Nova Scotia-born, Montreal-based, Métis saxophonist, composer, woodwind doubler and bandleader.
Pushing boundaries, specialization in improvisation, fusing-genres and bringing jazz back to the mainstream...
Music has always been a part of Beth's life since the age of 9, starting on clarinet and switching to tenor saxophone at the age of 11. Now a well-known partt of the jazz community in Montreal, Beth has made her name as a rapidly-rising artist, expanding through her music's reach all over Canada and across North America. Since moving to Montreal in 2008, she has successfully completed a Concurrent Bachelor of Music (Major Music Education - Jazz Saxophone - Added studies in Jazz Performance) and a Bachelor of Education (Music: Elementary and Secondary) from the Schulich School of Music as well as a minor in Political Science: International Relations at McGill University.
Beth performs professionally on flute, clarinet and saxophones (tenor, alto and soprano), and also doubles on piccolo, alto flute and piano as secondary instruments. Beth also gigs professionally on her AKAI 4000S EWI (Electric Wind Instrument) in Montreal's Funk/R&B/Hip-hop and electro-contemporary music/experimental music scene.
Beth has studied with some of the top jazz musicians in Canada's music industry while living in Montreal, including saxophonists Chet Doxas, Remi Bolduc, Christine Jensen, Donny Kennedy and guitarist Kenny Bibace. She has also had opportunities to work with Toronto-based saxophonists Kelly Jefferson and Mike Murley. Beth has also participated in the jazz orchestras at McGill, having rehearsed and performed in ensembles under the direction of Ron di Lauro, Gordon Foote, and the late Jan Jarczyk.
Beth continued her composition studies independently into the 2013-14 year, studying with two mentors: with jazz pianist/bandleader John Roney and two-time JUNO award winning composer, saxophonist and renowned bandleader Christine Jensen. Beth has also studied jazz composition in New York City with renowned composers Darcy James Argue (Darcy James Argue's Secret Society) and Jim McNeely (Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Thad Jones, BMI Jazz Composers Workshop)--as part of two consecutive grants for up-and-coming artists from the Conseil des arts et lettres du Quebec (CALQ).
Beth McKenna Jazz Orchestra’s first public performance took place on January 2015, produced independently with an evening of premieres for eight of her original works with her full 18 piece jazz ensemble. She is currently working professionally as a progressive and very unique jazz composer and band leader through development and study with her mentors and directing her jazz orchestra. Her band is a collective of eighteen of Montreal’s top upcoming talented musicians, selected by her on an artistic/performance-level basis, attitude in prior collaborations, open-mindedness, versatility, as well as their work-ethic and dedication to projects and their own artistic growth.
Beth has received a 2nd grant from the CALQ to continue her Jazz Orchestra project and development as a composer and bandleader with the mentorship and support of Christine Jensen and Darcy James Argue. Her and the band launched their CD, "Home: Montreal" with 18 musicians in March 2016. The multi-movement work which runs for a duration of more than 90 minutes, is uniquely inspired by seven locations in Montreal, reflecting and re-illustrating these spaces via soundscapes, contemporary jazz, groove and popular influences which sum up McKenna's unique compositional style.
Beth's writing and band-leadership, as well as execution and direction of the whole Home: Montreal project from conception to realization earned the ensemble a Prix Opus for "Concert of the Year: Jazz and World Music" in 2016. Home: Montréal was also a finalist for a second Prix Opus the same year for "Creation of the Year". For her work on both "START" and "Home: Montreal", Beth was twice named a finalist for Révélations CBC/Radio Canada (Jazz) for 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Beth’s inspirations for writing and composing come from personal life experiences, places, events which have taken place and certain people who have played a role in shaping her life. She strives to retell stories from her life through music, allowing the music to inspire the listener to visualize situations she is retelling or places she is describing, while still writing in a mixed genre and style that appeals to a wide range of critics and listeners.
Beth is a frequent regular in the Montreal jazz scene at the jam sessions and big shows, developing a name for herself as musical theatre woodwind doubler as well as a pop/R&B saxophonist. Her quartet, with Guillaume Martineau on piano, Simon Pagé on electric bass and Peter Colantonio on drums, have performed at many of the main jazz venues in Montreal. Her composition style for quartet can be described as a blend of rock, jazz-fusion, modern/contemporary jazz and groove music.
Beth's unique writing style is one that strives to be accessible for all, appealing to a wide range of musical tastes by pulling popular musical idiomatic trends from the mainstream into her writing.
Beth's projects stretch far beyond traditional jazz. Beth's talent for woodwind doubling has also landed her professional contracts playing numerous professional-level musical theatre productions in Montreal. Beth has been a regular first woodwind call at the Segal Centre for their recent and upcoming musical theatre productions, including the world premiere of "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: The Musical" in June 2015 (Reed 1: Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax). Book by Mordecai Richler, lyrics by David Spencer, and music by Alan Menken. The production ran for over forty performances in June and July 2015 in Montreal. Beth also can be heard on the Original Cast Album for Duddy Kravitz, in an eight-piece orchestra under the direction of Jonathan Monro. (Released Dec. 2016 on Ghostlight Records in NYC).
Beth was also involved as a musician on the Segal Centre's World Premiere of "Prom Queen: The Musical" (Staines/Colleen and Akiva) (Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute), and "The Hockey Sweater: A Musical" (Sher/Monro) - (Piccolo, Flute, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Clarinet). Beth has also performed on the Yiddish adaptations of "The Producers" and "It Shoulda Been You" as part of the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre at the Segal.
This winter (2018), Beth will be performing on the tour of "The Hockey Sweater: A Musical", in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre of Canada from December 5-22.
Beth was also a regular accompanist for the renowned Lyric Theatre Singers, on woodwinds under the musical direction of Bob Bachelor and Chris Barillaro for their Broadway revue productions and full production of Kander and Ebb's "Curtains". As a doubler, Beth has also performed principal clarinet with the Montreal orchestra of freelancers for Video Games Live 2011 at Salle Wilfred Pelletier, performing for a sold-out house of 3000 spectators.
Beth’s fourth year McGill Jazz Combo “The Urban Quintet” represented McGill University at the 2012 Montreal International Jazz Festival. During that time, her sound could be heard on CBC/Radio-Canada in the days leading up to her performance on Scene CBC/Radio-Canada. She has since performed every year at the Montreal Jazz Festival, with Big Band Intersection, Certified Organic Jazz Quartet, Sub-Beer Big Band and Static Gold, as well as with John Roney Trio at the Hyatt Jazz Festival Jam Sessions.
Beth has also been a part of several other professional-level Montreal-based groups, including collaboration work with improvisation together as a partnership between musicians and contemporary dance and movement artists, work with burlesque performers, circus artists and also frequent guest co-host spots on Guillaume Martineau’s radio show “La schubertiade des temps modernes” on CIBL 101.5 FM (In French)--100% improvisation for 60 minutes of live radio time, and has subbed in many of the top professional ensembles throughout the city. (Flute, Clarinet, Saxes, EWI)
Beth also freelances as a frequent invited guest host horn player with the Alex Bellegarde Trio at Diese Onze Jazz Club for the regular Tuesday night jam sessions, for various Montreal (and area) big bands and corporate groups in the Montreal and surrounding suburban areas, and as a clinician/private teacher for woodwind students of all ages across the island of Montreal.
Beth has been commissioned to write for the GEMU (Grande Ensemble de Musique Urbaine - 30 piece jazz orchestra), an arrangement of Martina McBride's "I'm Gonna Love You Through It", featuring Kim Richardson on vocals, for a sold-out Breast Cancer research benefit at the Maison Symphonique in Spring 2016, directed by André Moisan (Clarinet/Saxophone - Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal)
Beth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for collaboration or performance inquiries.