KSS grad Dwyer keeps the beat

Former Qualicum Beach resident Ben Dwyer had a successful first year in jazz performance at McGill University in Montreal.

Student of jazz Ben Dwyer and his upright bass.

Student of jazz Ben Dwyer and his upright bass.

Although it has meant less of that sweet sounding jazz music around town, residents will be pleased to know former Qualicum Beach resident Ben Dwyer had a successful first year in jazz performance at McGill University in Montreal, and he’ll do one more local performance before heading back to school.

Dwyer graduated from Kwalikum Secondary School in 2011 and was active in a number of school concert bands and local jazz groups. He won a pile of awards for his musical talents in school and was also awarded some prestigious scholarships.

Dwyer said he’s met a number of people in Montreal that love music as much as he does, and he’s thrilled.

“I’m just immersed in a group of young people and [music] is pretty much all they live for,” he said. “It really opened my eyes when I got there… that it’s a lifestyle, and it’s totally worth living.”

Alto saxophone used to be Dwyer’s instrument of choice, but when he was in Grade 10 his band was having a hard time keeping a bass player. So he played around with it and found the big instrument actually came very natural to him. Instead of continuing to show new band members how to play it, he decided to stick with it. And he’s happy with his choice.

“I like that I can play the entire time,” he said. “On sax you play a melody or a solo and then stop playing, which is cool, but it’s nice being there the whole time and being so integral in the band’s sound.”

He said he also loves the sound the instrument makes and that it’s “the keeper of the beat.”

Dwyer is now in a couple different bands in Montreal. One of them, a group of McGill students, were accepted to play the Montreal Jazz Festival. Dwyer said they played to a large and enthusiastic audience and his group really enjoyed it. They also enjoyed playing at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill, one of the most well-known jazz clubs in Montreal. And Dwyer said he also got to rub shoulders with some of the jazz scene’s elite, including American jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, who has played with American jazz legend Sonny Rollins for many years.

“So I got to establish some connections while I was in Montreal with some pretty cool guys,” he said.

Dwyer has been home visiting his parents in Qualicum Beach this summer and has played a few shows with his dad, multi-juno award winner Phil Dwyer, and with his local band, the Petronas Brothers. He is filling in for a friend playing bass at Bard to Broadway’s Musical Hello Dolly at the Village Theatre and he’s doing one more gig at the Qualicum Beach Farmers Market on Aug. 25 where his group will play Motown-pop-music type numbers.

When he gets back to Montreal he’s going to try and get a band together to play some pop/rock music, as making a living playing jazz music is getting harder to do, he said.

“I have a lot of fun playing groovy pop music that people can dance to, and if I can get a bigger fan base doing that then I’m happy doing it,” he said.

Dwyer will be entering his second year in the four-year jazz performance program at McGill in September, majoring in bass.