By Matthew Fava

Andrew James Clark is one of two artists taking part in the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra‘s composer fellowship program in 2020. As the program gets underway, I caught up with Andrew to discuss his active presence in and around the city, as well as the histories and values that shape his approach to a career in music.

Composer Andrew James Clark

A photo of composer Andrew James Clark

fava.matthew  11:00 AM | @Andrew Clark just a heads up that I am at the ready. Once you log in we will get underway

Andrew Clark  11:01 AM | I’m here and ready.

fava.matthew  11:02 AM | Awesome.

Shall we begin!?

Andrew Clark  11:04 AM | Yes! Fire away.

fava.matthew  11:04 AM | First off

Are you engaged to be married!?

Andrew Clark  11:07 AM | I knew you would ask. Yes, Domenic Jarlkaganova (also a Canadian composer) has been studying composition in the Netherlands for three years. Long distance relationships are not ideal for anyone. I went to visit her over the Christmas break and low and behold she had already been conspiring with my parents for months to propose to me, which she did. And now I’m engaged. Who’d a thunk it.

fava.matthew  11:07 AM | Wonderful. Congratulations, Andrew!

Andrew Clark  11:08 AM | Thanks! She’ll be moving back this summer. The wedding is in September.

fava.matthew  11:08 AM | Is the plan to remain in/around Toronto?

Andrew Clark  11:10 AM |We haven’t decided yet. It might simply come down to money. I’m fortunate to have a full time teaching job at the moment and am living quite comfortably. Domenic is planning to come home and find work for a year or two, then we’ll decide if we want to hang around or not.

fava.matthew  11:11 AM | Has Toronto always been home for you?

Andrew Clark  11:11 AM | Yes always.

fava.matthew  11:12 AM | I am interested to know about your early musical life, and perhaps you can share the moment when you felt connected to a music community. Did that community feel centred geographically? Was it constituted in some other way?

Andrew Clark  11:18 AM | Actually, for better or for worse, my defining characteristic so far has been that I’m not connected to a particular music community. My parents enrolled me in piano lessons when I was four simply as a disciplinary measure. Around the age of twelve our local church needed a pianist and I was thrown onto the platform. I learned to play by ear because I couldn’t read chorals fast enough to keep up with the congregation. After that I completed the RCM piano curriculum and did two composition degree’s at U of T. Now I’m a theory teacher.

fava.matthew  11:18 AM | I am really intrigued to read that!

11:19 | I wouldn’t claim to know all of your actions, but I see your operating at a really high level as an instigator of community.

Perhaps I should ask at this point about Classical Context

11:20 | I can see that it serves a variety of functions in terms of your individual growth, an outlet for your various skills/interests

What was the original impetus for the series?

Andrew Clark  11:26 AM | We should mention Classical Context is a concert series I run in Scarborough. I think for a lot of young composers the question always is: should I join a preexisting community or make one myself? Because I was so isolated from professional musicians growing up all I knew about Classical music was whatever I’d read in Beethoven’s biography. I’d read that Beethoven was a composer, pianist, conductor (attempted), so I assumed that’s what being a classical musician meant. Obviously that’s not the case, however directing Classical Context for seven years now has allowed me not only to foster a small community around the organization but also compose, per