Humber stars shone brightly at the 44th annual Juno Awards held at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre last weekend.
Internationally acclaimed pop reggae quartet Magic! led the pack with five nominations. They bagged two, including Breakthrough Group of the Year and Single of the Year for their smash hit “Rude.” The song also earned the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year Award for its producer Adam Messinger.
“I knew it was a catchy song when I first heard it,” said bass player and Humber alum Ben Spivak over the phone from Detroit, where the band is currently on tour with Maroon 5.
“But I never expected it to go number one on Billboard. That was crazy.”
Spivak spoke of how special the Junos experience was, with their families right beside them to share the special night. He said that having to speak on stage was the only nerve-wracking part of the evening.
“Performing was easy and the awards were out of our hand. But I was not prepared to talk at all,” said Spivak.
The Toronto native graduated from the Humber jazz program in 2007. He went on to play for a variety of bands before moving to L.A. where he was brought on to play bass for Magic!.
“The Humber experience was incredible,” he said of his time in the jazz program. “I was always a songwriter. I went into jazz to learn whatever I could so I could apply it to my songwriting. That was always my secret motive, going into everything.”
Meanwhile, his former teacher Kirk MacDonald won the 2015 Juno Award for Jazz Album of the Year: Solo at the Juno Awards gala Saturday. This was the second win and sixth nomination for the Humber Music professor, with his previous win in 1999 for Best Mainstream Jazz Album.
“That was my first nomination, and (the event that year) was also in Hamilton,” he said expressing his great appreciation for the city that hosted both his wins. “I’ve been here a lot, doing clinics at Mohawk (College) and I have a lot of students from Hamilton.
“We had a lot of fun recording the album. It was very relaxed,” MacDonald said of the experience.
Vista Obscura was released by Addo Records, the label founded by School of Creative and Performing Arts associate dean Steve Bellamy.
“Kirk is a prolific composer and brilliant performer. He pulled together jazz leaders Harold Mabern, Andre White, (faculty members) Neil Swainson and Pat LaBarbera to realize this album, and the result is truly deserving of recognition,” said Bellamy.
He said Kirk and his collaborators are some of the very best musicians alive today.
“Canadians should be proud of the rich contributions (jazz musicians) make to the lexicon of artwork in this country. Humber College in particular has an enormous number of these artists on faculty, artists who are national treasures and deserve to be recognized,” Bellamy said.
Humber faculty members and alumnae were nominated in seven categories this year. Humber professor Hilario Duran and graduate Chris Butcher performed arrangements on Jane Bunnett and Maqueque’s eponymous Jazz Album of the Year: Group.
Faculty member Drew Jurecka also wrote and performed on Adult Alternative Album of the Year Bahamas is Afie by Bahamas.
MacDonald in particular said it was a matter of great pride to see both colleagues and former students like Spivak earning accolades for their work.
“It’s really great to see them getting recognized and putting their music out there,” he said.