September 25, 2022

On Oct. 5 a new tradition started in Waterloo, helping support the growth and development of artists who play a more seasoned style of music.
The Jazz Room, located within the Huether Hotel on King Street, was the site of the Grand River Jazz Society’s first jazz workshop. The workshops are designed to help support the growth of local jazz musicians and also to provide them with the opportunity to get up close and personal with professionals.
Those who attended the workshop ranged in age from university students to the elderly. The workshop was casual and taught in a lecture-style format, however, it was more like a conversation where onlookers were asked to give their opinions and views on topics at will.
Russ Nolan, a New York City saxophonist, was the first featured professional jazz artist who spoke on composition as improvisation. Nolan has an extensive career in jazz, playing the saxophone for over 25 years and has been teaching and holding workshops since 2005.
In addition to the lecture/demo component, participants had the opportunity to play along with Nolan.
“I was impressed with the students today,” Nolan said. “They played within their current letter (and) they weren’t trying to play what they don’t have down yet just to impress anybody. To me that is a more valid statement.”
Ashok Thirumurthi, a director on the board of directors of the Grand River Jazz Society, led the registrations and setup of the workshop and helped put everything together.
“It’s very interesting, it is a very focused scene,” Thirumurthi said. One of the many goals he hopes to see accomplished is to bridge the gap of having no formal jazz programs in local colleges and universities. The closest university to offer a degree is located in Toronto.
During Nolan’s workshop he covered how to communicate effectively during a solo with the rhythm section and how to produce a good harmony and melody within a solo. Those who brought instruments then did two different styles of playing on the stage. The first style was to play what they believed would fit as a solo with the current rhythm and melody. The second style was to play back by ear what Nolan played.
A younger audience is welcome at the workshops, whether skilled as a musician or just learning.
Thirumurthi said he believes the current jazz scene in Waterloo consists of roughly 15 per cent teenagers and that the current base can only grow.
The next workshop is scheduled for Oct. 19 with Montreal’s Chet Doxas. Tickets are $5 at the door for the workshop and participants are welcome to stay for that evening’s show which will feature Doxas. Admission for the show is $18.
For all upcoming workshop dates and performances, visit