A passion can find you when you least expect it.
In the 1950s, when Sooke resident Al Pease was about 15 years old, he showed up to school early and heard some sounds coming from the gymnasium, so he decided to check it out.
When he walked in, Pease couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“These three guys, who were probably a little older than me, were playing bass, piano and clarinet, I believe. They were playing some old tunes like Benny Goodman and I thought ‘holy moly, that sounds great’, I just loved it,” said Pease.
That’s when Pease knew he wanted to learn the clarinet.
“I asked the guy on clarinet, ‘Hey who gives you lessons,’ and he must have not wanted any competition or something because he wouldn’t tell me who. But I ran home after school and told my mom I wanted to take lessons, and we tracked down the teacher anyways,” chuckled Pease.
“He was a really talented guy who used to play for the Vancouver symphony.”
Pease was hooked, and after graduating from high school got a job playing in a band for the Royal Canadian Air force, where he worked for 27 years. He travelled all over the world playing with the air force, some of his favourite tours being in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji.
“We played in parades, concerts, sometimes for Disney on Ice, all sorts of things,” said Pease. “We got to back up some pretty big names as well. I remember one time we played with Barbra Streisand in a nightclub in Winnipeg.”
Now 81 years old, Pease has been playing music for more than 65 years, learning how to also play saxophone and flute along the way.
After leaving the air force, Pease played and toured with multiple jazz bands, including CanUS throughout the 1990s and Dixieland Express in the 1980s, both of which he still plays with today.
“I don’t know what I’d do without music. Life would be awful,” said Pease. “I’m always listening to something. I love classical music, jazz, and traditional swing.”
Pease has lived in Sooke for the last 12 years, and when he first moved he wanted to take a break from playing, but couldn’t stay away.
Now he often plays shows with local bands at Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria with CanUS and Dixieland Express.
“Our lineup of musicians started out as a quartet but finally morphed into the six-piece group that we are to today,” said Toni Blodgett, founder of CanUS in a press release.
“One of the additions is legendary Sooke musician Al Pease, who is treasured by a variety of groups of all ages, which he still performs with locally.”
Pease said his goal as a musician now is to play for as long as he can, because it’s what brings him joy.
“I was lucky enough to make a living at it, and I feel very fortunate that I’m still doing it. Often times I’m the oldest guy in the band,” laughed Pease. “I just love music, it’s what keeps me going.”
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