Profile: Glen Strickey
by Jane Ledwell
Little did Glen Strickey know as an eager-beaver twelve-year-old that some of his uncle’s Sunday afternoon jam-session guests, who welcomed him to play saxophone with them, were world-famous musicians like Oscar Peterson or Oliver Jones.
It may be Saturday nights in Charlottetown, rather than Sundays in Cape Breton, but Glen still plays his saxophone with guests in the Winterjazz series at The Pourhouse. With Glen, Alan Dowling, Deryl Gallant, and Ian Toms as the house band, Winterjazz is in its eleventh season, and Glen says he still plays “just for the joy of playing with those other three guys. We thoroughly enjoy playing together, and know each other and communicate musically so well,” he says.
“It’s better every year, with a stronger lineup of guests.” And the “magical part of the show” is like those magical Sunday afternoons: “We always back up our special guest.”
Proceeds from Winterjazz go to a scholarship fund which is parcelled out at the end of the season among graduating PEI students going on to study jazz. “For me, it’s been great,” says Glen with enthusiasm. “I remember when I was in high school in Cape Breton, where everybody plays the fiddle, (a scholarship to study jazz) was the validation for me, that jazz was a valid choice of career or course of study.”
Supporting students to continue artistic studies is Glen’s professional calling, too. His day-job is as an art teacher at Bluefield High School. “I have a job working with creative students all day,” Glen says. “It keeps me excited about art to be around these young, unbelievably talented students. It encourages me that the arts are far from dying. There are a lot of creative people here.”
He and another Bluefield teacher, Jill Coffin, have implemented an advanced academic diploma program in the arts at their school, including coursework, development of a portfolio, co-op placement in the arts, and visits to artists and to universities with fine arts programs. “I think we have created a really strong core in our school,” he says. “I have seen so many students go on and have careers in the arts in all different disciplines, it gives me hope.”
When he was in high school himself, music and drama were his mainstays, but in university he branched out to visual arts. He credits the late Carlo Spinazzola with the inspiration to experiment with new media. But Glen’s busy life and diverse interests don’t give him time for the sustained attention he needs for drawing or painting—so he found his visual medium in photography.
“Outside my teaching job, photography is what I spend more time on than anything else,” he says. “Photography fulfills that part of my visual art–creating need. It fits well with my lifestyle.” He especially loves long-exposure nighttime photography that takes him into nature in the silent darkness.
He adds, “Once you learn the medium really well, the world opens up as far as what you can do with it.”
December will see him open an exhibition of photography with his wife, Rosalyn. He and Rosalyn imagined photographing the day-to-day life of the Island’s Buddhist monks and nuns for a year, “being on the inside, seeing the selfless things they do all the time, every day, baking bread for the food bank or shovelling snow,” he says.
Glen and Rosalyn ended up travelling for six months and didn’t have as much access as they hoped—but in travels throughout Nepal, Thailand, and South-East Asia, they got to “explore visually” the practices of Buddhism, and also Hinduism, “where it is ingrained in the culture.” Their photographic project, yoking photos of religious practice happening here and away, became “a year of learning what motivates people to be compassionate, through the lens of a different culture.”
Where do art practices intersect for Glen? He says, “I’ve always played in colours, textures, and tones—feelings and emotions… I am always thinking visually when playing music.” On the other side, he says, “Doing photography, that sonic awareness adds a dimension to the photography.” Like many Islanders active in multiple art forms, Glen adds dimensions to his days.