Monday, November 21, 2011

Vijay Iyer Named As New Banff Director

After 10 years in the position, trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas is passing the leadership of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music to pianist Vijay Iyer. Iyer will participate in the 2012 program under Douglas' direction, and then assume the position in 2013.
Vijay Iyer    by Jimmy Katz

Iyer is a terrific choice, not just for his vision and scope as a composer and instrumentalist, but because he shares with Douglas a joy for collaborating with others and creating a collective voice in a variety of settings.

"After visiting universities, workshops and seminars around the globe, I can say that the workshop at The Banff Centre is among the most intensely focused musical experiences available for young musicians," Douglas was quoted as saying in a media release by the school. "Spending three weeks in Banff with 65 of one's most gifted peers changes lives."

Dave Douglas  by Zoran Orlic
That's certainly the feeling among those I've talked to who have worked with Douglas during his decade leading the program. Every alumnus mentions his creative energy, novel approaches to learning and joy in sharing what he knows. He has also gained a reputation for bringing highly creative compatriots along with him during his annual trek to the mountains, including gifted teacher/performers like pianist Myra Melford and drummer Jerry Granelli.

It is hard to overstate the importance that the Banff program has had on jazz in Canada since its founding by Phil Nimmons and Oscar Peterson in 1974. I've long since lost track of the number of musicians who have told me that their musical paths were altered by encounters with Nimmons, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland or Steve Coleman during the years those musicians were in charge of the program. The environment has also helped form lasting musical relationships between participants.

In short, the program is a national treasure in Canada, and while there are some—Nimmons among them, at least at one time—who felt that the leadership should be given to other Canadians like Wheeler, it has benefitted from not being parochial. Not only do stars like Douglas and Iyer help publicize the program around the world, the program maintains its reputation by having musicians at the helm who are breaking new ground in their own music.

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