Michael Murray


  • Instrument

    Guitar, Bass, Ukulele, Cavaquinho

  • Education

    Bachelor of Music, Humber College

  • Find Michael’s Bands on Facebook

    Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.23.38 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.26.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.28.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.26.56 AM

  • Upcoming Event

    Catch us at Casa Maiz this Saturday @ 7pm!

    Posted by Tayua Esta-Noche on Sunday, September 13, 2015

Welcome to our first Instructor Spotlight!

At Arcadia Academy of Music, we want to celebrate all the great talent that make up the vibrant musical community at all our locations, from instructors to students, to alumni and special guests. We know that many of our community members are actively working as professionals in the music industry; as educators, performers, composers, recording engineers, and more. And so, over the course of the next year we will be hosting interviews with some of our most talented, as you will get a sneak peak into the lives of these musicians.

We encourage you to participate in the blog discussions through here or on our Facebook page, and let us know if you would also like to participate in writing your very own blog on music related topics! Up first, we have one of the guitar instructors from our Woodbridge location, Michael Murray, who was kind enough to share some insight into his busy life as an artist. Enjoy!

Isaias Garcia
Director of Art, Media & Design

How did you first hear about Arcadia?

Through a Craigslist ad of all things. Was still relatively new to the GTA at the time and was completely unaware of any music schools around. When I was looking for a job Arcadia hired me. I’m glad they did, because where I grew up we had nothing near this level when it came to private music lessons, and the school board music programs were not even worth mentioning.

How did you first find out about the bands you’re now a part of?

In this case I was a founding member of both groups. Earth’s Yellow Sun started out as a student ensemble at Humber and grew into it’s own thing. The Groove Monks is a wedding band that plays various functions, I’m the main guitar chair but I sub out from time to time. Most groups I’m involved in these days I was part of from the beginning in some way, whether it be as a player as with the monks and EYS and Tayua, or a producer in the case of Ten Meter Band (now just the guitarist).

Are there any upcoming events for any of these bands?

Many! EYS will be making it’s on-stage debut on October 15th at the Hard Luck Bar in Toronto and various other shows in the GTA are happening soon after that. Groove Monks always has some wedding or baptism or what have you coming up. Snaggle just finished raising money to record an album in January to be released sometime next year and has many performances lined up in the coming months, and Tayua has various small events lined up, mostly Latin community events, and is planning a small Canadian tour next year.

What was it like working with industry-renowned musicians such as Ted Quinlan, Tony Zorzi, Emile D’eon, and Rob Bulger? Was there anything interesting about their work process?

Obviously the experience was great but not always in the way one might expect. A large part of studying with someone like that is getting into their thing as much as you can and deciding what you want to incorporate yourself and what you are not as interested in. It can be very easy as a student to fall into the trap of thinking your instructor is not right for you, or is not helping you with what you want to learn, especially at that level of education. A wise student will recognize the value in hearing out their teachers, and engage with the instructor for the period of study to try to learn everything they’re taught before deciding what is and isn’t worth their time. Which is also to address the second part of the question, as these guys all had such radically different approaches to playing and teaching that every year at the school was a whole new world of guitar for me.

What were some of your challenges as a Humber student? How steep is the learning curve for those who, like yourself, were relative latecomers in starting an instrument?

The greatest challenge as a Humber student was the same as seems to be the case with most of the students I’ve met at Arcadia: practicing. That might seem odd as it was a music program, but your time is devoured by essays, theory homework, transcriptions, rehearsals and performances (and rehearsals and performances are NOT practicing, make no mistake). The other big killer there is your own ego and the egos of others. There’s so much posturing and attitude, favoritism among the faculty, etc. that it can kill your desire to play music and otherwise just take a high personal and emotional toll. Learning to handle these things is an important skill to have if you want to be a musician. The learning curve was absurdly high for myself and others in the same boat as me who were new to jazz or just music in general, as the majority of people in my year had already had a lot of training and were at a much higher level than me going in. That said, if you can stick it out everyone tends to even out by the end of the program and everyone finds their area to shine in.

To succeed in a career in music, many people still live by the old adage of practice, practice, practice, which for many reasons still holds true, but in your experience, how important is it to make connections, connections, connections?

Both are very important, depending on what you want to do. You can have a lot of success as a totally middling player by knowing the right people. That said, if you know the people who do what you want to do but those people know you aren’t good enough to cover anything they might ask you to do then those opportunities won’t come. It’s important to practice as much as possible and maintain your product (your playing) that you’re selling, then take every chance you get to show it off. To complement that, you have to be known by the people who do what you want to do. If you’re good, and people know it, and they know you like what they do, then they will at some point throw opportunity your way. So I guess my answer is, practice til you can’t handle any more then go out and make friends in the world you want to be in.

What instrument(s) do you teach and what’s it like teaching at Arcadia?

I teach guitar and can teach other stringed instruments (bass, ukulele, cavaquinho if it ever came up). Though even contained within the world of guitar there is a lot to explore between steel string acoustic, nylon string acoustic, electric, extended range, etc. The environment at Arcadia is very conducive to work, I find it to be a very positive vibe but with so much going on around you it’s relatively easy to focus when you’re in the room.

Are there any differences in styles/genres?

Radical differences. EYS is a technically demanding and mostly through-composed progressive metal group, Groove Monks is a cover band for functions. I’m also in a Latin folk band called Tayua and a few jazz and jazz-fusion bands, and I do other stuff when it comes up (was in the band of a talk show for a while, got a Frank Zappa tribute with the Art of Time ensemble coming up next year, etc). Each of these has it’s own challenges, the main one being what gear to bring and how to get it all there!

How has it been balancing your professional music career and your teaching career?

One feeds the other. The knowledge that I’m trying to communicate to the students comes from personal experience, but likewise the act of teaching forces you to examine your own methods and ways of thinking, leading to (hopefully) improvements in your own playing, which in turn can open up further opportunities for you in the playing world. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t get some ideas that later grew into something larger from an offhand comment from a student.

What advice would you give to young musicians who want to attend/audition for Humber College’s Jazz program?

First, it is very, very hard to get into. Their acceptance rate is very low. If you think you want to attend, speak to someone who already did and get their opinion on the audition process and the program itself. Then find someone else and ask them the same questions, repeat ad nauseum. Everyone’s experience there was different, but the common factor is the level of difficulty is very high and if you want to succeed beyond the program your level of dedication and patience must also be very high. If you have trouble balancing your grade 11 math homework with practicing for 15 minutes every day as well then this program is not for you. That said if you think you’ve got what it takes then find a mentor, go through the audition requirements on the humber website, and get to work.

Was it hard to balance work, life, class and rehearsal as a student?

Very, and to be honest I’m not sure life made it into the balance at all. I was pulling routine 16 – 20 hour days throughout much of the program with very, very little sleep. I spoke to my cousin who is an engineer and we compared notes, and if you factored in rehearsals I was doing more “course work” a week than she had during her studies. And the thing is that’s not in any way special, because everyone at Humber was working that hard. It’s just what was required of you. That said though, I did say yes to too many things, and ended up playing on dozens of recitals and recording projects which took more time out of my life than they reasonably should have.

Are you working on anything new? Any plans for travelling, education, album recordings?

A few things. These days my time is mostly spent practicing, I’m on a big self-improvement kick right now in a few different areas. Band-wise, EYS has it’s first shows coming up in October. Tayua is working on new material and planning a small Canadian tour next summer. Snaggle will be recording an album in January, and will be doing a bunch of jazz clinics in various high schools around the area. I’ve also been writing material for a new group I’ll lead in the jazz vein, hoping to kick that off before the end of the year.

Any last thoughts, comments, suggestions?

Yes. If you’re a student and you’re reading this, then stop here and go practice!

Thank you, Michael!

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