Former Humber student Michael Shanahan has been awarded the $40,000 Oscar Peterson Scholarship Award by York University for his exceptional guitar-playing skills.
The entrance scholarship provides a student $10,000 a year for up to four years at York University in their jazz performance program.
“To be eligible, students must demonstrate exceptional musical ability, especially in the field of jazz performance,” said Ron Westray, the Oscar Peterson Chair in jazz performance at York.
Westray chose 20-year-old Shanahan as the recipient of the award. He said he was amazed with Shanahan’s natural admiration for blues music, something he said the average applicant didn’t have.
“He has a great maturity in his [music] playing,” said Westray. “He’s also a great leader.”
Shanahan was born in Montreal, and currently lives in Etobicoke. He has been playing guitar for five years and specializes in jazz music. He is currently recording an album with a newly formed band that is under his name.
“I was in complete shock when I found out [about the award],” said Shanahan. “I was staring at the email for a good 10 minutes.”
Shanahan attended the Humber Community Music School for four years and he said his classes from Humber helped him win the award.
“Humber has helped me a lot,” said Shanahan. “They taught me the basics behind blues, and the language of jazz… I gained a lot out of it.”
“Michael could read music before he learned to read words,” said Bernadette Shanahan, Shanahan’s mother.
His mother was “absolutely delighted” to hear about the award, and believes it was well deserved.
The Oscar Peterson Scholarship Gala was held Nov. 8 at the Tribute Communities Recital Hall in honour of Shanahan.
Westray said the gala provides an opportunity to celebrate the creation of the Oscar Peterson Scholarship in music, honours the scholarship’s recipients, and gives thanks all those who have made the scholarship possible.
Celebrated jazz composser Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal in 1925. Peterson composed more than 400 pieces and worked with such musicians such as Ray Brown and Ella Fitzgerald. Peterson received eight Grammy Awards, and his “Hymn To Freedom” became one of the crusade songs of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. Peterson served as York University’s fifth chancellor from 1991 to 1994, and was regularly involved in the York music program. Peterson later died of kidney failure in his Mississauga home in 2007.
Canadian citizens from Ontario who maintain a high academic standing are eligible to apply for the Oscar Peterson Scholarship Award.