Jodi Proznick

Music is a birthright

Vancouver bassist and educator Jodi Proznick is an award-winning bassist and member of Triology

By her own admission, Jodi Proznick, an award-winning bassist and member of Triology, has enjoyed an “incredible performing career, and had opportunities really beyond anything I could have imagined for myself at the beginning of this journey.”

Yet when asked which way she’d go if forced to choose between performing and teaching for the rest of her life, her pause to consider lasts just eight seconds.

“I think I’d be a teacher,” she replied.

“Some of the greatest, most purposeful work I do is in trying to offer opportunities for others to find out how brilliant they are, how capable they are. I’d be sad to give up the mentoring and the teaching. That would be too hard. I couldn’t do it.”

As a member of the music department of Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C., Proznick compares the teacher’s role to that of a gardener faced with plants of different species that still require individual attention and encouragement.

She applies the same metaphor to her role as a mother.

“When you become a parent, your identity blooms. The gardening analogy is kind of perfect. You’re not just gardening your own child; you feel a sense of wanting to help garden the whole world, in a way, because your child lives in that world.”

Proznick attributes her approach to pedagogy to two key lessons from her own father, who was the band director at Semiahmoo Secondary School in South Surrey, where she and her two siblings went to school. One of those lessons was inclusivity.

“He didn’t turn anyone away. There were never any auditions. The band would just be as big as it needed to be to accommodate everybody who wanted to participate. That was a very big part of who he was, and how I work, too,” Proznick said.

“I am not interested in the notion that there are talented people and not talented people. I think it’s a spectrum, and that everyone has that birthright. Music is a birthright.”

The other lesson was about community.

“I also watched him provide a safe place for a lot of marginalized youth, giving them a place to belong, and not only belong, but to succeed.”

Besides the musical skills he imparted to his ensembles, her father’s strength as an educator came from “a sense of community – an imperfect community of people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds,” Proznick said.

“We were all in there together, and he would just absolutely insist that we were all capable of what we didn’t even know we were. To this day, I’m still connected to a lot of those people that I went through that program with.”

In a sense, the senior Proznick was also indirectly responsible for his daughter’s choice of instrument.

“A lot of my life choices have been kind of happenstance, and choosing the bass is definitely a part of that. I originally picked the oboe when I was heading into my Dad’s band program.”

Like “a good eldest daughter,” she had offered to take up whatever instrument her father needed her to play. He picked the oboe.

“But it was not a good fit for me. It was an old oboe that probably needed repair, and so it wasn’t playing particularly easily or well, and it was a very frustrating year.”

When Proznick finally slipped a note onto her father’s desk asking for another instrumental option, he said he needed an electric bass player for the Grade 9 big band. With a background in both classical piano and dance, she found it easy to read the bass clef. She was also attracted by the idea that not many girls, or women, played bass.

“It was a relationship that was pretty symbiotic pretty quickly, but feeling that I had a life career in it was never really part of the plan. It just sort of happened. I was just trying to help the band out and do a good job in the back there.”

Happenstance intervened again when she was 16, happenstance intervened again, in the form of the acoustic upright bass.

“The guys I was playing with were heavily into jazz, and that’s the sound on all the famous records. There was an upright in the corner of the band room, so I just picked it up and started trying to make sense of it.”

She began studying the instrument formally at McGill University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in music. From there, she went on to a master’s program in education at Simon Fraser University. In 2008, when she was pregnant with her son, Tristan, she joined forces with guitarist Bill Coon and pianist Miles Black to form the group, Triology, which will give two concerts in the Yukon at the end of January.

On Saturday, January 26, they will perform at St. Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction. The next night, they will be at the Yukon Arts Centre for a Jazz on the Wing concert. Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m.

“We do a set we call ‘close your eyes’ music. We don’t ever plan what we’re going to play; we just play. The idea with Triology is that there’s this incredible amount of trust. I call it a co-creative experiment,” Proznick said.

“What (people) will witness is truly in-the-moment conversation between three people who really love each other, and also love the space and the people who have chosen to come and join us.”

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