Artist Spotlight: Jodi Proznick
Columns / April 19, 2017
A decade of stories will be told on Proznick’s upcoming record
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor
Jodi Proznick, an instructor in the Music department at KPU, has played with stars like Michael Bublé, performed at the Vancouver Olympics, and is part of an esteemed quartet that practices under her name. This year she will be putting out her first record in 10 years—a narrative-heavy suite that centres around themes of birth, loss, and love.
“The day after I was nominated for a Juno, I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant with my son,” says Proznick, about the inspiration behind her upcoming record. “It was a pretty crazy, epic, pivotal moment. Then, about a year after my son was born, we got word that my mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia. She was only 57 at the time.”
“The past 10 years have been a huge growing time,” she continues. “A re-prioritizing and getting used to this new reality of being a mother and an artist, as well as losing my mother slowly.”
She describes the feeling of the record as “standing on a horizon watching the sun rise and set at the same time,” and believes it to be her most vulnerable art to-date. It will be nine tracks long, including a Magnetic Fields cover called “The Book of Love”, and is set to be released in November. Proznick is also hoping to perform the suite at KPU sometime in March next year.
“For every word my son would gain, my mother would lose a word,” she says, “so I’d be celebrating my beautiful son blossoming and growing while my mother was absolutely declining. The suite is about that journey.”
In the nearer future, Proznick will be on stage for Drum Heat, which will take place at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre on April 27. The event will blend musical styles from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia, and all proceeds will go to Arts Umbrella, a not-for-profit arts education centre for youth.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played with this many drummers, so it’s a first, and it’s really fun,” says Proznick. “I’m always about bringing people who are from supposedly diverse circles together to create something unique and beautiful and celebratory, and I think that’s the unique thing about this project.”
Although she feels that jazz is a “slippery genre” in the sense that it comes in many different styles, she also identifies its eccentrism as its greatest attribute. It is because of the genre’s adaptability that she feels she is so willing and able to take part in a performance like Drum Heat.
Unsurprisingly, Proznick’s personal influences are diverse, ranging from Mozart to Paul Simon and David Bowie. She is classically trained in piano, but the double bass will always be her favourite instrument to play.
“The bass is the most important instrument in the band without anyone having any idea that it is,” she smiles. “It’s the heartbeat of the music… It’s a huge, beautiful, resonant piece of wood. When I play it, it’s resonating through my body, through the floor, through the whole room. It’s a tree—you’re making a tree sing.”
This passion for her own music extends to the work of her students at KPU. As an educator she feels that playing music with her pupils is essential to their confidence and development because “music is a language, and the best way to learn the language is to speak it with people who speak the language really well.”
“It doesn’t serve the students for me to be standing at the top of the ladder, looking down on them and saying, ‘Climb faster.’ Education is a path. The only difference between me and a student is that I’m just further down the path,” she says.
“I love teaching here. I love the students. I’m from Surrey, so I feel like I’m giving back to the city that raised me, and I love getting to work with art students through some of my courses.”
Proznick is also co-arranging a record with fellow jazz artist Katherine Penfold, and will be running a jazz workshop with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for two weeks in July.