Toronto-based musician Shannon Graham has played many parts throughout her life: classical violist, jazz saxophonist, experimental composer, pop singer, and chamber-jazz concert presenter. Throughout her career she aims to continue blurring the lines between musical genres and what is considered art and entertainment. She believes that good music can connect people by provoking empathy, insight, and catharsis.
Shannon’s passionate and high energy tenor saxophone performance style has made her a busy performer in the pop and world music scenes. She has been contributing her compositional voice to Toronto’s creative music and new music communities for several years. Her music, influenced by a background of training in both jazz and classical music (as well as a life-long love of pop music), has been performed in the Spectrum Music series, and commissioned by Toronto musicians from both communities.
Her second record Modus Tollens (released February 2017) explores simple and sincere compositions for saxophone and piano. Based on the syllogism for “denying the consequent”, the term Modus Tollens becomes a metaphor for challenging one’s initial assumptions, especially those that we make about art music and ourselves.
In 2015 Shannon co-founded the chamber-jazz saxophone quartet Dialectica with fellow composer Javier Vazquez. With equal parts jazz-trained and classically-trained saxophonists, Dialectica attempts to find an aesthetic truth through the discourse of these two musical points of view, akin to the Dialectic method of philosophy found in Plato’s Socratic Dialogues.
She is the Managing Artistic Director of Spectrum Music- a composers collective that provides a concert-hall home to Toronto’s chamber-jazz scene. With a sound unlike any other concert series, Spectrum’s mix of classical, jazz, pop, and world music has propelled them into their 6th year of programming this adventurous and meaningful new Canadian music.
Shannon performs frequently in various cover bands and tribute shows by JV Music, specializing in R&B, soul, rock, salsa and Latin, and Top-40, throughout venues and private events in the GTA and casinos in the USA.
In 2013 she released a debut record of original music. “Shannon Graham and The Storytellers” features a ten person chamber-jazz ensemble performing wacky and whimsical programmatic music. She performed with The Storytellers throughout Toronto, most notably at The Music Gallery, Hart House Great Hall, and The Rex. Her CD launch performance at Gallery 345 was selected as one of that year’s TDJ special projects. Later that year, she was awarded a professional development grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to study composition with Roger Bergs.
In 2011, Shannon completed her Bachelors of Music in jazz performance at the University of Toronto, where she won the Alumni Music Association award for two consecutive years and studied saxophone with Alex Dean. That year she attended the Banff International Workshop for Jazz and Creative Music.
Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, she earned a diploma in performance from Grant MacEwan University in 2008 and was recognized with the Rawlco Radio award and CARAS Fred Sherrat award. Shannon has an extensive background in classical viola study and played in the Edmonton Youth Orchestra for several years. She was one of the original members of Edmonton’s Kamara String Quartet.