Pianists in Toronto: Featuring Jonah Cristall-Clarke
Jonah Cristall-Clarke is a pianist and piano teacher currently based in Toronto. Jonah performs and teaches jazz, classical, and contemporary piano styles, appearing in concert venues, for private events, and as a piano accompanist for vocalists, instrumentalists, and students for exams and auditions.
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Jonah Cristall-Clarke (pianist, piano teacher, arranger, bandleader) started taking piano lessons at age seven in 1990, while living in Peterborough. He began to focus intensively on jazz when he and two friends formed a trio in 1999. After being honoured with multiple music and arts scholarships at his high school graduation, Jonah went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree specializing in Jazz Performance at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. There he was awarded the Margaret E. Read Jazz Scholarship, the Music Alumni Award, and the Don Wright Scholarship for arranging. He has had the good fortune of studying privately with pianist and composer Fredrick Pritchard, as well as jazz pianists David Restivo, Gary Williamson, and David Braid. At U of T Jonah took part in Terry Promane’s Jazz Arranging class, which was pivotal in his musical growth. Later, while living in Paris, France, Jonah continued his piano education through intensive classical piano performance studies at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. With performing experience ranging from restaurants to concert halls, some of Jonah’s notable performances include appearances at the Toronto, Ottawa, Atlantic, Peterborough, Markham, Barrie, and Lakefield Jazz Festivals, Roy Thomson Hall, the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar, and the Ontario Science Centre (a concert recorded for Jazz FM Radio). Over the years Jonah has been a member of the Toronto Jazz Orchestra, and has performed alongside Canadian jazz notables Dave Young, Terry Clarke, Chase Sanborn, Henry Heillig, and Brian Barlow.
His own group, the Jonah Cristall-Clarke Nonet, garnered attention with regular appearances at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar in Toronto and jazz festivals. The Nonet’s 2006 self-titled CD features Jonah’s arrangements of popular songs from jazz standards of the 1920s to a 1970s Neil Young classic.
No newcomer to large-ensemble writing, Jonah was awarded the Don Wright Scholarship for arranging during his studies at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. He received two more awards before graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance in 2006. Jonah has studied privately with Dave Restivo, Gary Williamson, David Braid, and Fredrick Pritchard, and attended masterclasses with Fred Hersch, Renee Rosnes, Lee Konitz, and John Patitucci, among others.
As a piano teacher, as well as guiding countless private piano students over the years of all ages, levels, and musical styles, from 2006 to 2009 Jonah was a member of the piano faculty at the Humber College Community Music School, Toronto’s premier learning facility for children and music-career-bound high-school-students, with a focus on jazz. His other work has included performing in pit bands for musical theatre and working for several years playing gospel music for Sunday services at a Jamaican Pentacostal church in Toronto. He has lived in London, UK, and Paris, France, pursuing piano performance, teaching, and continuing to study music and piano, and now currently resides again in Toronto, performing on piano, teaching piano lessons, and facilitating piano lessons for hundreds of piano students and piano teachers around the world in his capacity as Director of Piano Teachers Connect.
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The Jonah Cristall-Clarke Nonet
The Jonah Cristall-Clarke Nonet brings together nine of Canada's new generation of jazz musicians. Led by pianist and arranger Jonah Cristall-Clarke, a graduate of the University of Toronto Jazz Performance Program, the group has a repertoire that features music from an eclectic group of composers, with a Canadian emphasis.
The tunes include the 1910 hit “Some of These Days” (by Canadian Shelton Brooks) and Carmen Lombardo's work in the 1920s — as well as music from Neil Young's 1970 album “After the Gold Rush” and the 1994 rock song “Longview” (by Green Day). The band revisits these diverse tunes with harmonic and rhythmic experimentation that is the hallmark of jazz today.
Jonah's nonet arrangements had their public debut in May 2005 at Toronto's Distillery Jazz Festival. In the summer of that year, at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, the Galaxie Youth All Stars, with Jonah on piano, “put on a strong performance of material cleverly arranged by Cristall-Clarke” (John Kelman, “All About Jazz”). Recently the JCC Nonet has performed for a full house at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar in Toronto and at concert venues and jazz clubs around Ontario.