THE GLEANER SITS DOWN WITH THE MUSICAL KENSINGTON MARKET RESIDENT
By Paris Herbert-Taylor
Sophia Perlman is a young, up and coming Jazz musician who grew up in Toronto in the Kensington Market Area. She has performed for a number of years at the Toronto Jazz Festival, and has a regular appearance on a Monday night at the Reservoir Lounge with her band, The Vipers. We caught up with her to chat about her music, her inspirations and what it was like growing up in an artsy part of town.
Kensington must have changed a lot since you were growing up there, what changes have you noticed?
Perlman: Kensington is a pretty diverse neighborhood—20 years ago it was even more diverse, the area drew a lot of people working in the arts. I think growing up there was the closest thing to being in a village in the city. I could walk down the street and feel really safe. I felt like I knew everyone. It is still a close community, but it’s different.
Who were your early Musical influences?
Perlman: I started listening to jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and jazz musicians like her. Both my parents are both really musical, creative people. They met studying musical theatre. My dad immigrated from South Africa and my Mom from New York, so they had a lot of different musical tastes, and gave me an appetite for lots of kinds of music. My dad plays guitar and writes music. We listened to all kinds of music growing up—I credit my parents for that.
When did you know music was what you wanted to do?
Perlman: In high school. I did a 10-week music course for young adults at the Royal Conservatory. I also played sax in high school at Harbord Collegiate (286 Harbord St.). Eventually, I was planning to go and study journalism. Then my high hchool bandleader gave me a flyer to a band camp at Manitou—the Interprovincial Music Camp. One of the leaders there gave a talk and said, “If you want to be a musician you can’t have a Plan B. You just have to do it.” I realized if I didn’t try for a career in music, I’d always wonder. So far, no regrets.
Tell us about your work with the CCOC (Canadian Children’s Opera Company) and OPERAtion Kids?
Perlman: It is exciting—I love helping kids. I love getting them excited about music. It is a bit of a juggling act—working late as a performer and then getting up early to teach. You are also juggling—putting on different hats. When I find the balance it’s a great match.
You’ve performed for different types of audiences and different types of settings. How do they compare?
Perlman: Whatever the setting, it’s up to the performer to connect with the audience. For example, this year at the [Toronto] Jazz Festival I’m playing on four stages that are all different. I’m playing on an outdoor stage with a big band. I’m playing another outdoor venue with my husband Adrean [Adrean Farrugia, Juno Nominee whom Sophia met at the Jazz Festival]. I’m also playing in a restaurant, which will be different, having people eat and watch us, and playing at the Musideum (401 Richmond St. W.)—an intimate tiny store with some interesting exotic instruments. Each of those settings has its challenges and really wonderful aspects. The cool thing for me as a jazz musician working today is that Toronto has some world class secondary jazz institutes including Humber, York and the University of Toronto. Young musicians in this town are finding their voices, experimenting with new forms of avant garde, experimental jazz. For young artists, and some not so young, The Toronto Jazz festival offers exciting opportunities.
For a full line up of artists and events, including for Perlman`s performances, visit www.torontojazz.com. You can also catch her and The Vipers at the Reservoir Lounge (52 Wellington St. E.) on Monday nights.