Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Best Wishes for Ajay Heble

It was a shock to learn today that Ajay Heble – founder and artistic director of the Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium – has suffered a heart attack. One of the most creative festival directors in the world, Ajay has established an enviable record in Guelph, despite the festival's relatively small size. Earlier this spring, he was nominated for a Jazz Award by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Here's the official release on the state of Ajay's health:

GUELPH – Guelph Jazz Festival artistic director Ajay Heble suffered a heart attack Monday during a return flight from Paris where he was attending a conference. He was attended to by physicians and nurses who were on his flight, and the airplane made an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Labrador, where he was transferred to hospital. He is now in stable condition.

Heble's wife Sheila O'Reilly was on the flight with him, as was colleague Bill Brydon of Winnipeg and his wife. All three are with Heble now in Goose Bay.

Michelle Lobkowicz, president of the Guelph Jazz Festival, said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Ajay, Sheila and their two children. We're thankful that he received prompt medical attention and is over the immediate crisis."

Heble is the founder of the Guelph Jazz Festival and has been its artistic director for the past 15 years. He is also a professor of English at the University of Guelph, and the director of a multi-million dollar social research project entitled Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice. It was in regard to the latter project that Heble was in Paris over the previous week.

It's not yet clear when or how Heble will be moved from Goose Bay, for specialized cardiac care closer to his home in Guelph.

With regard to this year's Guelph Jazz Festival, executive director Derek Andrews says that Heble's heart attack is a tremendous shock but adds that this year's lineup of musicians has been largely decided and booked by Heble. The organization was planning to announce the feature artists for the 2008 Festival this week. Although that announcement has been postponed, Andrews says the Festival still plans to unveil the full season lineup in mid-June, even though Heble in all likelihood will not be present.

"We're glad Ajay is safe, and for the time being, his well-being is all we're worrying about," says Andrews. "Our board will meet later in the week to adjust our plans for the three-month Festival run-up period."

(June 4 Update: Ajay is now recuperating at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, after being transferred from Goose Bay.)

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