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The sound of the saxophone hits Mount Royal

Jim Brenan, chair of the Department of Theatre, Speech and Music Performance is making waves in the world of jazz.

And on Jan. 26, Brenan is bringing that world to Mount Royal University through Saxophone Days — a day of collaboration for the Calgary saxophone community, from beginners to professionals.

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Jim Brenan, chair of the Department of Theatre, Speech and Music Performance.

“It’s the chance to get saxophonists in the room together and have a ‘real’ master talk to us, ask questions, work together and listen to one another,” explains Brenan who is thrilled to bring renowned Canadian saxophonist Ralph Bowen to campus.

“It’s a celebration of the saxophone.”

A learning ensemble

A major highlight of Saxophone Days will be the chance for musicians to play and talk with Bowen, who is said to be “an assured saxophonist and versatile composer,” - Carlo Wolff, Jazz Times Magazine.

“When I was 15 I heard Ralph Bowen play and I thought to myself, ‘that is how the saxophone is supposed to sound,'” says Brenan about his favourite jazz artist.

“I was just wowed by his music.”

At the time, a young Brenan never dreamed that one day he would eventually get to work with Bowen.

“I was working on my graduate degree and a friend of mine had Ralph Bowen’s number. I decided to call him up and he recommended things for me to progress in my playing,” explains Brenan. “Eventually, I started studying with Ralph and we have since become great friends.”

Saxophone Days is sure to have something for any saxophonist — not just the pros.

The morning session, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon, is catered toward beginners, and the afternoon session from 1 to 3:30 p.m., will be for more advanced players. All in all, participants will have a full day of playing together; creating good playing habits and getting the chance to ask the experts questions.

Brenan also notes that the day isn’t exclusive to those who teach or study the saxophone.

“I know of one faculty member who works in science and plays the saxophone for fun,” says Brenan. “He would be more than welcome to come and enjoy the day with other musicians to learn from one another.”

Growing into a love of music

Aside from being well known for his music at Mount Royal, Brenan also has his name out in the professional world of jazz — he recently recorded his newest CD, January, which made its debut on Nov. 23.

“It’s been about five or six years since I put out an album so I thought of this like a new beginning, “ explains Brenan about the title, January.

“It all happened very fast. We recorded the album in one day, a student from Information Design did all of the art work, and then it just all came together.”

Brenan’s CD release took place at the Jazz Summit Series — another project he has his hands on.

“My friend Rueben and I decided to create the series and pitched it to the National Music Centre (NMC),” says Brenan. “This will be the second year of the series and the first year it’s funded by the Royal Bank of Canada.”

Concerts through the series will take place six times a year, something that Brenan feels is important to offer Calgarians.

“It’s just like going to a museum and seeing an exhibit from the past,” says Brenan. “It’s a way to celebrate art. It’s important to support long standing art forms that propel the community.”

And even though his schedule is full of many projects, Brenan continues to add more projects to his checklist.

“I will be taking a research leave to compose four large works for large ensembles,” says Brenan.

“There are also a few of us on faculty who are performing with the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks show and also helping out with the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s quite a big deal for our department because it’s a blending of theatre and music, which we haven’t done before."

— Angela Sengaus, Jan. 24, 2013