You can thank her Swedish grandmother for Monik Nordine’s passion for music.
“My grandmother bought me an accordion when I was nine. I think one of my dad’s flaky friends sold it to her, much to my parent’s horror,” says the jazz musician. “I loved it! The sound that came out of it! I taught myself to read music and I wouldn’t stop.”
She loved the squeezebox so much that she would hide it in the car before family road trips.
“I would stash it in the car when we went on camping trips and would wait until we had gone too far to turn around and I would pull it out and start playing it in the car,” she says with a laugh.
The accordion led to the piano which led to the saxophone in Grade 6 band.
“Once I started band in Grade 6, I picked the saxophone. My dad was a big jazz fan and I grew up listening to Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden – those are my two favourites.”
Nordine, who grew up on Salt Spring Island, still keeps in touch with high school band teacher Wilf Davies, who she remembers organizing the Gulf Islands Secondary school band to play in the Victoria Day Parade. “We weren’t a marching band and he tried to get us to march – it was just awful,” she laughs.
Davies eventually found a truck, bolted music stands to the base and ran a P.A. system powered by a generator. “Then we just had to play louder than the generator. It was such good fun.”
Nordine, who now lives in Victoria, still meets up with Davies, who has retired to Sidney, each year and the two watch the parade together.
“Wilf gave me the opportunity to play. We went to workshops, festivals in Port Alberni and Nanaimo. Back then, there was funding for all of that stuff, we travelled with the band on trips to Oregon and Washington State, took part in festivals on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.”
She graduated in 1984 and quickly crossed the water to Vancouver.
“I first started gigging in Vancouver after high school. In the early 80’s there were not many jazz programs. Jazz education has blossomed since that time,” says Nordine, who now teaches at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.
Nordine attended Vancouver Community College and studied saxophone with David Branter. “In Vancouver I met great musicians, started having jam sessions and working with amazing musicians.”
She eventually completed a Masters Degree at McGill University, worked with a variety of jazz musicians and began composing her own music.
“It was an exciting time, there were incredible players, active energy and late-night sessions. We’d go to (Gastown’s) Classical Joint at all hours and just play.”
Returning to Salt Spring in 2000, she organized and is the artistic director of the Salt Spring Jazz Festival. Nordine moved to Saanich in 2013 and along with teaching at the conservatory runs the Victoria Jazz Orchestra and recently formed a jazz trio with pianist Brent Jarvis, and bassist Bruce Meikle. The Monik Nordine Trio performs at Hermann’s Jazz Club, 753 View St., on May 24 at 7:30pm.
There will, however, be no accordion.
“I still have one. I pull it out and try to play jazz standards on it and my family hates it. It’s hard to play certain chords, you have to make all these contortions – it’s hilarious. I don’t play in public though,” she laughs.