From the prairies to Juilliard, Winnipeg-born bassist returning to perform at jazz fest

A Winnipeg-born, Juilliard-educated jazz bassist is set to return home for a very special jam session.

Ilya Osachuk will perform at the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival from June 20 to 22.

Billed as a series of free, late-night jam sessions, the performances mark Osachuk’s first in Winnipeg since graduating from The Juilliard School with a master’s in Jazz Studies.

He’s no stranger to the festival. Osachuk performed last year at a packed outdoor concert at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

“There’s nothing that compares to it,” he told CTV News Winnipeg from his home in New York City.

“It was amazing to see this entire community that shaped me into the person that I am all come out and support my music. It was just very special.”

Osachuk’s musical career began on a different stringed instrument altogether.

“I started as a very young student. I was a Suzuki violinist.”

It didn’t stick.

His friends didn’t share his interest in classical music, and he ultimately found practicing and playing by himself a bit lonely.

His musical trajectory changed in the sixth grade, when he was asked to play electric bass in the school band. The next year, he was onto his middle school’s band where he fell in love with the double bass.

“That’s sort of what has led me to this career path because I just love to share the stage with others, and I love to bring that collective mentality to the audience.”

Osachuk went on to study jazz at the University of Manitoba before Juilliard came calling. He underwent three rounds of auditions over many months before he landed his spot.

“I moved to New York City to go to school to get my master’s degree in jazz bass, and I have been living and working as a bassist and composer in New York ever since.”

While these days he plays iconic Manhattan venues like the Carlyle Hotel or MoMA, he is excited to return to the prairie city that raised him.

He plans to debut new music alongside his house band. – Niall Cade on saxophone, Kyle Cobb on guitar, Evan Miles on piano and Tetyana Haraschuk on drums.

Who else he’ll share the stage with is anyone’s guess.

“Any musicians who are interested in playing jazz or are experienced jazz musicians alike are welcome to come and play,” he said.

“So you get this really interesting convergence of ages, of backgrounds, of skill levels, of musical experiences that all can combine into this one really big, beautiful, eclectic thing.”

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