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Honorary degree citation - Vic Vogel*

By: Andrew Homzy, November 2010

Madam President and Vice-Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you Mr. Victor Stefan Vogel, premiere musician and key force in establishing Montreal as a world jazz capital.

Born in 1935 to Hungarian parents living in Montreal, he began playing the piano by ear at the age of five after watching his older brother play. He also taught himself to play trombone, tuba and vibraphone, and to arrange music. By 14, he soloed on CBC programs aired nationwide.

At 16, he played the piano and occasionally trombone in Montreal nightclubs and burlesque houses. He worked to save enough money to buy the Steinway grand piano he often played in the display window of Layton Brothers at Saint Catherine and Stanley streets.

Nearing his 20th birthday, he asked Oscar Peterson’s teacher for lessons in piano theory and analysis. In deteriorating health, Paul de Marky referred Vogel to his colleague, Michel Hirvy. With Hirvy’s guidance, Vic Vogel became a talented and prolific composer/arranger.

Après avoir joué dans plusieurs orchestres de renom, M. Vogel a dirigé vers 1960 son premier ensemble au cabaret montréalais Chez Parée. En 1961, il a effectué une tournée avec Les Double Six de Paris et, en 1966, avec l’orchestre de Radio-Canada.

Emerging during the 1960s as a musician of considerable influence and bluster, Mr. Vogel has moved freely among jazz, pop and occasionally symphonic assignments. He has been the music director for many
CBC/Radio-Canada variety shows, and composed the scores for CBC and CTV news programs, National Film Board documentaries, as well as films.

Vic Vogel, as he prefers to be called, has been a pivotal force in establishing Montreal as one of the world’s jazz capitals and continues to be a musical ambassador for the city. He has also helped musicians in Cuba and other developing countries to obtain the music and instruments to play their best.

Vic Vogel a partagé la scène avec plusieurs grands noms du jazz, dont Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Gerry Mulligan, Slide Hampton, Cannonball Adderley, Chucho Valdés et Mel Tormé. Il a également accompagné Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, Andy Williams, Ann-Margret, Paul Anka, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Tennessee Ernie Ford et Michel Legrand.

While stardom lures away many luminaries, Mr. Vogel has remained staunchly loyal to Montreal and Quebec’s music scene. He has performed at every Montreal International Jazz Festival since it began 31 years ago. Big Band music became popular in Quebec again in large part because of Le Jazz Big Band orchestra that he formed in 1968. The band’s tour with Quebec rockers Offenbach resulted in the Offenbach en fusion LP that received the Félix Award as rock album of 1980. After several gold and platinum albums, he released his first piano solo album in 1993 consisting mostly of original material and nominated for Juno and Félix awards.

Vic Vogel considers the award-winning score he arranged for the 1976 Montreal Olympics as one of his proudest achievements. He also has written, arranged and conducted music for ceremonies at Man and His World and at the Canada Games in 1985. His solo and smaller ensemble projects have included arranging and conducting the European Jazz Youth Orchestra in tribute to Oscar Peterson’s 80th birthday.

Madam President and Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it is my privilege and honour to present to you Mr. Victor Vogel so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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