Jon Washburn | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jon Washburn

Jon Spencer Washburn, conductor, composer, arranger, teacher (b at Rochelle, Ill 4 Jul 1942).

Washburn, Jon Spencer

Jon Spencer Washburn, conductor, composer, arranger, teacher (b at Rochelle, Ill 4 Jul 1942). Now particularly known as one of Canada's most distinguished choral conductors and an associate composer of the CANADIAN MUSIC CENTRE, Washburn studied music education at Illinois State University and choral music at the University of Illinois, receiving his BSME (1965). He went on to study music history at Northwestern University (1966-67) and musicology at UBC (1967-70). He was a founder, co-leader and viola da gambist of the Renaissance ensemble Hortulani Musicae in Vancouver (1969-71) and the Vancouver Society for Early Music, after 1987 known as Early Music Vancouver (1970). In the same period (1969-71) he was conductor of the Jon Washburn Singers, his first professional choral group. From 1967 to 1971 he was director of music for the Unitarian Church in Vancouver, and from 1969 to 1977, chorus master and assistant conductor of the Vancouver Bach Choir. In 1974 he was a visiting artist in music at Simon Fraser University, and in the same year began his work (continuing until 1987) as director of choral activities and the apprentice program in choral conducting at Vancouver Community College. He was also conductor and music director of the Amity Singers in Victoria (1975-80) and a lecturer at UBC (1982). From 1987 to 1992 he served as co-artistic director of the Masterpiece Chamber Music series.

Washburn's major continuing role, however, has involved his work (starting in 1971) as conductor, artistic and executive director of the internationally acclaimed, award-winning Vancouver Chamber Choir, which he founded, and with which he has made some 55 Canadian tours and concert trips around the world. In 1991 Washburn became general choral editor of Jaymar Music Ltd (London, Ont) and from 1992 to 1998 he was conductor and artistic director of the Phoenix Bach Choir (Arizona). He has made many broadcasts, appeared as guest conductor with choirs and orchestras in Canada, the US, Europe and the Orient, and figured in 37 recordings (31 with the Vancouver Chamber Choir, of which 10 are wholly Canadian in content). He is also a composer and arranger of many choral works, a distinguished teacher of choral conducting, and the recipient of numerous awards and honours. He has commissioned and premiered over 125 Canadian works by composers such as John BECKWITH, Peter Berring (Bjerring), Jean COULTHARD, Stephen CHATMAN, Malcolm FORSYTH, Peter Hannan, Rudolf KOMOROUS, Oskar MORAWETZ, Imant Raminsh, R. Murray SCHAFER and others.

Washburn's most significant contribution, perhaps, lies in his championing of a broad range of choral music, particularly by Canadian composers (at least 1550 performances of over 260 works by some 85 composers). His work exemplifies superb musicianship, energy and professionalism dedicated to the task of furthering such music.

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