Tim Bedner's mentoring series at Café Paradiso will return for a new season next September.
Bedner was all smiles as he watched the final session of this season wind down last Monday, and highly satisfied with the series' first year.
"All the expectations were met, and probably beyond. I'm really happy with the turnout and the enthusiasm." He said that both the mentors and the students told him they thought this was a great project to do in the community, and that they would be glad to participate again.
He said the series would follow the same schedule next year: the last Monday of the month, September to November and January to March.
Bedner started the series in order to give aspiring Ottawa musicians the same opportunity he had had as a student – to learn from local jazz masters about performing and musicianship.
Carleton University music student Aydin Suatac was one of the students who was mentored: "What other chance would a guy like me, who's just starting out and doesn't know anybody in the scene, what other chance would I have to play with a musician of the calibre of John Geggie or Garry Elliott or Mike Tremblay or Mark Ferguson? I find that the best way to learn something is by performing with somebody. It's a hundred times better. The fact that he's so much better than you forces you to live up to him."
"You have to fight every step of the way to keep up with these guys and I find when you're doing that, your best stuff comes out. You're inspired and you're in to it, and you're thinking of nothing else. Nothing else matters except what you're doing with a musician that you revere and respect. And then, afterwards, he critiques what you're doing, which is great. He would say 'OK, that was good, that wasn't good, work on this.' And that's all I want to hear."
The mentors included guitarists, a pianist/trombonist, a saxophonist, a bass player, and a vocalist. Bedner said "the varied instruments of the mentors certainly helped create a different learning opportunity and experience for the students."
Most of the students were at university, he said, partially because of his connections to Carleton University. But several mentors were able to send him some high school students – and even one vocalist only 12 years old! Bedner said he hoped he could get more high and middle school students interested in jazz to attend – either to be mentored or just to listen. "As long as they can actually play through a standard tune and play a melody, improvise, and accompany in some context: that's really the only prerequisite."
He said he also hoped this would encourage younger listeners to come to hear and enjoy the great jazz performances in Ottawa, including at Paradiso.
One of the important benefits of the mentoring program, he said, was that it let students listen to the other students being mentored. "They get a chance to learn from that student's response with the mentor, so it's really four lessons wrapped in one. Each student has specific deficiencies: they can pick up on that and learn just as much from observing the other participants. As a lifelong student of jazz and music, I learn just as much by listening to what the mentors have to say and how they interact, their teaching methods with each student, so I'm taking notes all the time."
– Alayne McGregor