The profile of a third-year jazz student at Concordia

Jonah Brender playing the bass on stage at Casa del Popolo. Photo by Aaron Nadal @aaronnoodlesoup

Jonah Brender’s typical days as a bassist in Concordia’s jazz music department.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like being a music student at university? In an interview with The Concordian, Jonah Brender, a bassist in the jazz department at Concordia, shared his personal experience of being in the program for three years.

Brender’s music journey started with taking piano and guitar lessons as a kid, even though nothing really stuck with him at the time. “It was only when I had finished high school that I discovered the bass guitar and fell in love,” he said. 

Now in his final year,  Brender plays the double/acoustic bass after strictly playing the electric bass for a few years.

A typical day of classes for Brender is a blend of theory, history/context, ear training, and performance—sometimes also including composition and arranging. Most music students are also required to take a year-long choir course.

“Students in their earlier years of study often have course schedules which lean towards the theoretical, historical, and ear training classes, with performance then being incorporated in as well,” Brender noted. Playing assignments, in-class singing exercises, or listening to musical excerpts are incorporated during lecture-based classes. Performance-wise, music students would play with ensembles of varying sizes, being led by a teacher/band director.. 

Homework for performance classes usually consists of preparing an exercise, part, or piece to be played. History classes often require essay assignments, as well as listening tests where students have to identify a song upon hearing an excerpt of it. “It’s not always as easy when dealing with more obscure, instrumental music, plus you may be asked to remember the date, instrumentation, etc. as well,” Brender said. 

Ear training classes, which Brendon noted as the most difficult part of music school, test one with aural dictation exams where a briefly played chord, series of notes, or both, are expected to be recognized. The bassist also shared how he and his fellow students tend to dread their jury exams at the end of the semester. “Imagine performing alone in a large room by yourself, with three judges looking, listening and taking notes… Somehow this is much more stressful than playing to a large audience,” he expressed. 

When it comes to his routine practice, Brender finds time in between classes. On average, he estimates about three to four hours of practice a day on weekdays and about five to six hours a day on weekends.

Brender finds that he has vastly improved over the course of his program years: “I’ve been working really hard over the past couple of years and it’s really gratifying to see that shining through in my playing, and in the opportunities which are being presented to me,” Brender shared proudly. 

The third-year jazz student hosted and organized the Concordia Student Jazz Jam at Upstairs Jazz Club in Fall 2023—a weekly event where a house band made up of Concordia music students and special guest invites performed a list of songs together. After the house set, Brender noted,  members of the audience were invited to come up and jam as well. 

The end of the semester is always a busy time in the music department as final concerts are organized by the performance classes. These concerts take place at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at the Loyola campus and are a great opportunity for students to come to watch their peers perform (no admission charge for students!).

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