – Feb 2009 - guitar
- Charlie Hunter – Mar 2009 - guitar
- David Occhipinti – Mar 2009 - guitar
- Janet Lawson - May 2009 - voice
- Jeri Brown – Jan 2010 - voice
- Kate Hammett-Vaughan & Bill Coon - voice/guitar
- Kate Hammett-Vaughan – May 2011 - voice
- John Abercrombie – Sep 2010 - guitar
- Karin Plato – Oct 2010 - voice
- Vic Juris – Oct 2010 – guitar
- Kirk MacDonald – May 2010 – sax
- Mike Rud – Apr 2011 - guitar
- John Geggie – Dec 2011 - double bass