Being nominated for a 2024 East Coast Music Award was a familiar yet welcome moment for St. Francis Xavier University professor Paul Tynan.
As the head of the music department at the Antigonish university, Tynan is nominated for Jazz Recording of the Year for his collaborative album with Aaron Lington, titled Bicoastal Collective; Chapter 6.
“I was actually at work at my desk,” said Tynan. “I got a notification on my phone saying congratulations to a friend of mine on another record, because I played and wrote some arrangements on another record that got nominated. I was like, ‘Oh wow, the nominations came out, cool,’ so I went looked and then I found out.”
This is not Tynan’s first ECMA nomination. His work has been nominated 10 times since 2008. He won Jazz Recording of the Year in 2014 and 2018. Although he appreciates the nomination, Tynan won’t let accolades define his career.
“It’s cool that other people dig the music and think it’s worth something, but I try not to base my career on, you know, winning awards or not winning awards, you know? I’ve lost a hell of a lot more awards than I’ve won.”
Born in Ontario, Tynan’s family immigrated to the United States during his youth. After high school, he obtained degrees in music education and classical trumpet performance at the Crane School of Music in New York, studied music for a year in Sweden, and received his master of music in jazz studies from the University of North Texas in 2001.
“I like the freedom of expression that [jazz] gives me. I get to play music and make my own parts up on the fly,” said Tynan.
Bicoastal Collective; Chapter 6 is the newest in a series of collaborative projects between Tynan and Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and composer Aaron Lington. The two met at the University of North Texas in 2001. Eight years later, they released the first album in their Bicoastal Collective series.
When making their newest record, the pair wanted to try something new. Tynan says they wanted to produce something different from the typical jazz record.
“Instead of going for a straight-ahead, or like a bebop or cool-jazz focused album, we decided to bring that texture and play more like an early-70s Miles Davis kind of record, where it’s kind of funky and textural, and we use that as kind of a guidepost.”
Since moving to Antigonish, Tynan has taught classes at St. F.X. and is the head of the music department. He has led several instrumental ensembles and jazz history courses, but being a recording artist, performing musician, professor and administrator can be a challenge to juggle.
“A lot of my personal time has been eaten up by that. So, it’s taken everything I possibly can to just keep moving forward artistically. A lot of my hobbies and other things in my life have unfortunately taken a back burner,” he added.
Each year, the East Coast Music Association presents an awards show, conference, and several-day music showcase in a city in Atlantic Canada, aiming to “promote and foster the careers of East Coast artists.” The ceremony started as a one-day event in a Halifax bar in 1989 and is now a five-day celebration with thousands in attendance. Notable East Coast Music Award winners include Sloan, Anne Murray, The Rankin Family and Great Big Sea.
When reading the nominations for this year’s ECMAs, Tynan noticed something special: two of the other nominated groups consisted of St. F.X. alumni. He says moments like these are “the coolest thing” about being a teacher.
“We can’t claim that we’re responsible for these musicians. They’re responsible for themselves, you know? They’ve done the work they’ve done all the stuff to make it happen. But to hear people that maybe got a bit of a start or push because of the program and have gone on to create something really fantastic and add something of beauty to the world … That’s really quite wonderful.”
The awards ceremony will take place from May 1-5 in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
About the author
Landon Morris is a journalist from Cape Breton. He specializes in arts and entertainment with a focus on music journalism.