Jasper Wood comes home

Moncton native Jasper Wood is returning to his hometown for a performance at the Capitol Theatre on Wednesday evening. Since launching his music career more than a decade ago, Wood has been heralded as one of the country’s top violinists, earning praise for his style and technique while performing with some of the country’s top orchestras.

Show time on Wednesday evening is set for 8 p.m.

A 1991 graduate of Moncton High School, Wood began playing the violin at the age of four. Growing up in an environment where he says that music was always happening, Wood took an early liking to Mozart’s Violin Concerto. Sensing her son’s interest in the piece, Jasper’s mother asked him one day if he would be interested in learning how to play the violin, and there was no turning back. Upon finishing high school, Wood admits that it was “sort of a given that I would pursue music.” As far as he concerned, the path of music has been set out for him and he would have been “crazy not to go for it”.

“I started playing professionally in the late 1980s but only got myself a booking agent in 1996,” Wood recalls from his Vancouver home. “In the early days, I would do 25 shows in the run of a year and slowly it grew to 60 or more shows a year.”

Wood says that he routinely plays upwards of 40 shows a year, balancing performances with family commitments and his day job as a music professor at the University of British Columbia.

“There is no question that tours have become less intense over the past few years. I tend to restrict myself to a maximum of a week and a half of touring in one stretch nowadays.”

Rather than considering his teaching role being a deterrent to performing more in the course of a year, Wood admits that the role allows him to have the best of both worlds.

“With my teaching role it not only provides me and my family some security but I also get to share with my students what I have learned over the years. Where in the past, I felt compelled to say yes to any shows that I was offered, I now get to pick and choose the shows I want to do. It is a really great situation.”

Jasper Wood’s 1999 debut album on the Analekta music label received much critical acclaim. Since that time, Jasper has had a very diverse recording career that has seen him record the music of Stravinsky, Bartok and Saint-Saens for numerous national and international music labels. Wood’s most recent release dates back to 2007 and was recorded with pianist David Rylie. The record, “Violin and piano works of Morawetz” is a record honoring the music and legacy of fellow Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz.

Wood says that the current state of the music business, which has faced consistently declining sales over the past decade, has caused him to pause and reflect upon what he really wants to get out of future record releases:

“I have put a lot on hold because of where the industry is right now. So much of the business seems to be done online now, it has left a lot distribution and record company channels wondering how to cope. There is no clear vision on where the industry is headed.

“There are still a few classical music labels out there doing their thing though. Here in Canada, you have Atma and Analekta but otherwise, many labels aren’t interested in bringing classical music artists into their rosters. In a lot of ways, it is every man for himself.”

It might be every man for himself but Jasper acknowledges that he is rather comfortable with where he is at in his career these days. Acceptance is something that many people strive for and in his case, he feels welcomed by the classical music community.

“When I was starting out, being accepted by others seemed to matter a lot more. I feel though that you really have to trust in yourself first and foremost.

“I’m mid-career now and am content knowing I have been accepted by classical music fans but with that, I feel like I have to prove that I am worthy of doing these shows that I perform.”

Article published in March 2, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript