Millions upon millions of people are raised by adoptive parents. In most cases, this is readily accepted and life unfolds with one’s adoptive family as if the adoption never happened.

I was adopted in 1948 (70 years ago) and that fact was never a secret. My adoptive parents, Marg and Ted, had zero insecurities about that. I am grateful to be able to have lived my whole life knowing the facts.

As lucky as I was in having been adopted by a loving family, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some children start asking questions about their ‘real’ parents early and then, in many cases, let it go. In my case, I let it go until my late teens. Somewhere in there, maybe when I was 18-19 the voice in my head repeatedly said “Who are you?” “How did you get here?” What happened to my birth mother and father? What was there story? And so on. It was existentially significant enough that I had to get professional help in my 3rd or 4th year university. Late teens, early 20s were not the easiest of times. They aren’t easy for people without birth-family questions too. But I knew my questions were, and would continue to nag me, and be a part of my life story that would not simply vanish in the shadows as days passed.

At that time I didn’t know much at all. I knew that I had been born in Grace Hospital in Toronto and, yup, that’s pretty much it. I let it go for a long time, but when my own daughter had surgery in the mid 1980s, I realized a family medical history would be worth some research. My parents shared that the adoption had been arranged through Children’s Aid. 1n 1995, my daughter was 19 and I started to feel a bit more pressure to find out what I could as I knew she eventually wanted her own family. So I contacted Children’s Aid.

They couldn’t provide more than general, anecdotal information. I did learn that my parents were quite young, had named me David Bruce _______ (last name not provided on the form). Their document indicated that my parents were quite young and in love. They had intentions to marry and have more children. (Maybe I had siblings!)

At that time you could sign into a registry for children and parents. If they indepentedly registered, the CA would arrange a reunion. CA knew a lot about this process. The counselor I talked to said she had seen some remarkable meetings over the years. Mother’s and daughters meeting for the first time in 18 years and would be wearing similar clothes, glasses, and groom their hair the same way. This, I thought, was amazing. it IS!!

Not all reunions work out well. There are all sorts of complications in all families. I have know people who met their birth-families and the relationship never went very far. For hosts of reasons.

Several years ago, I became aware that Ontario had changed its laws pertaining to adoption disclosures. I could apply for my birth certificate. (Also my mother’s death certificate – which I did later). And I did so immediately. Receiving it was a bit of jolt. There was my mother’’s full name, the address where she was living at the time of the adoption. And my full name. BINGO. (No, my name was not Bingo….)

What was possible then had not been possible for very long. I had Google and Ancestry and FaceBook). First, I tried a simple search for my mother’s name. Another BINGO. The first page of Google results listed an obit for Marian Elizabeth Xxxxxx (just unique enough to help zero down the results). That lead to her obituary and a listing of relatives (close and distance). I discovered her last name had changed many years ago when she married my step-father, They had a child.

My mother and my father had 3 children. Me, then a year later, a sister and 2 years after that a brother.

It took 23 years for me to move further forward. Hundreds of reasons. But among those were fear of the unknown and also, I had no idea how I would manage a second family structure while working full time.

I was concerned that if I searched for and found my birth family, they would find my appearance intrusive. Family lives can be complicated enough without discovering you have a sibling (who is seventy!!). I also feared (at least a bit) that they would reject me (like most I’m not a fan of rejection). BUT…having said that, the strongest emotion I felt was that I would like to meet my bio-mom and say ‘thank you’ for making a brave and difficult decision making it possible for me to have grown up in a loving and supportive family.

After all this, the research launched into ‘hyperdrive’. I kept coming up with dates and names that matched. There were photos on FaceBook pages where I could see the owner of the page and also their friends (many of whom were family members). Click, check, click, click, check.

At some point I checked out my brother’s FB homepage. John had photos of members of the same family on his site, but the big kicker is that other photos showed someone who looked a lot like me. BINGO. (No, my name is still not Bingo!!)

So I was very, very sure I was on the correct path.

But what to do? Who do I contact and, more important, what would I say? I decided to contact my brother. He and I were the closest in age since my sister (born a year after me) had passed away from cancer. I painstakingly crafted a message (FB Messenger) to my brother to see if he would find my story a fit as far as family was concerned. Really, my goals were small. I wanted the family to know I existed and had a had a good life. I thought there would be an email exchange or two, but my newfound family reacted by becoming very excited. No one questioned the veracity of my story. John and I look surprisingly alike. We have the same facial hair and there are similarities in our voices.

He wrote back nearly immediately. Yes, the family knew about me. My mother had apparently been trying to find me later in life. Meeting her would have been unimanigeably sweet, but she passed away in 2002 at age 72. My brother, John, was over the moon happy, and suggested a FaceTime call. In short order I was talking to my new sister-in-law and then my brother screen-to-screen. Four years younger, a little taller than me, but the similarities in appearance and mannerisms were astonishing.

…to be continued.

 

 

A brief reminder to any of you who are composers or arrangers or both…or maybe just getting started: ISJAC, the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers (www.isjac.org) is worth a look.

Membership in the organization is not required but it’s FREE. Just go to the site and if you wish, sign up. Whether you are a member or not, you can read the Artist Blog. There is one new article published every month. There are now 16 articles by notable composers, including Bob Mintzer, Fred Hersch, Adam Benjamin, Rick Lawn, Terry Promane, Bill Dobbins, John La Barbera and more. To go there directly, click here. Enjoy.

ISJAC, the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers (www.isjac.org) is a new organization worth checking out. Membership in the organization is free. Just go to the site and sign up!!

The Mission of the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers is threefold:

  1. To unite and serve the international community of jazz arrangers and composers
  2. To advance the understanding and appreciation of jazz composition
  3. To stimulate the creation, performance, and dissemination of new works and research

I have been invited to be curator of the blog for ISJAC and would love to have you visit the site and check out what is there already. We have two posts by jazz composer and arranger, John La Barbera, and an additional post by Adam Benjamin who is a composer and is the keyboardist with the exciting band, Kneebody.

New articles are posted on the 1st day of every month and will be written by a wide variety of notable arrangers and composers. In addition, there will be additional posts going up mid month as they become available. I think you will find all these and future posts both interesting and inspiring. Occasionally there will be video posts on the blog.

Also, in another section of the site, there are video interviews with prominent composer/arrangers. One video you can view right away is composer Omar Thomas interviewing Darcy James Argue.

Lots more to come. Stay tuned and visit the site often.

P

Today I listened and watched with awe, to a DVD of my York Mills Collegiate Institute (1975) jazz band. I was 27 at the time. We were playing a lift I had done from Woody Herman’s “Giant Steps” album (yes it was vinyl) of Chick Corea’s “La Fiesta”. The arrangement was done by Tony Klatka, as I recall, and I thought it was so cool, I transcribed it and presented to the young guns at YMCI> They killed it. These were teenagers trying to sound like 25-30 year olds. And they did a fine, fine job. Actually a killer job. Piccolo: no problem. Soprano saxophone: no problem: key of E (and A) concert: no problem. Up tempo 3, no problem. They played the drawers off this thing. Names I remember: Gary Boigon (tenor sax and soloist), Doug Buchanan (fender rhodes), Harry Blount (piccolo and baritone saxophone), Cathy Erwin (flugelhorn and trumpet), Janice (Jan) Dique (trumpet), Tom Cross (alto saxophone) John Johnson (alto saxophone and soprano solo), Steve Dick (drums), Marilyn Zeldin (trumpet). And then my memory fails. It was 40 years ago. In the event that anyone reads this blog and can add names, please drop me a line at paul@paulread.ca.

WOW!!

Thanks to Sheila Anderson-Massé, I can add a few more names to those listed above:

trumpets: Richard Haberman, Joe Lin
trombones: Fred Lehner, Bill Meeker, Colleen Sheppard,Bryan Sher, Steve Vogler (did we have 5 trombones? Is one of these a tuba player or French horn?)
guitar: Ken Bassman
bass: Richard Stark

Paul-Read-photo-by-Denise-Grant

Today, May 28, 2015,  I was named the recipient of the 2015 Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music by the Toronto Arts Foundation. I am excited to receive this honour, particularly because I had zero expectations of winning the award. Thanks to all those who have called or sent messages of congratulations! For more information on the event please visit http://www.torontoartsfoundation.org/home.

Toronto Arts Foundation, a charitable organization, provides the opportunity for individuals, private and public foundations, corporations and government agencies to invest in and strengthen the arts in Toronto. They invite you to join in strengthening the City of Toronto through investment in the arts, enhancing and enlivening our city and enriching the lives of those within it.

Photo of me was taken by Denise Grant.

As one of the finalists, I had my name posted on a page today:

http://www.torontoartsfoundation.org/awards/awards-programs/2015-finalists/2015-finalists-cta/paul-read-(1)

Honored to be considered!!

Last night (May 6, 2015) I attended a wonderful party put on by the TAF (Toronto Arts Foundation). I am proud to say that I am one of three finalists for this year’s Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music. The other finalists are David Buchbinder and Vineet Vyas and I am very proud to be in such wonderful company. This is a career recognition for me and I have really been reflecting on all the years teaching and making music and all the rich experiences. How lucky I have been!!

From “An Autobiography” by Igor Stravinsky (1936)

The book wasn’t THAT well written but I did find some gems. (PR)

“It is very doubtful whether Rimsky-Korsakov [his teacher} would ever have accepted Le Sacre, or even Petroushka. Is it any wonder, then, that the hypercritics of today should be dumfounded by a language in which all the characteristics of their aesthetic seem to be violated? What, however, is less justifiable is that they nearly always blame the author for what is in fact due to their own lack of comprehension, a lack made all the more conspicuous because in their inability to state their grievance clearly they cautiously try to conceal their incompetence in the looseness and vagueness of their phraseology.”

Stravinsky, Igor (2011-05-24). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 2190-2195). . Kindle Edition.

And when Stravinsky refers to “the hypercritics of today” remember this book was published in 1936.

THE BOOK IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN and is free to read on a Kindle.

From “An Autobiography” by Igor Stravinsky (1936)

“For me, as a creative musician, composition is a daily function that I feel compelled to discharge. I compose because I am made for that and cannot do otherwise. Just as any organ atrophies unless kept in a state of constant activity, so the faculty of composition becomes enfeebled and dulled unless kept up by effort and practice. The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work. Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning. But it is not simply inspiration that counts; it is the result of inspiration—that is, the composition.”

Stravinsky, Igor (2011-05-24). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 2169-2175). . Kindle Edition.

From “An Autobiography” by Igor Stravinsky (1936)

I have just read this autobiography and I found many interesting comments and anecdotes. Here’s one:

“I should like to quote a remark of Rimsky-Korsakov’s that he made later on when I became his pupil. I asked him whether I was right in always composing at the piano. “Some compose at the piano,” he replied, “and some without a piano. As for you, you will compose at the piano.” As a matter of fact, I do compose at the piano and I do not regret it.”

Stravinsky, Igor (2011-05-24). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 41-43). . Kindle Edition.