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A career of local music-making

Mary Catherine

Five years have passed since I collected my Honours Arts degree in Music and Drama from UWaterloo. A year after graduating, I left Kitchener-Waterloo to pursue a Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto. After receiving my second degree in 2012, I realized that I missed the strong sense of community that Kitchener-Waterloo has. I also ached to reignite my passion for singing and performance. I came home, eager to get a job that could support my passion. 

One day, walking home from an interview at a high-profile local company, I realized that the 9-5 life was just not for me. I envisioned myself sitting in a cubicle, making phone calls and answering emails regarding products that didn’t remotely interest me. I felt like the musician part of myself, the part that I was proudest of, was taking a back seat. And I didn’t even have the job yet! On that walk home, I recognized that I had the skill set for making my passion into a career. I had graduated from UWaterloo with a Music degree and I had received much encouragement from my professors during my time there. The open, supportive attitude in the UWaterloo Music Department made it seem like anything was possible!  I viewed myself as a musician. Now, I just needed to trust myself.

From that day on, I dove head first into making myself a marketable, self-employed musician. If I didn’t want a “normal” career, I knew that I would need to work hard to create the jobs for myself. I channeled my certified teacher status into a private voice studio, which now has 25 students. I reawakened my passion for vocal jazz performance, which had laid all-too-dormant as I pursued my BEd. I started booking more high-profile jazz performances at local venues and events, like The Jazz Room, The Registry Theatre and the Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival.

As I began to gain a more prominent local profile, I realized that I wanted to give back to the community that has given me so much over the years. Last year, I started a program called “Jazz in the Schools.” It is an in-school project dedicated to bringing the ideas of community, collaboration, and musicianship together through student jazz performance. Our pilot project school, Cameron Heights Collegiate, was a success, and we look forward to expanding in the months and years to come.

Mary CatherineOne of the most beautiful aspects of being a professional musician is that we’re able to spread joy through song. One of the most joyful moments was being asked to return to UWaterloo this past February to perform in the Music Department’s Noon Hour Concert series. Singing jazz music to current UWaterloo students, staff and community members was a true full-circle moment! It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on where I come from, and the journey to get to where I am now. I have no regrets, and am so excited for what is yet to come!

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