Brian Katz is an internationally acclaimed guitarist, pianist, recording artist, improviser, composer, and music educator. As a performer and composer, he is noted for bringing classical and world music influences to modern jazz and various world music streams, and is highly regarded as a “free” music improviser, where he blends many of his influences into coherent musical statements. He holds Mus. Bach. and Mus. M. degrees (Music Education) from the University of Toronto, and Dalcroze Eurhythmics Certification—a method of education exploring the intrinsic relationships between music and movement—from Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Brian also studied jazz at Humber College in Toronto, composition and classical guitar at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and various subjects at York University, Toronto. Brian has taught music in a variety of settings—from pre-school to university— for over 25 years. His major mentors have included the innovative Canadian musician-composer, Fred Stone, guitarists Eli Kassner, Ralph Towner and Norbert Kraft, South Indian drumming virtuoso Trichy Sankaran, pianist/improvising virtuoso, Casey Sokol and the late great composition teacher, Sam Dolin.
Highly regarded as a soloist and composer, Brian collaborates widely. His stage/recording partners have included Grammy nominated/Juno winner saxophonist/flutist, Jane Bunnett, Grammy recipient/tabla master Sukhwinder Singh, classical flautist Barbara Ackerman, virtuoso klezmer clarinetist Martin van de Ven, the late innovative flugelhornist /composer Fred Stone (who toured/recorded with Duke Ellington), singers Lenka Lichtenberg, Allan Merovitz, Beth Anne Cole, Bob Wiseman, Theresa Tova, Shura Lipovsky, Michael Alpert (Brave Old World) and guitarists Mordy Ferber, Rob Piltch and William Beauvais. Of Solana, his CD for the prestigious German label, Bellaphon, the Belgian journal Jazz in Time wrote, “a recording of abundant intelligence.” The Toronto Star called his klezmer based CD with Martin van de Ven, Collected Stories, “enchanting.” Brian’s CD with Yiddish-world vocalist Lenka Lichtenberg, Pashtes, has also received rave reviews internationally. Just released (October, 2013) is Brian’s first solo guitar CD, Leaves Will Speak, a project highlighting Brian’s evocative compositions and fiery improvisations informed by the cultures of jazz, classical and various world music streams.
At the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, Brian teaches a variety of courses that prepare prospective teachers of music for careers as elementary and high school music teachers: Guitar for the Classroom; Movement and Music: Dalcroze Eurhythmics and other music education pedagogy courses. In addition, Brian leads Klezmer ensembles at the University of Toronto, and at York University, Toronto, where he also instructs courses in contemporary improvisation, and classical, jazz and folk guitar. Brian also recently taught at Ryerson University, Toronto, where he was instructing courses in arts education for Early Childhood Education majors.
For the last four years, Brian has worked alongside jazz legend and Grammy lifetime achievement award recipient, Barry Harris, preparing and conducting Dr. Harris’ mass choral works for combined children’s choirs—culminating in performances at Koerner Hall and The Toronto Centre For the Arts—that featured Dr. Harris, various high school choirs and legendary Charles Mingus alumnus, saxophonist Charles McPherson. The project, We Are One, spearheaded by jazz educator/pianist Howard Rees, is dedicated to continuing to bring jazz music into economically disadvantaged areas of Toronto.
Brian also regularly tours with internationally beloved storyteller, Dan Yashinsky, and they have received critical acclaim for their collaborative work, Talking You In (story by Dan, music by Brian). Talking You In is a 40-minute piece interweaving prose, poetry, instrumental and vocal music, which tells the story of a family journey through the harrowing realm of a neo-natal intensive care unit. It shows how storytelling can provide an essential link to our humanity in the medical environments that both save and silence us in modern life.
In addition to contributing guitar compositions to the Royal Conservatory of Music Syllabus, Brian is the author of Guitar Music of Brian Katz: 3 Pieces for Classical or Jazz Guitarists (with a treatise and practicum on Tonal Improvisation). His academic/research interests include: Relationship of Movement to Music Cognition; Music Memory; Improvisation Pedagogy, Classical Improvisation, and Dynamics Inherent in the Private Music Lesson. His writings have been featured in several publications including Orbit and Canadian Musician, and he has written articles for several journals including The American Dalcroze Journal.
Brian has invented two offshoots of Dalcroze Eurhythmics: Yidrhythmics and JazzRhythmics. Here, participants are invited into the joyous world of Jewish/Jazz music through invigorating combinations of singing, movement explorations, improvisation, and musical games. Brian has presented JazzRhythmics at the Art of Jazz Festival, and parts of the program have aired on CBC radio; Brian regularly taught this program as part of the Jazz 4 Kids program at Jazz FM. Mr. Katz has received several awards from the Canada and Ontario Arts Councils, and has been artist-in-residence at Franklin Pierce College, New Hampshire, and Ridley College in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. He most recently designed and taught a course in classical music improvisation for the Jugendmusikschule, Zurich. Brian regularly tours internationally, often combining giving solo and ensemble concerts with lectures/workshops in Dalcroze Eurhythmics, music pedagogy, composition, improvisation, and guitar/piano performance.