Baron Tymas: Concordia and the great Canadian brain-drain reversal
In an article published recently in the Toronto Star, “How Canada reversed the ‘brain drain,” top research executives revealed that our country’s scholarly ecosystem is “better than it ever has been at retaining and attracting top talent.”
We asked a series of new international faculty hires why they decided to come to Concordia. This week, our interviewee is Fulbright visiting research chair, composer and jazz guitarist Baron Tymas — an associate professor from North Carolina Central University. We wanted to know why he chose Concordia to be the host university for his Fulbright project.
‘A great opportunity to learn’
When I was applying for the Fulbright, I was interested in going somewhere that was francophone. I wanted a place that had a very strong music scene, a very strong research scene, a big arts scene, a place where there's a lot of environmental awareness, and interest in sustainability as a research theme. Plus, I also wanted to go to a cool town like Montreal.
Concordia seemed like a good fit for me, because of the music focus and the strong specialization in jazz. Also, there’s the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre and Future Earth. All those things made the university really exciting to me.
I had a very broad, multidisciplinary experience here, which was perfect. First of all, I got a chance to play a lot of concerts with the faculty, and I got a chance to have some really nice creative interactions with music students. I gave lectures, and I got to attend excellent lectures, some at the David O'Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise.
My Fulbright project proposal, “Jazz and the Public Interest: Structure, Improvisation, Collaboration and Fluid Leadership as Tools for Addressing Looming Social Challenges,” changed shape based on new people that I collaborated with at Concordia. One of the culminating events was on November 24, when we had a mini symposium, “Arts, Community and Sustainability.”
At the event, I did a presentation called “Jazz in the Public Interest.” It was about improvisation, collaboration and shifting leadership. Those are really strong aspects of jazz music. I was trying to apply the ways that musicians work individually and in groups, to community. After my presentation, we had some other really interesting faculty presentations, discussions, student presentations of work related to the environment and student performances. I hope that my project will lead to a book.
Coming here meant I was able to play in many concerts. I did concerts with Jeri Brown, the jazz vocalist, who is also an associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Music, and Charles Ellison, director of the jazz program at Concordia, as well as a composer and performer.
There were jam sessions at jazz clubs and I was able to interview musicians from all over the world. Some really heavy hitters come from here.
During my time here, I was able to work on a recording project of original music, most of which I wrote while I was here at Concordia. There’s enough music for a full album. That was possible because the faculty were so supportive. All the people on the record are related to the university, including world-class engineer Mark Corwin, a professor in the music department. He recorded us in the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, which is a great acoustical space.
The city’s jazz scene
My family has really fallen in love with Montreal. The city itself is very rich culturally and artistically. Of course, there’s the historical mix of cultures, francophone and anlgophone, but there's also a rich international culture. I've heard some beautiful West African music here. Also, there’s a wonderful jazz scene here, very different than back home. So I like the cross fertilization that I get from coming up here.
The technology resources and consciousness of Concordia is very exciting to me. It has the first university-level jazz degree program in Canada. There's a certain lineage with that that I think is really cool, and I've learned things from working with the faculty here. It's just a great opportunity for me to learn and hopefully I give back, as well.
Are you a faculty member who has recently arrived at Concordia? Share why you chose this university with the Concordia news team: email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.