Well I may be a little late getting to this, but I think having a big gig on New Years Eve is an acceptable excuse! 2016 was a really great year for me both personally and professionally. It’s always exciting at the end of each year to look back at the highlights and maybe remember a few things I have forgotten about. So sit back and enjoy my year end recap of 2016!
As you likely all know, the Marc Holt Quintet has been my main project for three years now and we had quite the year in 2016. We started out with our biggest show yet at the Majestic Theatre in my hometown of Biggar, Saskatchewan as part of the the Biggar & District Arts Council’s 2015/16 concert series on January 9th. If playing for a nearly sold out audience of 280 people wasn’t enough already, throw in the fact that it was our first ever theatre show and EVERYONE was listening. A totally weird feeling at first, but once we settled into it we felt right at home!
Our year didn’t stop there though. Throughout the late winter and spring we played several private events around Saskatoon at places such as the University of Saskatchewan, The Broadway Theatre, and the Delta Bessborough. One of the most exciting of our private performances this year was when we were asked to perform at the opening ceremonies of the national conference of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education. And though new events are always exciting, it is always an honour to be invited back for repeat performances which we had several of this year.
June of course brought the Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival. This was our third consecutive year to be invited to perform at the festival and when we were scheduled for a Monday at 6pm on the free stage we were beyond happy with that placement! Sure it isn’t Friday or Saturday at 8pm, or an opening spot at The Broadway, but for a local group playing straight ahead jazz music to get a time slot where the majority of people won’t still be at work is big! Hopefully we can get as good of a spot or better at this year’s festival (just submitted my application today!), but ultimately it is a pleasure to just to get any time at the festival.
Summer as usual was quiet, but we used that time to prepare for the biggest step in our career yet. In October, we hit the road. Sure it was only for three days, but it took us to all new locations! The first night had us playing a house concert in North Battleford at a place known as The Gog due to its original use as a synagog and the second and third days had us in Edmonton, first at the Cafe Blackbird and then at La Cite Francophone for a wedding. Not only did this tour bring us exciting new experiences, but a great opportunity to really bond as a band. The tour was such a success that we have already started planning a Western Canadian tour for later this year.
The tour was more or less the end of 2016 for the Quintet as we had to say a goodbye and then restructure. As some of you may know, our original drummer, Dylan Smith, set off on a new adventure in New Zealand for an unknown amount of time. Though it was hard to say goodbye, we greatly enjoyed our 3 days on the road all together before he left. We wish him luck on this new adventure and look forward to seeing him when he returns. With that, we had a hole to fill. In November, we welcomed Nathan Abramyk to the band as our new drummer. We haven’t had the opportunity to perform with Nathan yet, but we look forward to doing so in 2017.
That more or less wraps up 2016 for the Marc Holt Quintet, and what a great year it was, but my 2016 contained much more than that!
This past year contained 4 other musical projects for me outside of the Quintet; 2 of them are new and 2 of them are old. A nice balance. The 2 new projects brought new challenges and the old ones continued to bring great fun.
The first of these new projects was the Holt/Becker Duo. Bryn Becker has been playing with me in the Marc Holt Quintet since the beginning. Over the summer we decided to try playing as a duo for a new challenge and to increase the versatility of our musical abilities. We debuted the group at Una Pizza + Wine in September to great reviews! Though 2016 didn’t have any more performances in store for us, we will be returning to Prairie Ink on February 3 and we hope to see you there!
After 2 years away from playing in a Big Band after graduating from University, I was very excited when I was asked to join the Toon Town Big Band as the new bari sax player. I had subbed on a show with this band once in October 2010 and really enjoyed it so I was happy for the new opportunity. It is also really great to have a band that rehearses weekly, as playing with other musicians is always welcome. This band has also been a good challenge for me as there are several tunes in the bari sax book that call for flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet. These are all instruments I have dabbled in, but it has forced me to get serious about them and now that is one of my goals for 2017. I’m really looking forward to my first performance with the Toon Town Big Band at The Broadway Theatre on March 18 (those reading this here are the first to hear about it)!
As for the old projects, I’ve really enjoyed continuing to play with the Howlin’ Huskies Pep Band and the Drew Tofin Big Band. Playing with the Pep Band has been a blast over the last few years. Sure during football season it gets cold some nights, but it’s worth it to be out there supporting my alma mater! The highlights with the Pep Band this year were playing at the basketball games in the spring as the women’s team went all the way to the national championship and in the fall playing at the homecoming football game to kick of the centennial year of the Alumni Association. Basketball resumes this Saturday at the PAC and I’m looking forward to it! As for the Drew Tofin Big Band, we only played one show this year, but it was a big one! We played New Years Eve back in my hometown and what a night it was! With almost an entirely new band for this show, preparing took a lot of work, but it came together really well in the end for one heck of a party to wrap of 2016 and kick off 2017!
I wouldn’t be who I am as a musician if it weren’t for my personal life. Though there isn’t as much to report on, there were still two very important events this year. The most important of all came July 2 when I married the love of my life. Chelsea is the biggest supporter of my music career and without her supporting me I wouldn’t be where I am today. I mean that both figuratively and literally, as the other major event we had this year was moving into our first house! As a musician, it is so great to have an entire house and not have to worry about annoying anyone with the constant practicing. The best part about this house is the basement which is completely my space and is set up as my office and a jam space. We learned a few days ago that it is even big enough that I was able to put all 11 members of the Drew Tofin Big Band in there for a rehearsal! These were big events for me in 2016, and I am so thankful for this life I get to live.
That about sums up 2016. There are so many other things I wanted to mention or go into more detail over, but I feel like I should be happy if you are still reading this at this point so I left them out. I have big plans for 2017 and 2018 that I look forward to sharing with you. Until then I want to say thank you to each and every person who I have had the opportunity to work with this year and everyone who has come out to support me at my shows. And I’d like to say an extra thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. Writing is a new adventure for me, but so far I am enjoying it and look forward to doing it for. Thanks for reading!