Jane Bunnett to present Lise Waxer Memorial Lecture today

Internationally acclaimed saxophonist, flautist, bandleader and recording artist Jane Bunnett is the featured presenter for the 2007 Lise Waxer Memorial Lecture.

A Juno Award-winner and two-time Grammy nominee, Bunnett, who studied in York’s Music Department, has built her career at the crossroads between Cuban music and jazz. Together with a visiting ensemble of Haitian musical artists who have made their home in Cuba, she will give an illustrated lecture-recital exploring the intersection of jazz and the musical cultures of Haiti and Cuba.

This free lecture takes place today, at 2:30pm in the Sterling Beckwith Studio, 235 Accolade East Building, on York’s Keele campus.

Right: Jane Bunnett

Bunnett has become one of the foremost jazz musicians in Canada and has gained recognition around the world for her improvising talents, technical proficiency, and writing and band-leading abilities. Born and educated in Toronto, she trained as a classical pianist. In 1979 she began concurrent studies in jazz at York, inspired by her first exposure to jazz great Charles Mingus and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in San Francisco. This led to studies with pianist Barry Harris and flautists James Newton, Frank Wess and James Moody. Then, having heard soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s music, she began to focus on that instrument too. A 1991 Canada Council grant enabled her to travel to Paris to begin studies with Lacy.

But Bunnett’s musical world really turned upside down when she took a trip to Cuba during the mid 1980s, and since then she has explored the music in every corner of Cuba, seeking out musicians all over the island.

The time spent in Cuba allowed Bunnett to see firsthand the somewhat deprived conditions of the musical academies. She initiated a program to raise funds to take instrument parts and technicians to Cuba to repair instruments. This has further led to the establishment of a non-profit group, Spirit of Music, to continue on with this work and to broaden the scope with the goal to effect cultural exchanges with other Third World countries. Her efforts have been documented in the Genie-nominated and award-winning National Film Board of Canada film Spirits of Havana (2000), which has been shown at many film festivals and nationally on the CBC in 2001.

Bunnett’s humanitarian concerns also led to her becoming a Canadian spokesperson for the Ban The Land Mines movement in 2000. Bunnett was honored by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington in 2002 for her contributions and dedication to the development of Latin jazz. In 2005 Bunnett received Canada’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada. She continues to perform at jazz clubs and festivals and concert halls and for broadcast throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and Cuba, with her groups, and as a featured solo artist.

The lecture commemorates musician, ethnomusicologist, author and educator Lise Aerinne Waxer (right), a 1991 alumna of York University’s Graduate Program in Ethnomusicology and Musicology, who passed away in August 2002. Waxer’s pursuit of ethnomusicology included producing and hosting one of Toronto’s first world music radio programs on CIUT 89.5 FM and conducting fieldwork on salsa music in Cali, Colombia. She also authored two books: Situating Salsa: Global Markets and Local Meanings in Latin American Popular Music (Routledge 2002) and The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia (Wesleyan University Press 2002), which received the 2003 Alan P. Merriam Prize and the 2003 ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for popular music.

At the time of her death, Waxer was a faculty member in the music department at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, where she was not only an inspiration to her students but also actively worked to forge links between the university and the city’s Hispanic community.

Waxer’s family, friends and colleagues established the Lise Waxer Memorial Lecture to celebrate her love of music of all cultures and her joy in sharing that passion with others.

The lecture is sponsored by York University’s Graduate Program in Music.