Oscar Peterson Jazz Festival Announced for February 2018

Last night I had the pleasure of attending one of the greatest live jazz programs I’ve ever been to. The evening was a celebration of the life of Oscar Peterson, famous jazz pianist renowned for his “chops” on the signature Bösendorfer piano.

To watch a video from my experience click here.

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With my brother, mom and dad

The event was held at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake and began with a screening of the 2003 documentary film, “Oscar Peterson: Keeping the Groove Alive.” The movie was followed by a Q&A session with Oscar’s wife Kelly, and daughter Céline. After the interview, the crowd moseyed over to the Shaw Festival Studio Theatre where a live jazz performance by Robi Botos and Dave Young paid tribute to the great works of Oscar Peterson. Many don’t know this, but Oscar composed several hundred pieces of music; some were never recorded or ever played live!

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Kelly and Céline Peterson Q&A

While viewing the documentary it was clear to see that Oscar led an extraordinary life. His deep commitment to his craft allowed him to steer clear of drugs and alcohol – something that I can personally admire as one who abstains from any mood/behaviour altering substances. I liked Oscar’s philosophy on addiction. He said, “the instrument should be your needle, and the music your addiction.” If only we could all find something positive to feel so passionately about, the world would be a much better place.

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Don’t worry, it’s just Ginger Ale #SoberIsSexy

The concert that followed the film screening was the cherry on the cake. It was my first time seeing Robi Botos perform live and there are no words to describe how beautifully and effortlessly he plays piano. If you ask me there couldn’t have been a better way to honour Oscar. Robi was accompanied by Dave Young who is the original bass player for Oscar and was responsible for helping Oscar get back into music after suffering a stroke and losing the ability to play with his left hand.

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Shaw Festival Studio Theatre Cocktail Reception

The entire evening was an affair to remember, but what made it even more special was the official announcement that the first ever Oscar Peterson Jazz Festival will be taking place in February 2018 at the Shaw Festival Theatres, presented by Bravo Niagara and Oscar Peterson’s family. I, for one, cannot wait! I’m all about the jazz scene in Niagara and I’m so excited to see it grow.

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Bösendorfer Piano

To anyone who saw the movie La La Land, remember to keep jazz music alive by attending and supporting these live events. It really makes a difference so don’t stop and I’ll see you at the next event!

Book Review: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

My rating: 3/5

Useful reminders for having a more positive outlook but don’t expect this itty bitty book to change your life overnight.

Having already read The Mastery of Love (MOL) by Don Miguel Ruiz, twice, I was familiar with many of the concepts and ideas presented in The Four Agreements (TFA). Unfortunately I found TFA to be somewhat lacking, especially when it came to examples, analogies and strategies for implementing the information given. It’s one thing to say “here are the four agreements you have to make with yourself to live a happier life,” but it’s a completely different challenge to give concrete strategies for how to implement them in your life which is why I would advise you not to think this book will change anything overnight.

At a few different spots in the book, Miguel Ruiz says ‘it will take a lot of will power, A LOT OF WILL POWER, to do this but if you do I promise you will reach heaven on earth.’ And that’s all fine and dandy, but the majority of the population doesn’t have that kind of will power or they’d already be happy of their own volition. So that’s one thing I found to be kind of disappointing.

Another criticism I’ve had is that the book was riddled with religious references and mysticism, often saying how when we use our words in a negative way we are casting spells and performing “black magic,” and when we use our words in a good way it’s “white magic.” I couldn’t take this book that seriously because of this language being used. I understood what it was trying to convey, I just think there could have been a more effective way.

There was also a lot written about heaven and hell, with hell being life on earth as we currently know it and heaven being when you finally attain enlightenment or personal freedom. It’s been a few years since I read MOL but I don’t recall it utilizing religion nearly as much; in fact if I remember accurately it said you don’t have to be religious to become a master of love. Anyway, I thought TFA could have been more effective if using something other than supernatural references; it would have brought the book to a more realistic level for me.

Overall I would recommend this book and plan to implement the four agreements in my life, if I can summon up the will power, but these are just a few of the things I would have changed to make the book more effective and more relatable to a wider audience. The main message is to always spread love, not hate!

2017 Reading Challenge Book List

A pile of books

Here is the complete list of all the books I plan (keyword is plan) to read in 2017. Books may be added or removed from this list at any time as my reading mood tends to change frequently and without warning. Any books that have hyperlinks mean that I’ve finished that book and you can click on it to read my review. Thanks for following me on my 2017 reading challenge but I wanna know…what books are you planning to read in 2017?

  1. Do not say we have nothing by Madeleine Thien
  2. Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown
  3. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  4. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  5. A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
  6. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
  7. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  9. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
  10. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  11. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
  12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  13. The Widow by Fiona Barton
  14. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  15. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
  16. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  17. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
  18. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  19. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  20. How to Listen to Jazz by Ted Gioia
  21. Three Cups to Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
  22. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  23. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  24. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
  25. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
  26. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  27. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  28. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  29. Lion by Saroo Brierley

My first experience at Sundance Film Festival 

img_8019I almost didn’t go. Most people don’t know this about me, but I have a lot of anxieties. None of them are to the point where they prevent me from doing what I want to do, but they’re just strong enough to make me extremely nervous about doing anything. However, going to Sundance Film Festival was on my bucket list and I’m glad I was able to overcome my fears because I had the adventure of a lifetime.

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Me and my dad

The only reason my family went to the festival in the first place is because of my dad. He was one of the executive producers for a documentary film called “Rumble: the Indians who Rocked the World.” The film was being shown at Sundance and my mom, dad, brother, and I decided that we couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by; I mean, it’s the first time my dad ever worked on a film like this so it probably was a pretty important milestone.

We had a whirlwind trip, which only added to the excitement we were already feeling. We arrived in Salt Lake City late Saturday night and went straight to Park City after picking up our rental car – a red Jeep with 4-wheel drive.

There was a Rumble cast & crew party happening in Park City and all of the most important people who worked on the film were there. I didn’t know it at the time, but the director of Rumble pulled me out onto the dance floor and I was doing the silliest disco dance moves to “Stayin’ Alive” by the Beegees in front of her *insert facepalm here.* Oh, and if you remember a little pop group called The Black Eyed Peas, one of their band members, Taboo, was at the party too! He was involved in the Rumble film and had the dual task of deejaying the party that night. Playing everything from Prince to the Beegees, to Rihanna and Bruno Mars, that dance floor was on fire thanks to Taboo.

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Taboo, from the Black Eyed Peas

We had a blast at the party but I was exhausted from the time change – Salt Lake City is two hours behind Toronto and when we finally fell asleep at 2 am that meant it was really 4 am for my body – so I was grateful when we left.

The next day I woke up feeling absolutely horrible. I don’t know if it was the jet lag, my IBS, something I ate, or the fact that my mom told me Park City was expecting 2 feet of snow causing my anxiety to skyrocket, but I really didn’t want to do much of anything. My mom and I eventually ended up taking the Jeep to a more or less deserted outdoor mall. We thought at first that it was empty because of the weather and hypothesized that it was busier in the summer, but after talking to one of the sales clerks in a store we found out that the mall had originally been built for the 2002 Winter Olympics and that when a new mall opened just down the road, every store bailed and went to that one instead.

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The Abandoned Gateway Mall. At least they had an Urban Outfitters.

It turns out Salt Lake City has great job growth and is full of industrious people, but you wouldn’t guess it from driving around downtown. The whole place felt desolate, empty and kind of sad, but we managed to find a healthy vegetarian restaurant called Zest. I enjoyed it. My mom did not.

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Gluten Free Pizza at Zest

Later that day it was time to head from SLC to Park City – where Sundance is actually held – to screen the film. My family hired a driver to take us up the some 4,000 feet in elevation from Salt Lake to Park City. The change in elevation actually contributed to the massive blizzard Park City was expecting. Our driver’s name was Colby and he was awesome! Born and raised in SLC, Colby told us all about the weather, sports, winter and summer activities, and made me feel a lot better about the possibility of getting stuck in the middle of a blizzard on a highway between mountains with nothing but a granola bar to eat.

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A view of the mountains in Salt Lake City. They never look quite as majestic in pictures.

When we arrived safely I was relieved but still feeling wretched. I literally felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach all night, but for some reason once the movie started I started to feel better. Maybe it was adrenaline or some sort of euphoria, but when that film began to roll, it felt like all of my anxieties washed away and I was taken on a healing journey through song – guided by some of the best musicians of all time.It was awesome to witness something my dad had worked so hard on, for so many years, finally manifest and come to fruition at one of the most important film festivals in the world!

My dad and I haven’t always had the best relationship. It was tough with him working away for most of my life, but the older I get the more I appreciate all that he has done for my family. But what makes me even more proud is what he’s done for the world. Showcasing the talents of lesser known native musicians doesn’t just make for a great documentary film… it makes the world a better place.

For too long Indigenous peoples’ stories have been silenced by mainstream and non-native media. The fact that a film now exists to demonstrate how influential and indispensable the contributions made by native musicians has been in shaping modern music shows young Indigenous artists today that they too can make a difference.

When the film ended and everyone started to applaud, I couldn’t have felt more proud of my dad and it made my Sundance 2017 experience that much more special. It was a day that I will never forget! I really want to go back next year, and who knows, maybe some day I’ll be up there speaking on a panel while the credits roll for some important documentary flick. One can dream.

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To watch a video of my Sundance Film Festival Experience click here