John Grant, A&E Reporter
Humber’s Lakeshore music teacher Mark Kelso hopes to change the stigma and surrounding narrative in some corners about drummers not being musicians.
The Juno nominee for Jazz Album of the Year hopes winning the award in March will make that fallacy vanish.
“I’m really thrilled because I play drums. Drummers, on many occasions, have been the butt of jokes for not being musicians. I think we’re one of the most important people in any group,” Kelso said.
This Juno nomination was completely unexcepted for Kelso. He actually forgot he applied for the Juno nomination and found out in an unexpected manner.
Marsha Duggan is the Program Support officer at Humber’s Lakeshore campus for Music and Fine Arts.
Duggan had no idea she would be the first to congratulate Kelso on his Juno nomination, which caught her off guard. She recalled the phone call on that day, detailing Kelso’s shock.
She said she was watching the live stream of the Juno nominations because many of Humber’s faculty and students might be nominated.
“I saw that Mark Kelso was one of the people who was nominated,” Duggan said. “So, I called him right away. And I said, ‘has anybody congratulated you yet?’
“And he said, ‘for what?’ I said, ‘you don’t know?’ He’s like, ‘no for what?’
“And I said, ‘for your Juno nomination,’” Duggan said. “And he said, ‘really?’
“And I said, ‘yeah,’ and he said, ‘are you messing with me?’ Of course, I’m not messing with you,” she recalled.
Kelso has won four Junos already as a sideman, but never a Juno for his own projects. The album he is being nominated for is called The Chronicles of Fezziwig with his band The Mark Kelso Jazz Project, which plays a more traditional jazz and acoustic instrumental sound.
He may have unintentionally spoken this nomination into existence because he was amazed by how fantastic his band sounded on the record.
“I thought, wow, this is a great record. The musicians on there played their butts off,” Kelso said.
“I remembered saying thanks guys, I think you guys are going to get me a Juno nom.”
He wanted to showcase other layers of his playing style and experiment with new sounds that he usually wouldn’t play on a record.
His last nomination as a leader of a band was in 2016 with his other group the Jazz Exiles, which he did not win. That group played a more funk fusion type of sound, which is different from the album now.
“I’m happy to be nominated a second time because I feel like it’s a validation of all the hard work put in to make the music,” Kelso said.
First-year music student Raul Gutierrez-Ruiz was elated for Kelso’s nomination, not only as a student but as a friend.
“I would feel very proud if he won because he’s a great teacher. Not just me, but all the other students think of him as a friend because he’s so personal,” Gutierrez-Ruiz said.
“I would just be very grateful and honoured to be a student of his. It makes me really happy,” he said.
Regardless of the result, Kelso feels it was an honour to be nominated for an award and is not worried about the outcome in June.
But, he suspects his wife may see it differently.
“My wife will be more nervous than me. She’ll be grabbing my hand, giving me a death clutch because she’s going to be rooting for me so much,” Kelso said.
“If I win, she’s just going to start crying,” he said.
”I’m going to be more distracted by her when the nomination comes out.”