Jazz Performance and Education Centre

2014 - 2015 Season Events

JPEC Opens Doors with the Creative Spaces Partnership Exchange

On Monday, Nov. 2nd, JPEC participated in the Creative Spaces Partnership Exchange at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The event was presented by the Creative Spaces OUTSIDE THE CORE partnership.

Several promising relationships were established with organizations such as the City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council as well as several community groups: East End Arts and downtown’s Artscape. JPEC provided a three-piece combo from York University for the end-of-day cocktail party.

Our associates from North York Arts and Toronto Centre for the Arts spearheaded the event which promoted discovering new spaces and resources, exchanging knowledge and ideas and building partnerships.

JPEC Brings Big Band Sound to Panamania with Gary Morgan's "PanAmericana!"

Saturday July 25, 2015 1:00 PM
Main Stage, Distillery District

Gary Morgan

On January 12, 2015, the Toronto Musicians' Association presented a most fitting tribute to Jim Biros, who, among many other endeavours, was a Director of Jazz Performance and Education Centre.

Jim Biros Tribute

Click here to read Russ Little's Tribute to Jim Biros

Piano Plus Series - Humber College Streaming Video Clips

Jazz pianist takes 10 Years to write book on American Jews in music

When many of his friends were attracted to sports and other things, a young and curious Ben Sidran instead had a taste for melodies, rhythm and projecting the sound of music.

Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the factory town of Racine, WI., Sidran said, in many cases, it was “boredom and alienation.”

There was a piano in his home, recalls the now 71-year-old American jazz pianist, author and singer. And, back then, curious and intuitive as a six-year-old he started to hit the keys and also discovered what he called “my father’s boogie-woogie music.

“Music was everything to me – and I was serious about it,” said Sidran, who was in Toronto recently performing and sharing his observations about music as well as what he called “the dominant role Jews have played in the music recording, publishing and film industries.”

Put on in cooperation with the Jazz Performance and Education Centre, with the Jewish Tribune as a sponsor, a crowd of close to 200 people – many of them jazz enthusiasts – attended the two-hour session at Adath Israel Synagogue.

Sidran, who was at the Montreal Jazz Festival, said it was his first gig at a Canadian synagogue – and the crowd was entertained by the charm of his insider stories and the Jewish involvement in the music industry.

“Before my Bar Mitzvah, I collected jazz records and I remember my mother telling me not to think about making a career out of music,” said Sidran, who remembers getting $3 a night playing piano at high school dances.

“I wanted to be a professor, but there were no teaching jobs like that back then.”

Well educated in English Literature and a Masters Degree in American Studies, Sidran said it was in his late 20s when he took a gamble and moved to Los Angeles to get into the recording business. One thing quickly led to another and his music focused on contemporary Jewish culture.

And then there was the time in 1969, when Sidran became buddies with Charlie Watts, the drummer of the Rolling Stones, and the American was invited to play in a session with the iconic British group at Olympic Studios in Brighton.

“Don’t get me wrong, but it was boring,” said Sidran. “In a studio for six hours, practising the same chords is not exciting stuff.”

Sidran, who recorded 30 solo albums, did his first in 1970. He has composed film soundtracks, produced recordings for Diana Ross, Van Morrison and others, been nominated for a Grammy and won an Emmy – but he’s never been to Israel.

But this night, he kept referring to his book There Was A Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream and talked about Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and a who’s who of Jewish musical giants.

Sidran’s presentation focused on the social history of Jewish contributions to American popular music in the 20th century. As for his book, Sidran said that he had no idea it would take him 10 years to write, but he had been mystified that there had been so much about Jews in American popular music that had not been shared.

“Songs like Take Me Out To The Ball Game and White Christmas were written by Jews and Irving Berlin, wrote Alexander’s Ragtime Band. Sidran said Jerome Kern invented the modern Broadway musical and Benny Goodman was the first big band leader to racially integrate his group.

Sidran connected with his Jewish religion after his son was born and he produced a CD Life’s A Lesson, a jazzy setting of Jewish religious songs featuring top Jewish jazz musicians. It is considered to be one of the finest recordings of Jewish liturgical music.

“I want my best work to live on. It becomes a challenge when you accomplish what you set out to do,” said Sidran. “I still want to write a children’s book for my granddaughter.”


Jewish Tribune, October 28, 2014

JPEC presents: Drumming/Performing Workshop of Afrocuban Rumba.
Earl Bales Park Arts & Music Festival. August 30, 2015 at 2:30PM.
Bathurst Street south of Sheppard.


JPEC's Big Band Sound at Panamania with Gary Morgan's "PanAmericana!"

Saturday July 25, 2015 at the Main Stage, Distillery District.