An interview with the latest addition to the Jazz Faculty.
In response to the current interest in Jazz Studies that StFX has been receiving lately, the university has welcomed Kenji Omae to the faculty of professors. Omae is a Canadian tenor saxophonist who has released multiple albums and played numerous gigs around the world. He earned his Masters in Jazz Performance from Queen’s College in New York. From there he taught in Seoul for fifteen years. Now he is back in his home country and more importantly in the town of Antigonish, residing with his wife, Mrs. Choi, who also teaches in the jazz faculty.
We spoke with Mr. Omae in his office on the second floor of Gilmora Hall. As we walked in, he was busy tinkering with one of his compositions on the keyboard. Sitting behind him was his own legendary tenor saxophone, but during the entire interview he kept the neckpiece in his hands, feeling along the contour. He told us that he was “glad to be back in Canada, and especially grateful to be at StFX at a time where the jazz program is seeing high enrolment again.” Continuing by saying, “the program is receiving a good amount of interest from across Canada,” he said, and “the university is helping to support the growth of Jazz Studies by raising their scholarship funds.”
We asked Mr. Omae what he hoped to bring to the table at StFX that might be unique or new and he answered by telling us that he has “teaching and playing experience that spans worldwide”. Describing how he played for large concerts and small venues alike and that he plans to “pass on this knowledge to his students and help the program in any way he can.” He explained that “the Jazz Faculty is improving and modernizing their curriculum to better accommodate the needs of today’s students. The jazz industry is not what it used to be.”
He elaborated further on the current jazz ‘scene’ by explaining how it was when he was coming up. “Back when I was a young musician,” he said, “the demand for jazz was high, people were playing for the RCMP bands and having studio gigs. Nowadays, those opportunities are more difficult to come by.” He told us that “the internet is helping a lot in some ways and is a positive tool. But on the other hand, people go to less live shows because you can see everything you want on YouTube. Still though, the internet is a positive thing.” Mr. Omae enjoyed reminiscing on back when he was beginning his professional career. We asked him about the current state of jazz and how it is being incorporated with Hip-hop. “I’m glad that jazz once again is attracting young people, and that it is moving back towards the counter-culture,” he said, “I’ve dedicated my life to jazz and I don’t regret it at all.”
Mr. Omae will be performing October 23rd in the Green Room at the Bauer Theatre with the rest of the StFX Jazz Faculty.