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Math professor channels jazz icon

March 29th, 2012 · No Comments


Sam Broverman, a tenured professor of Actuarial Science at U of T, finally found a chance to professionally recorded a jazz album after singing all his life. Perry King/Gleaner News.

By Perry King

When it came time to choose a graduate program, a young Sam Broverman was at a crucial crossroads of his existence.

A Winnipeg native, and singing for most his life, Broverman also came to enjoy mathematics. As a math undergrad at the University of Manitoba, Broverman had applied to graduate programs for both music and mathematics. He was accepted to both programs, but U of M only permitted him to choose one program.

With his first studio album, Dream Maker, Heartbreaker: Sam Broverman Sings Johnny Mercer, under his belt, I sat down with Broverman at Diverso restaurant (328 Dupont St.) to pick his brain about that crucial decision, and life since then.

Broverman’s formative years struck an uncanny balance between music and math. “I sang professionally when I was a university student. It helped me pay my way through,” said Broverman, who made appearances at cabaret shows and CBC radio and television at the time.

But Broverman’s aptitude for math was strong, and he decided to join the Faculty of Science. “I knew that an arts-singing-performing-oriented career is a tough road. People love it and they do it, and you have to sacrifice for it. But, I didn’t love mathematics any less, and I felt that I could have a good career on the math side and be able to continue musically.” And he did, continuing informal vocal studies at U of M, and performing in Winnipeg to fund his education.

Then real life kicked in. “When my PhD studies and the development of my career took over, I didn’t have as much time for music because, to be on top it, you have to devote yourself to it,” said Broverman, who is now a tenured professor of actuarial science at U of T, an institution he has taught at since 1980.

Broverman has come a long way, with academic stints at U of T in the mid-1970s, and a two years at the University of Texas. Broverman now resides in the Annex with his wife, Sue. He absolutely loves the neighbourhood. “My wife always wanted to be downtown, and I was a little resistant to it,” he said, but he eventually came around, and his family benefited from the central location—in close proximity to many activities for his three daughters and work for Broverman.

Looking back, deciding a math career was the right decision. “The only thing that I have a regret is that I didn’t spend as much time on formal musical studies. I had singing lessons, but if you go to a university program, you’re much more intensively learning history and theory.”

Being apart of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for many years satisfied Broverman’s passion for music when academia became his calling. “But the last few years, my kids have grown up, and the bug kind of took over.” Hence, the recording of Dream Maker, Heartbreaker, a channeling of ballads based on the recordings of jazz great Johnny Mercer. Produced by Ken Whiteley, the Juno award-winning mind behind the likes of Fred Penner and the Toronto Mass Choir, the album captures the time capsule of Mercer precisely.

Listening to the recordings, you immediately think of a big band, mid-1950s jazz ensemble, with Frank Sinatra laying down smooth vocals. Released in small circulation last year, the album has gotten positive acclaim. “Broverman really connects emotionally with the lyrics, and vocally he’s spot on,” said Harold Sanditen, of the Cabaret Scenes Review. “Broverman sings it with just the right amount of sweetness, yearning and poignancy,” said Sharna Searle, of the locally-published Whotenote Magazine.

With the very minor exposure on CBC radio and Jazz FM 91, Broverman has become very content with how his musical resume has developed. “I’m very happy with my career as a university professor, and I’m enjoying doing the singing. I don’t have any allusions about where that will take me, I’m just enjoying doing it. Broverman is planning on recording more music in the future, but he definitely is enjoying the ride.

For more information about Broverman and his musical work, visit

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