B.Sc. (Honours) 1970, M.Sc. 1971 (UoT), BFA 1976 (York)
I was born in St. Catharines, and studied physics at Brock
University, with the Honours year of the Brock B.Sc. (1969-70)
taken at the University of Lancaster, England, on a Rotary
Foundation Graduate Fellowship. I received the Governor General's
medal for highest grades on graduating from Brock (in 1969, after
regular B. SC. program). In 1971 I obtained an M.Sc. in
Theoretical (Particle) Physics from the University of Toronto.
After the M.Sc. degree I left the academic world for several years.
I decided that music was to be my pursuit, and joined a rock band
based on St. Catharines, and then Toronto. The band was called
Yenmor Blue, was fronted by singer Fraser Loveman, and eventually
did rock versions of 20s blues and popular music. We played the
C.N.E., and travelled to various places around Ontario and the U.S.
I played Hammond organ. In the mid-70s I played piano for several
years with Kid Bastien's Camelia Jazz Band in Toronto. We went
twice to New Orleans and played with some of the greats of the New
Orleans jazz revival.
In 1971 I began private studies in Music Composition with Samuel
Dolin at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and
concurrently went to York Unviersity, where I obtained a B.F.A. in
Music Composition in 1976. In that year I was the Fine Art
department's nominee for the Governor General's medal.
In 1977 I began work at C.B.C. as a music producer, and have worked
in Toronto, Edmonton, and Winnipeg for the past twenty years. I've
been in Winnipeg since 1980, where I've produced two annual CBC co-
presented concert series for over a decade: the Virtuosi Series
with the University of Winnipeg and the CBC/MCO Series with the
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. These series have featured many
Canadian musicians as well as Internationally-known artists over
the years, and given opportunities to younger Canadian performers.
Over 30 new works by Canadian composers have been written for the
In 1991 I began the "Sandbox Series" in Winnipeg. This weekly show
allowed producers and hosts to make experimental radio--stretch
their creative legs a little. The series was the beginning of
several nationwide series (now "Limited Edition", Sunday evenings
at five on CBC Radio 2) which focused on new ideas and creativity.
I've been involved for many years with "world" music
preparing sample DATs of pieces which would work well alongside classical
music, and trying to encourage more air play of this music on CBC Radio.
Finally, I've recently hosted/produced series of specials and
profile shows on Canadian traditional music-- The Traditional Metis
Fiddle Festival from Carman, Manitoba; the CBC 60th Anniversary
Accordion Festival from Iqaluit, NWT (featuring Inuit button
accordion players); "The View From the Bridge" ; "One of a Kind";
and coming up, a six-part series profiling Canadian musicians in
"non-western" musical traditions (a Nootka composer/singer from
Vancouver Island; a pipa player from Vancouver; a button accordion
player from Inukjuak; etc.).
All through this time I've also been a composer. My style has a
lot of influence from world traditional and popular music styles.
In several compositions I use the two-row diatonic button accordion,
which I picked up following a trip to Newfoundland in 1979 (I also
play Irish/Basque/other traditional music).
I have written about 70 chamber, orchestral, and solo works, which
have been performed across Canada, as well as in the U.S. and
Europe. Several pieces have been commissioned and premiered at the
WSO's very successful New Music Festival. In one of these,
"Dancing on Wings of Fire", I was also the soloist, playing the
button accordion with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Bramwell
Tovey. I have also performed across Canada, including "The Big
Squeeze" Festival, the Vancouver New Music Society, and the main
stage of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. In 1994 I was
composer-in-residence for a week at Colorado College in Colorado
Springs. That year I was also named "composer of the year" by the
Winnipeg Free Press.
Some of my button accordion pieces are recorded on the CD "Spirit
Reel", available from the Canadian Music Centre. Other works have
been recorded commercially by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and
Bramwell Tovey, pianist Shirley Sawatzky, and violist Rivka Golani.
This December 31st ('97), I began a new phase of my life, leaving
CBC to concentrate full-time on music composition, which I'll
supplement with freelance recording and other work. Right now I'm
working on a wind band piece.
On the personal front, I've been married for eleven years to Andrea
Ratuski, who's from Winnipeg. She's also a CBC producer and radio
host in Winnipeg, and we enjoy cooking (mostly French, Italian, and
American), travel (mostly Europe, as well as Bali, where we bought
a set of `gender', Balinese musical instruments, that we later
played in the WSO New Music Festival), and weekends at Lake of the
Woods near Kenora. Andrea is a music graduate of the University of
Manitoba and Michigan State (Ann Arbor). She is a flute player and
a singer, and we often perform folk music as a duo around Winnipeg.
Although Physics has not been at the centre of my life, I feel my
training in the concepts and ideas of physics and mathematics has
been very helpful in the field of musical composition. Like
physics, you could say that music composition involves a practical
application of mathematics: in this case the practical aspect might
be called the realization of abstract ideas as aesthetic sound
creations. Of course there are also dimensions of emotion and
psychology, and the unconscious; but math and theoretical physics
can sometimes be poetic and are hopefully often elegant and
Jim Hiscott, 21-January-1998
More recent activities include among other things a performance of my
piece "Dancing on Wings of Fire" Jan.14, 2001 with the Montreal Symphony
Orchestra cond. Marco Parisotto (with myself on button accordion) and a
number of CBC radio documentaries about a September trip to Kivalliq
(western Nunavut) and Northern Manitoba I went on as part of a trio of
musicians playing for schoolchildren.
Jim Hiscott, 27-December-2000
Jim Hiscott has been maintaining links with St.Catharines, and with the Physics Department.
His works have been performed several times by the
Niagara Symphony, with Jim as a soloist,
including the gala public event at the opening of the CAP'06 Annual Congress
that took place at Brock in July, 2006.