We came from far-fetched areas of Canada, but all three ended up teaching in the same school division near Calgary, Alberta. Our careers took different paths, but we remained friends and colleagues. Our journeys have vastly different beginnings; from degrees in jazz performance to starting a jazz program with absolutely no experience and very little knowledge.
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four separate jazz band programs from scratch over a teaching career that began
in 1978. Tom had no big band experience when he started teaching in a town of
1,800 residents in northern Alberta. It took a few years of reading journals, attending
conferences and workshops, but his bands eventually and consistently received
Superior ratings and several Most Outstanding Band Awards at jazz band
Tom feels his best work has always been with beginning bands. His first-year bands received Superior and Gold Awards virtually every year of his almost 40-year career. Highlights were several Best Band in Festival awards, including one in his second last year of teaching with his Grade 6 band from a brand-new school he helped open. Recipient of the Elkhorn Award for Band Director of the Year in Alberta, Tom taught every level of concert and jazz bands from Grades 5 through 12.
Encouraged by several colleagues, Tom eventually wrote a book, Beginning Band 101. The book is featured in the website of the same name that he also created. Tom now enjoys retirement with his wife Wendy, working on websites, and fishing for trout in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Kathie Van Lare, born and raised in Calgary, has been teaching music in the Calgary area for over 30 years. Recently retired from full-time teaching, Kathie continues to direct the Foothills Music Society Concert Band and the Westwinds Music Society Jazz Gold South Big Band.
Kathie is active as a guest conductor and adjudicator throughout western Canada and has also served on faculty with MusiCamrose and the Calgary Regional Summer Band Workshop.
Concert and jazz bands under her direction have been the recipients of numerous Gold Awards and Superior ratings and her groups have been invited as featured performers on several occasions.
In 2012 Kathie received the Alberta Band Association Elkhorn Award as the Band Director of the Year and in 2017 received the Alberta Band Association Vondis Miller Legacy Award. She is a member of the Phi Beta Mu Bandmasters Fraternity and in 2019 Kathie was inducted as a Laureate in the Bandworld Legion of Honor.
Jeff Graham received his B.A. in Jazz Performance (Guitar) from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia before moving to Alberta where he earned a B.Ed. and started teaching at Okotoks Junior H.S. His next career move was team-teaching concert and jazz bands with Tom Taylor at Highwood H.S. in High River, AB.
He is a sought-after jazz clinician, guest conductor and adjudicator. Jeff has established an outstanding reputation for getting the most out of jazz ensembles, whether it be his own high school groups, or spending 30 minutes with a Grade 8 band as its festival clinician.
Jeff’s groups have won numerous awards and trophies over the years, but he takes the greatest pride in making connections with kids.