Student of the Week
Owen Nelson, Jazz Performance, U4
Q: So, you’re in the Faculty of Music?
A: I’m doing a major in Jazz performance, and a minor in business. I find that it’s very important to be able to sell yourself in anything you do, and I’ve found at the music school that people don’t have business skills, and it’s difficult to get gigs. I picked business so that I would be able to use business skillls [to help my career as] a musician.
Q: How are your music classes different from those in an arts or science degree?
A: They’re completely different. First of all, classes are generally 10 to 20 people. The teachers [are] all musicians; they’re a lot more laid back. There’s more of a personal relationship with the instructors.
Q: Do music students do collaborative work, or is it mostly individual?
A: Yeah, if we’re in a big band, or a jazz combo. One requirement is that students have to form small jazz ensembles, and they have to play once or twice at a jazz club called “Upstairs.” A teacher will come and watch the show, and have a beer. Afterwards, the professor will give us [some] ideas [of] how we could be better.
Q: How long have you been playing the saxophone?
A: I’ve been playing since I was 12 years old.
Q: Do you play any other instruments?
A: I play a little piano, and I can sing.
Q: Have you played any shows around Montreal or in high school?
A: Oh yeah. I’ve played all over—tons of clubs like Club Soda, Café Campus, Club Lambi, Sala Rossa, and Metropolis.
Q: So you play with a band?
A: Yeah, I have several music projects. Right now, I’m playing with a band called “Static Gold,” [in addition to another, “Cloak and Swagger”]. We just played at Bar Absinthe on Valentine’s Day, and it was packed. I’m also going to Atlanta, Georgia to [record] with Pastor Troy, hopefully for his next album, called “Thou Shalt not Kill.” I’m really excited about it. I’m [also] working with a DJ; and this summer I’m going to be playing at clubs on the island of Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. I’ve just been doing a lot of recording, and taking advantage of the recording studio at McGill. That’s another thing; McGill has a world renowned recording studio, and we can record there for free.
Q: If you couldn’t be a musician, what other career would you pick?
A: I like having control over my life, and I love business; I love talking to people, communicating with people. So I’d probably own some sort of business. I had a dream once where I was an old man, and I was on the coast in New Orleans. There was this smell of BBQ, and fantastic music, and I had created this BBQ shack that would bring the best musicians from all over the world, and it was just fantastic. I consider myself the grill master now, so imagine when I’m 70 and I’ve perfected my art.
Q: If you were an instrument, which instrument would you be?
A: It would just suck to be an instrument. You can’t do anything. I guess I’d be a grand piano because a lot of the time, people make love on grand pianos. Guitars get smashed all the time. A lot of instruments are in cases, so they’re confined. Grand pianos can be in the open, and rock stars do drugs off them.
Q: If you could play with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
A: I always dreamed of being on Jay Leno’s [tonight show] band. Or play with Bruce Springsteen or the Dave Matthews band; just a band that plays in front of thousands of people because I love performing. I just love the energy I get from the audience; it’s such an electrifying feeling.
Q: What are your dream reading week plans?
A: I would like to go to Tanzania, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, go on a motorcycle road trip to Zanzibar, and go hunting for lions. Then [I’d] go up to Uganda and go sailing on Lake Victoria.
Q: What are your actual reading week plans?
A: I’m practicing for my playing exam and doing some recording.
Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
A: Vegans, scarves, and skinny jeans.
Q: Your apartment’s on fire and you only have time to save three things; what are they?
A: My cat, my Blendtec blender, and my saxophone.
Q: What’s your guilty pleasure?
A: I like drinking milk.
Q: Why do you feel guilty about that?
A: Because a lot of people are starving in Africa and I drink a gallon of milk a day.