Since the very early age of five, Shirantha Beddage formally studied the piano in North Bay, engendering his interest in classical music, with the encouragement of his parents. It wasn’t until he went to Chippewa Secondary that he began with his signature instrument, the baritone saxophone.
His musical career has seen the release of three critically-acclaimed albums as a leader. His debut album, Roots and Branches, was released in 2007 on Jazz Excursion Records. His follow-up album, Identity (2012) was nominated for a JUNO award for Traditional Jazz Album of the year in 2013.
And now, with this year’s Juno Awards in sight, Beddage finds his newest solo album, Momentum (2016), nominated for Jazz Album of the Year—Solo.
“It’s been a real thrill for me because this record was a kind of labour of love and compositionally this was a real departure for me for what I’ve done in the past with my albums,” he said. “Because it was lengthily and intense to produce, it was nice to get it done and to receive this recognition has put me in awe. Many of the nominees in the Jazz community are friends and colleagues of mine and many of us have worked with each other many times and it’s a real honour to be in such great company.”
Momentum takes Beddage’s love for science and applies it to his love for music, the two intertwining in harmony. He detailed how each tune has a different inspiration and origin story, where many of these ideas have nothing to do exactly with music, but their concepts can be related through music.
“For instance, a concept physicists have arm-wrestled about is centrifugal force,” Beddage said. “I thought about the idea of spinning and the realization of that concept. Two notes that are very far apart that slowly get closer and closer pulling us in towards the middle. I tried to use that bit of melody as a seed or a germ to flesh out into a full piece which took a while.”
And in the challenge of translating these concepts, Beddage found himself invested for a time on this album, trying to flesh out ideas in his mind as his love for both science and music collided. But they weren’t always so close, with Beddage originally enrolled in post-secondary education for the sciences.
“Throughout my life leading to that decision which was three years in my biology degree, I was trying to do both at the same time because I wanted to pursue both,” he said. “But I was being pulled more towards the musical as I went along. A lot of time and preparation and practice for hours honing in on my craft and I felt as though it was something I’d need to sink my teeth into entirely. It wasn’t easy and took a long time to come to, and I value the information I learned in the sciences and the detective aspect of learning.”
And now, Shirantha currently serves as Head of Theory and Harmony in the Humber College Music Department, where he teaches courses in Music Theory, Pedagogy, and Ensemble, calling back to his days as a high school student at Chippewa Secondary, where he was involved in all the ensembles, junior jazz, senior jazz band, concert band, vocal jazz ensemble, and played in a jazz combo.
Despite leaving the sciences, as seen with Momentum, the ideologies still remain with him, ever influencing his work as a baritone saxophonist, composer, and educator.
“From the perspective of science where there is an aspect of sciences that have such an absolute,” Beddage said. “But I think the questions that scientists deal with are big questions of our world that change over time, based on time passing, it’s still in the big picture a kind of a quest and that’s what I feel like I’m on as a musician trying to understand more about the world through music.”
And since his early beginnings, Beddage has been helping to inspire up-and-coming musicians, humbly acknowledging the steps it takes and the people it takes to help artists.
“It’s hugely important and nobody gets where they are on their own,” he said. “We all have people who’ve helped us and encouraged us. As a musician, I don’t feel like I could have gotten anywhere near where I am now and I’ve been the recipient of that mentorship so I’m glad to give back. Teaching is something you need to enjoy and mainly I want to see students get further along and a lot I’m teaching coming out of high school and helping them understand the connection between different styles and artists and it’s a really eye-opening time for them.”
So, make sure to tune in the 2017 Juno Awards, which will be presented in Ottawa, on the weekend of April 1—2.
All nominees in the Jazz Album of the Year—Solo category include:
- Brandi Disterheft, Blue Canvas
- Renee Rosnes, Written in the Rocks
- Shirantha Beddage, Momentum
- Seamus Blake, Superconductor
- Mike Janzen, Nudging Forever