Humber College’s relationship with the Juno Awards is a long and harmonic one.
“Five to 10 (nominated) records a year have Humber faculty, students or alumni involved,” School of Creative and Performing Arts associate dean Steve Bellamy said.
So it comes as no surprise when the awards are presented Sunday, Mar. 20 in Winnipeg, Man., that nine of the contending records involve Humber faculty and alumni.
Two of the nominations this year are albums by Humber grads.
Brandi Disterheft, a 2003 Jazz Music Performance graduate, was nominated for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year for her album Gratitude, while Joanna Borromeo’s Kaleidoscope is up for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
Both Disterheft and 2004 graduate of Humber’s Jazz program Borromeo were immersed in music from a very early age.
Disterheft said her playing the upright bass, the largest instrument in the violin family, was her father’s idea.
“I think he thought it would be comical and ironic to see this small girl playing this massive instrument,” Disterheft said. The joke backfired in the best way, however, as she took to the instrument right away.
Borromeo, on the other hand, came to music on her own accord. Her parents had an upright piano that she would “go up to and kind of plunk around,” as soon as she learned how to walk. When Borromeo was about five years of age, a trip to Disneyland led her to the path of music. The ride It’s A Small World caught her attention.
“That song played over and over for the entire ride… I was old enough to remember that song and I brought it back with me to Calgary and I walked up to the piano and worked it out,” Borromeo said, adding it was at that point her parents recognized her talents and started her in music lessons.
Both musicians found themselves at Humber years later, albeit via very different paths.
Disterheft never expected music to be more than a hobby for her. Her father, she said, was always saying it’s very tough in the music industry. According to Disterheft, her father saw some of the greatest musicians struggling during his career at Yamaha and Canada Music. So when she received a scholarship from Humber she didn’t think she’d be there for more than a year.
“What I realized at Humber was that music is ongoing and it’s a journey. It’s impossible to stop because you’re always so close to discovering something,” she said.
Borromeo perfectly juxtaposes Disterheft’s hesitation to a career in music.
“I had been doing two years of classical studies – piano performance – at the University of Calgary,” Borromeo said. “The classical program was really great but I couldn’t picture myself sticking to that because, while I was deep into playing classical music, I never really actually listened to it.”
So with the help of a friend she auditioned for and got into Humber’s music program.
“I was such a beginner. As a jazz musician I was really intimidated by everybody there. But by the time I got out I had progressed so much,” she said. Upon graduation she received the prestigious President’s Medal.
Neither performer is a stranger to prominent accolades. Borromeo’s Kaleidoscope, in addition to the R&B/Soul Juno nomination, got the nod for Urban Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
Disterheft will be returning to the Junos this year, albeit in a different category. She won Traditional Jazz Album of the Year two years ago for her appropriately titled debut, Debut.
“These nominations are proof in a way that we are preparing people for the real music industry in a way that is more than just learning how to play your instrument,” Bellamy said.
He said students learn how to manage the complicated career of the independent musician, including marketing, promotion, music technology and production.
“The fact that so many Humber alumni and faculty are consistently recognized for the professional work that they do – as being the top in their field speaks to the success of the music programs we have at Humber,” Bellamy said.
2014 Juno Award Nominees from Humber
Traditional Jazz Album of the Year
- Carn Davidson 9 – Nine
- Will Carn – part-time faculty and Tara Davidson – Community Music coach
- Alumnus Fabio Ragneli played drums and Associate Dean Steve Bellamy mixed, edited and mastered the album.
- John MacLeod & His Rex Hotel Orchestra – Our Second Set
- MacLeod is a part-time faculty member
- Ten Humber faculty and alumni performed on the record. It was recorded at Humber Recording Studio.
- Mike Downes – Ripple Effect
- Downes is a full-time faculty member
- Faculty-member Ted Quinlan played guitar. Bellamy mastered the album.
Vocal Jazz Album of the Year
- Amy McConnell & William Sperandei – Stealing Genius
- Faculty-member Larnell Lewis performed on the record.
- Matt Dusk – My Funny Valentine – The Chet Baker Songbook
- Arranged and co-produced by Shelly Berger – part-time faculty
- Mike Rud – Notes On Montréal ft. Sienna Dahlen
- Sienna Dahlen is a part-time faculty member
Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year
- Brandi Disterheft – Gratitude
- Disterheft is a Humber grad.
R&B/Soul Recording of the Year
- Joanna Borromeo – Kaleidoscope
- Borromeo is a Humber grad.
World Music Album of the Year
- David Buchbinder & Odessa/Havana – Walk to the Sea
- Humber faculty Mark Kelso, Hilario Duran and Roberto Occhipinti all performed on the album, which Occhipinti also produced.