“I decided to try New York. I wanted to get uncomfortable.”
Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Bria Skonberg is a star by any measure: The New York Times dubbed her “the shining hope of hot jazz,” and The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded her first release on Sony Masterworks, Bria, the Juno Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year.
Skonberg took up trumpet in grade seven, encouraged that her hometown of Chilliwack had a Dixieland Jazz Festival that incorporated local youth. She went on to study jazz trumpet at Capilano University and train vocally with Vancouver jazz luminaries Kate Hammett-Vaughan and Mary Jo Bischoff.
“After being featured with the Dal Richards Orchestra at the 2010 Olympics, I decided to try New York. It was the most challenging thing I could do. I wanted to get uncomfortable.” Since hitting the Big Apple, Skonberg has racked up accolades aplenty, including a Swing! Award from Jazz at Lincoln Center and recognition by DownBeat and Hot House magazines.
Skonberg draws inspiration from hot swing era players such as Charlie Shavers and Clark Terry, “and trumpeters who were also vocalists: Chet Baker (his voice was so consistent on both instruments), Louis Armstrong, Valaida Snow, and a lot of great singer-trumpeter combos like Anita O’Day with Roy Eldridge, and Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown.”
Her 2017 itinerary includes the Toronto and Montreal Jazz Festivals, plus dates across the U.S., France, Hungary, and Scotland, with regular stops in British Columbia to visit family and dip back into what she calls Vancouver’s “spirited jazz scene.”
“I hope to return home to the Vancouver Jazz Festival, Capilano U, and my high school band’s 20th anniversary in 2018. We’re planning a big party!”
Jerry Wasserman is an actor, critic, emeritus
professor of English and theatre at UBC, and
editor of Modern Canadian Plays. He is editor
and producer of Vancouverplays.com.