By michelle-lee The Afro News Ontario
Ron Westray has settled in as the Oscar Peterson Chair in Jazz Performances at York University. The 31-year-old South Carolina native brings impressive credentials to the position.
Westray has a B.A. from South Carolina State University and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Illinois University. Prior to his appointment he was an Assistant Professor in the Jazz Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin. He spent more than 12 years as the lead trombonist in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Septet. He is also an acclaimed composer with 14 years of touring, three CDs and many recordings as a sideman. His 2005 Jazz opera “Chivalrous Misdemeanors: Select Tales from Don Quixote” received a Pulitzer nomination. Westray also co-directs the York University Jazz Orchestra and teaches performance, composition, theory and history courses including Contemporary Black Urban Music – “basically hip hop history” he says.
A lover of various musical genres, he says he’s “passionate about rap, hip-hop, urban and soul music but equally accomplished in jazz”. He has just launched “Jazz Hop” at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The program fuses jazz with hip-hop and will run on April 9th, June 11th and July 9th.
The Oscar Peterson Chair is a full time tenure-track position funded by a $4 million provincial endowment plus $1 million to establish scholarships for talented musicians from underprivileged backgrounds. It will provide one first year music student $40,000 over four years and up to four $10,000 scholarships to undergraduate music students.