If you’re a new reader, a word of explanation is in order. In our regular photo contest, We Are ALL Music’s Children – now completing its 16th season – readers identify members of the music community from a childhood photo, for a chance to win tickets and recordings.

Who are September’s Children? And why are there SIX of them?

1997 in Windsor ON.In addition to leading this ensemble I’m also artistic director and founder of a new classical, world and jazz music festival in Ontario (Jul 18 – Aug 11). I’m excited to perform at its opening concert in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy and then on August 9 with the Rolston String Quartet.

1983 in London ON. This summer: Toronto Summer Music Festival, Victoria Summer Festival, Edmonton Summer Solstice Festival, Kincardine, Waterside, Leith, Ottawa’s Music and Beyond. Plus an All-Beethoven Cello Sonata Cycle in Hamilton and KW, and a recording of EMIC’s Mosaïque Project.

1982 in the village of Paspébiac QC.I’ll be at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival in June; then I’m teaching at the Orford Music Academy; solo recitals in Ottawa, Saskatoon and Vancouver later in the summer, before a recording session for ATMA in early September.

1994 in Montreal QC.Dad really wanted it to be violin. My summers at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro NC are full of collaborative music, whether I’m performing, teaching, or going to concerts!

2005 in Toronto, ON.This summer will be a bit of a rollercoaster with projects all over – in Norway, France; and also finding time to prepare (and eat) some amazing food with my loved ones, read some books, and try out the newest ride at Canada’s Wonderland!!

1987 in Burnaby, BC.I will be in Desolation Sound and Gulf Islands, BC, where I study and prepare material, hike, swim, and BBQ with meticulously selected European red wines!

Think you know who they all are AND the name of this re-launched ensemble, now in its first season? WIN PRIZES!

Send your best guess by August 24 to musicschildren@thewholenote.com

Previous artist profiles and full-length interviews can be read at thewholenote.com/musicschildren.

Or — you can view them in their original magazine format by visiting our online back issues https://kiosk.thewholenote.com

Robert Aitken, Nova Scotia, circa 1935We launched this contest in September 2004 (VOL 10 No.1) in an article called Music Education: Choosing a Path. We ran this photo of four-year-old Robert Aitken and the clue ”An early taste for his instrument.” Aitken was in fact licking whipped cream off an egg-beater but holding it just exactly how a little kid might hold a flute, with the kind of focused pleasure we hope to see when children first experience music-making.

It’s kind of amazing, but that was nearly 15 years ago, and here we are in April 2019. Since then in almost every issue we’ve tempted readers to identify a member of the music community from a childhood photo with a chance to win concert tickets and/or recordings. We follow up with a profile that looks at music in that artist’s childhood, and announce the contest winners.

Where we all win is in better understanding the many things that can make a difference in their early years if people are to have musical lives. Some simple examples follow.

In April 2006, conductor David Fallis talked about Lloyd Bradshaw, the choirmaster of St. George’s United Church Boy Choristers. “Through him I became a founding member of the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, and had such fun in the O’Keefe Centre in La Bohème, Carmen, Turandot etc. A very outgoing charismatic musician, great with kids and youth, he was the first to suggest I should consider conducting.”

In April 2010, pianist Serouj Kradjan described his earliest musical memory: “ … my father ceremoniously taking the vinyl disc out of its sleeve, putting it on the disc player, the sound of the needle falling and suddenly, music filling the room. My excitement related to this process had no boundaries.”

In April 2012, conductor Lydia Adams said, “CBC was a musical lifeline to us in Cape Breton, as well as in most parts of the country, I suspect. We listened to everything: Elmer Iseler conducting Handel’s Messiah each Christmas; the Christmas Eve service from King’s College, Cambridge, with David Willcocks conducting; the marvellous voices of Lois Marshall and Maureen Forrester, people I later knew and worked with …”

In April 2016, soprano Mireille Asselin said, “My own strongest memory is my father picking me up and dancing me around our living room to the Temptations: “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May …”


Let’s check back in on a few of APRIL’S MYSTERY CHILDREN

1967, Frankfurt, GermanySiblings: operatic baritone and singer/songwrite. Him: Cosi fan tutte at COC in Feb 2019. Upcoming with Soundstreams’ Hell’s Fury in June! His sister: currently in Germany touring her show MODERNE FRAU. Catch this musical tribute to the women of 1920’s Berlin when she returns at The Jazz Bistro, April 28.

1958, OttawaVersatile pianist with a special affinity for music of the 20th and 21st centuries, and a true “Friend of Canadian Music.” Upcoming with Kindred Spirits Orchestra, May 11 and June 29, performing André Mathieu’s Fourth Piano Concerto.

1975, MississaugaMezzo soprano, equally at home in any outfit. If you missed Barbara Croall’s Miziwe …(Everywhere…) with Pax Christie you can hear her upcoming in Against the Grain Theatre’s Kopernikus, April 4 to 13.

1980, NewmarketA high tenor with astounding diction. In Idomeneo with Opera Atelier, April 4 to 13; Bach’s Magnificat with Tafelmusik in May, and Beethoven’s Mass in C, May 25, with the Bach-Elgar Choir (Hamilton).

1961, TorontoViolist, busy chamber musician, educator and arts administrator. Six years with Toronto Summer Music. He’s at Georgian Music (Barrie) April 7, Scotia Festival (Halifax) in May and June.

Think you know who they all are? WIN PRIZES!

Send your best guess by April 20 to musicschildren@thewholenote.com

Previous artist profiles and full-length interviews can be read online below. Or – you can view them in their original magazine format by visiting our online back issues at kiosk.thewholenote.com

street sign, credit EMMA BADAME“December's child is Sir Andrew Davis. And Sir Andrew Davis Lane in Toronto owes its name to John Sharpe, Archival & Research Assistant with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who sent an application for changing the lane name. Best regards, Pablo Fernandez.” (WholeNote reader)

credit Malcolm COOKIf you were all ALONE (in the shower, driving) and could sing along to any recording with complete abandon what would you choose? The Circus Band by Charles Ives.


I am particularly excited about the concert that I am doing on my birthday, February 2. I am conducting Wagner and my favourite 20th-century composer Alban Berg. Between now and the summer I will be conducting four weeks with the Toronto Symphony. I’m also looking forward to doing the Brahms Double Concerto with Jonathan Crow and Joseph Johnson, Mahler Symphony 7, and collaborating with Louis Lortie, whom I first worked with on the TSO’s Japan and China tour in 1978.

Davis and Lortie in China on tour in 1978. credit: courtesy TSOAny new recordings, DVD or film projects? Due for release shortly is Berlioz L’Enfance du Christ.

credit DARIO ACOSTASir Andrew Davis is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s conductor laureate and was the orchestra’s music director from 1975-1988. He stepped in while the TSO’s music director search led to Peter Oundjian, and subsequently has been their regular and beloved guest. He was then named the TSO’s interim artistic director for 2018-2020 during the transition from Oundjian’s leadership to that of the newly appointed music director Gustavo Gimeno.

An organ scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, before taking up conducting, the young Andrew Davis had in fact been to Toronto in 1967 for an organ convention, and taken second prize in an improvisation competition at Grace Church on-the-Hill, long before May 1975 when he first conducted the TSO.

With a face familiar to generations of Canadians, and a Toronto laneway named in his honour, Sir Andrew has probably conducted all of the world’s major orchestras, opera companies and international festivals over the past 45 years. Today he is also music director and principal conductor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; also conductor laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conductor emeritus of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; and former music director of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. A substantial award-winning discography documents his remarkable career.


Young Andrew Davis, age 11Was the photo taken for some particular occasion or purpose? My guess is that I was 11 -- it was a school photo taken when I entered Watford Boys Grammar School.

When you look at the photo today, what do you think about? What I think about is that it was probably about 1955 and I loved the 1950s. I think things have gone downhill steadily since!

Where did you live as a child? I was born in a temporary wartime hospital in Ashridge, in the country of Hertfordshire, in 1944. But until I was seven we lived in Chesham, which is in Buckinghamshire.

What did your parents do to earn a living? My father Robert (Bob) worked at a printer’s as a compositor (i.e. he set type). He also played in the local football team and was a bell ringer at St. Mary’s Church. My mother Joyce worked as a clerk in a grocery store before I came along, thereafter she was a full-time mother.

Who lived in your childhood home? Any musicians? My parents, my sister Jill, and my brothers Martin and Tim. My mother had studied the piano when she was a girl but she didn’t play anymore. My father sang in the church choir. They loved music but they weren’t professional musicians.

Your absolute earliest memory of hearing music? My mother singing me lullabies.

And making music yourself? I started to play the piano when I was five because my parents figured that I had some musical talent. Then from the age of 11, I not only did music at my grammar school, but on Saturday mornings I would take the Tube to the Royal Academy of Music for four hours of music lessons (piano, ear training). I did that for about six years. And when I was about 12 I started playing regularly with a cellist classmate. I was also a boy soprano and sang in the local church choir. I particularly remember singing Hear My Prayer by Mendelssohn. There was one night I sang the solo in church on Sunday evening. I came out afterwards and someone had stolen my bicycle. I remember saying to my parents, “The godless have come fast and stolen my bicycle!”

What can you remember about a first music teacher? We moved when I was ten, and I don’t think I had a teacher until I was ten, then I studied [piano] with a lady called Ivy Weston, who was kind of vicious with the ruler if you didn’t play with your hands in the correct position. She never used it on me but my poor sister got it!

Do you remember an event at which you first performed for an audience (other than your family or a teacher)? They used to have these competitive music festivals. I started entering these and I usually won. I played with this cellist and we’d do little concerts for an audience.

Where did you attend high school? Watford Boys Grammar School.

Do you remember when you first thought of conducting as something you’d like to try? I hadn’t thought about it and then there was a string orchestra of teachers and former students at my grammar school. They put on a little concert and there was a piece that was tricky for them to play by themselves. They asked me to conduct to help keep them together. On another occasion I conducted Haydn’s Divertimento, and then I thought, “Oh, I kind of like this.” Then I attended a two-week program where George Hurst, who was a very good teacher, basically taught me stick technique.

And right after high school, what happened next? I auditioned for the position of Organ Scholar at King’s College Cambridge. In the year between winning the position and starting, I stayed a few extra weeks at high school to do advanced examinations in ancient Greek. Then for about two months I was the music teacher at a school in a slightly rough neighborhood where I tried out several different composers on them, like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky, but didn’t get a real hit with them until I played them some Bartók! And then I went for two months to Holland to study organ improvisation with a very good friend and colleague of my main organ teacher whose name is Peter Hurtford, the organist of the Cathedral of St Albans. He then handed the running of the music of St Albans Cathedral to me for a month, while he did a recital tour of Australia. Then I came back and started my four years at Cambridge, which involved playing for all the almost-daily services and getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the choir school and teach the boy choristers the music for the day’s services.

Can you suggest experiences from your childhood or teen years that significantly helped to form your adult musical preferences? Well, I suppose before I started studying at Royal Academy I didn’t know about any composers after Brahms. There was a man called Graham Treacher who was himself a young conductor. He taught us ear training and history of music. It was through him that I heard my first note of 20th-century music, in this case Stravinsky. It was a transformative moment in my life. I remember thinking, “I need to get to know more 20th-century music.” I went to my local record store and bought a recording, a 10-inch LP, of a violin concerto by a composer I’d never heard of – Alban Berg. I instantly fell in love with it and Berg became my favourite composer of the 20th century.

Do you remember when you began to think of yourself as a career musician? When I thought about going to university, I went at the instigation of my Latin and Greek professor to take an entrance exam for New College Oxford (which was new in about 1370). I think I did slightly disappointingly in my exam and it became clear that music was the way I should go.


Are there musical children in your extended family? My son is a composer.

How does making and/or hearing music fit into your current personal home life, and among your extended family? It wreaks havoc with it! I travel a lot. But, my only child is grown up and living somewhere else, and my wife is very understanding having been a professional musician herself. She understands the pressures that come with the job.

Suppose a friendly child asks what work you do? As a matter of fact, I have a story where this happened to me. I was about to conduct Last Night of the Proms in Royal Albert Hall and was staying in a flat at an apartment of a friend of mine. I went to go get something to eat at a fish and chips restaurant. They basically had lots of big tables and benches. This mother and child came up to sit next to me – the kid must have been 12 or something – and he said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I’m a musician.” And he said, “Well, what do you play?” And I said, “I’m the guy with the stick that conducts the orchestra and tonight I’m conducting Last Night of the Proms in Royal Albert Hall.” And the boy said, “Well, you must not be very famous…” And I laughed and said, “What makes you say that?” And he said, “Well if you were famous you wouldn’t be eating fish and chips!”

What would you say to young parents hoping their young children will grow up to love and make music? I would say to them, “Give them as much exposure to classical music as you can, especially by taking them to live concerts and opera performances. You can’t start them too young.”

PatLaBarbera. Photo by Norm JohnstoneA full-length version of this interview is in progress, please come back soon!

Pat LaBarbera grew up in Mt. Morris NY, the eldest of three musician brothers: the other two are drummer and composer Joe LaBarbera, and John LaBarbera, a trumpet player, composer and music educator. An award-winning soprano, alto and tenor saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, composer and jazz educator, LaBarbera was a member of the Buddy Rich Big Band from 1967 to 1974, and also Woody Herman’s band, before moving to Canada in 1974. A well-loved member of the music faculty at Toronto’s Humber College, some of his former students, now colleagues, are Alex Dean, Vern Dorge, John Johnson, Mike Murley, and Kirk MacDonald.

Every September for over 25 years, Toronto jazz audiences anticipate Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald’s Annual Birthday Tribute to John Coltrane. This year’s fine celebration was standing room only at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar (Sept 20 to 22) with an additional show at the Jazz Room in Waterloo on Coltrane’s birthday (Sept 23). LaBarbera and MacDonald, with Neil Swainson on bass and Brian Dickinson on piano, were joined by Joe LaBarbera, who flew in for the occasion. And finally, in response to years of requests for a Coltrane Tribute record, they made live recordings of this year’s Tribute for release sometime next year.

LaBarbera family band, circa 1955. Joseph at the keyboard, Josephine on bass, with Joe, Pat, and John in the frontline. “My mother learned bass because she felt left out of family events. She learned by putting a fingering chart above the kitchen sink and memorized the fingerings as she did the dishes. It was very unusual for a woman to be playing bass but my mother was ahead of her time and very independent before she met my father.”Working musicians in your family? My father told me a childhood memory of his mother taking him to a fortune teller in Sicily where a bird picked paper fortunes out of a box – his said he would be a musician. My father was a stationary engineer for the state of New York who started out working for the railway and then ran a power plant for a hospital. My mother was a nurse at the hospital – I think that’s how they met. But my father was also a musician who conducted and played in bands. We had all these instruments in our house: tubas, three pianos, an upright bass, violins, all the saxophones, trumpets. He learned to play first the piccolo and then the baritone horn in a Catholic orphanage band. He wasn’t an orphan but when his father died he and his brother went to this orphanage where boys were taught a trade. My father learned to be a tailor but then he got into the band – and after the horn came the clarinet, piano, accordion…

What’s your earliest memory of hearing music? That would be students coming to the house to take lessons with my father who also taught music in the house. Young people would come to the house with instruments and they’d go down to the furnace room where the lessons happened, and I’d sit at the top of the basement stairs to watch. I’d have been about five maybe. I guess he charged about 50 cents …

Pat LaBarberaWhat was your first instrument? The clarinet, and then the alto sax.

Your early experiences of making music with other people? We had a family band – in the 50s and into the 60s. We played at weddings and parties and talent shows. The focus wasn’t jazz – that came later. We played pop music from the time and a lot of ethnic music: Mt. Morris was pretty much half Sicilian and half Irish. There are pictures of me playing shows as young as eight and a half or nine, around 1953. The family band finished when I started high school where we started forming our own jazz groups and bands. My mother and father went on to work together in a country band, and my mother eventually stopped playing. My father continued playing drums with a German band into his 80s until he didn’t want to drive late at night.

What about music at school? It was my high school music teacher who really got me interested in jazz. He was a bass player – playing dance bands. The school band played for Christmas and spring concerts but then got some of us to perform in a small jazz group, my brothers included. He had this record collection which he brought to school and he’d allow us to take records home, or go to a listening room instead of a study hall. He had Miles Davis’ Someday My Prince Will Come. We’d save lunch money and take a trip to Rochester to buy a record – so one of those was On Green Dolphin Street. I will always remember sitting in that listening room and Coltrane soloing – really affected by that.…

Ben HeppnerBen Heppner’s unmistakable voice, warm and relaxed, is instantly familiar to CBC listeners as the host of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, and Backstage with Ben Heppner, sharing his great love for this music and a wealth of stories about the musical lives involved. Heppner first gained national attention in 1979 as winner of the CBC Talent Festival and went on to become one of the world’s most celebrated dramatic tenors, renowned for heroic performances in a wide range of the most challenging operatic and concert repertoire – Wagner in particular. A Companion of the Order of Canada, Heppner is the recipient of numerous other awards and honours as a performer and recording artist. The Ben Heppner Vocal Academy, a TDSB elementary school in Scarborough is named for him, as is the main street in Dawson Creek BC – Ben Heppner Way.

Heppner announced his retirement from singing in 2014, but still performs occasionally. This summer he will headline the Lowville Festival on June 9, alongside the Lowville Festival Choir, and he has two summer festival engagements with the Toronto Mass Choir in a gospel program called “O Happy Day,” concerts which return to the music of his childhood. Heppner is the youngest of nine children born in 1956 to a Mennonite farming family in Murrayville BC (now part of the city of Langley).Today he lives in Toronto with his wife, Karen.

"I’ve had a very interesting career as an opera and concert singer. I’ve travelled extensively and got to sing with some of the best singers, conductors and orchestras in the world. Now I’ve gone to the dark side and have a career as a broadcaster. I love riding my Honda Gold Wing motorcycle and spending time with my five grandkids."Where were you born? My passport says I was born in Murrayville BC. Very few people know where that is. It’s actually part of the City of Langley these days.

Were there any working musicians in your childhood family? No. My dad (Ben) worked out in the barn and the fields and my mom (Kae) held down the fort with the kids and domestic concerns.

About your childhood home and family life? I was what people called an “afterthought.” (After, they wished they’d thought.). I’m five years younger than my next sibling. It’s complicated but, by the time I was nine or ten I had the house all to myself. My family moved to the Peace River region of BC when I was two and a half. First we lived in a remote place called Clayhurst. But after I burned down the house we relocated to the bustling hamlet of Doe River. My dad retired from farming when I was eight years old and we moved to the metropolis of Dawson Creek. (Trust me it’s not like the TV show!) I graduated from the South Peace Senior Secondary School in 1973.

How did music fit into your childhood? In my childhood home you would have been given away to another family if you couldn’t sing. We sang in church, doing the dishes and even driving in the car. Music was something that was made not listened to. There was no record player at home: I heard vinyl LPs only at other people’s houses, or the library. It was at the library that I found things to satisfy my music cravings.

First recollections of making music? When I was about three my family was asked to sing in church. I practised with my Mom and my brother and sisters all week long. When it was time for my family to sing – I was told to stay behind in the pew with Dad. I was bummed. But once the music started, I stood like a tin soldier on the church pew and belted out the alto part. I remember a solo with the kids’ choir at church: I stuffed my hands in my pockets and refused to look up.

What was your first instrument, if any, other than your own voice? I started playing trumpet in seventh grade and made my way to the lower-sounding instruments French horn and euphonium.

Do you remember seeing an orchestra for the first time? An opera? I remember standing in front of the TV and imitating the conductor. Remember – I grew up in Dawson Creek – so there were no shows to see. Quite frankly I detested opera. It wasn’t until I started to train at the U of T Opera School that I started to like it.

Do you remember thinking you’d do something else? After the policeman/fireman stage I thought of being a minister. That’s why I went to theological school first. After a year of theology in Regina I mounted my campaign to conquer the world from the University of BC. I thought I would be a high school music teacher.

How did music fit into your own children’s lives? We sang a lot – like when I was growing up. I made the kids take piano lessons and we encouraged any type of music they liked. Country music is forbidden, however.

Does teaching/mentoring fit into your current musical life? No. I did a year subbing in for a sabbatical leave at McGill. I had fun with the students but didn’t feel the urge to do more.

Where does making / hearing music fit into your current personal and family life at home and in your community? A couple of times a year we have a community get-together and sing. Christmas carols and hymns are the main thing.

If you were driving ALONE and could sing along to ANY recording, what would you choose? Something by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

Back to top