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  • Dean Thiessen

2023 big gives and big takes

This was a year of big gives and big takes. At times it felt like I was worried about my hair being messy as I stood in the middle of a tornado. I heard an anecdote from Rabi Harold Kushner talking on the CBC's Tapestry with Mary Hynes it went a little something like this: "A hunter was fatally shot 7 times by his fellow hunters but thankfully, 6 of the bullets were only glancing wounds" With less metaphors: 'why am I so tired and burnt out?' whilst having the busiest year of my musical career.



Let's start with some really great things about this year.


My pride and joy, my happiest place, my musical family: STRANGER FRIENDS ORCHESTRA at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. This day, June 25th, and the months leading up to it were truly invigorating. This was our chance to make a big mark on a big stage. The stakes were high and I am so proud to say that we hit it out of the park. This day brings back so much joy: seeing a stage full of my beautiful friends playing music that has been the majority of my creative compositional energy over the past 6 years and seeing a HUGE crowd outside the Vancouver Public Library enjoying this music that means so much to me. I've thought long and hard about why this band works so well and what I've worked it down to is: Trust. I trust them that they are going to do what I need them to do to pull off my pieces and trust that their musicality is going to surprise me and probably be better and more creative than I could have anticipated (the collective creativity of 15 people cannot be contained or expressed on paper). And they trust me that this music is thoughtful with a clear vision and created with them in front of mind.


I've said this to a few people about that day so I'll say it here to: that stage felt like a rocket ship and I was holding on for dear life. That might be a bit cheesy but I am tearing up as I write this.



We've got our next show in the books at the Fox in Vancouver on March 8th.


I made a point in 2022 of journaling about every gig I did and list the people I've played with and write a little, or a lot, about the gig. This is what stood out as I flipped through that journal for 2023. Please click on some of the links to see some videos. :)


My band DM Electric Ko with my brothers Jamison Ko and Marcus Abramzik played lots last year with more to come, Swing dances are still amazing and getting to play with my great friend Bonnie Northgraves' band and then with Josh Roberts' Big Band at Lindy Bout XV (any time I get to play beside Jen Hodge I know going to be a good time) was an incredible experience that included dancing dinosaurs!?!, my quartet Stranger Friends got to play my Good Samaritan Suite at St Andrew's Wesley which was my favourite performance of that music we've done, collaborating more with my dancer friends Alex Clancy, Jeffrey Dawson, Joel Hannah, and the whole Van Tap Society gang, and the wonderful Rachel Maddock on her incredible creation 'Clear in the River', John Korsrud's Absolute Unit is still one of my favourite bands to play in and we did some truly unique shows this year, playing with vocalist Teresa Marie throughout the summer including a couple very successful gigs at Frankies has been a ton of fun, I got to go on an East Coast Canada tour playing very fun music to very large audiences, collaborating with a fantastic group of string player for a production as I continue to work on my string arranging skills, Juhli Conlinn and Taras Luca and myself started creating a very special show celebrating the life and music of Edith Piaf with big plans this next year, and my quartet had our Frankies debut in December to a very sold out crowd and we got to play some new music I had written for the band. WOWZAAA! I could really just keep going...


In 2023 I played 38 private events, 37 weddings, 51 choir rehearsals, 64 other rehearsals, and 105 public gigs.


Besides dealing with some serious burn out this year we also had a pretty difficult loss in our little family. We had to say good bye to our beautiful tuxedo cat Sesame on May 11th. There is not much more to say than that and that she is still a daily thought and while it is still difficult I am so grateful for the 2 years we had with her and that throughout 2023 I was surrounded by so many amazing people and made some pretty fantastic music.


So here are the 140 amazingly talented and kind people that I got to share the stage with this year!


Alana Lopez, Alex Clancy, Andre Lachance, Andrea Siradze, Andrea Superstein, Anita Eccleston, Anita Li, Annabelle Breyley-Smith, Anthony Cenerini, Ardeshir Pourkeramati, Aysha Dulong, Bella Fredrigo, Ben Parker, Bonnie Northgraves, Brad Shigeta, Brad Turner, Brent Mah, Brian Harding, Brianne Chan, Caroline Lempert, Casey Thomas-Burns, Chad Makela, Chelsea McBride, Choenden Kyirong, Chris Blaber, Christina Gaspar, Christine Lin, Christine McDivitt, Christopher Kelly, Cindy Dai, Cindy Kao, Clem Pytel, Cole Woodland, Connor Lum, Conrad Good, Dan Howard, Dane Warren, Daniel Deorksen, Derry Byrne, Doug Gorkoff,, Elliot Doyle, Emilio Suarez, Eva Ying, Feven Kidane, Francis Henson, Genevieve MacKay, Geoff Claridge, George McNally, Gina Hannewyk, Gordy Li, Gregory Dent, Heather Anderson, Holly Bradbury, Isaac Story, Jackson Gardner, Jacob Zimmerman, Jamison Ko, Janine King, Jason Winikoff, Jeanne Rudd, Jeff Gammond, Jeffrey Dawson, Jen Hodge, Jerome Smith, Jessie Sawyer, Jillian Lebeck, Jocelyn Waugh, Joe Abbot, Joel Hanna, John Bentley, John Korsrud, John Nicholson, John Pippus, Jonathan Doyle, Joseph Lubinsky-Mast, Josh Dubland, Josh Roberts, Juhli Conlin-Weiss, Katie Stewart, Kaya Kurz, Kayden Gordon, Kelby MacNayr, Kimi Kaos, Kurtis Hannas, Liz Eccleston, Louise Lee, Lucas Blaney, Luisa Marshall, Mackenzie Tran, Madeleine Elkins, Madelyn Read, Malcom Akin, Marcus Abramzik, Mark Ayala, Melbert Pemberton, Mike Shannon, Morgan Farquhar, Nick James, Nicole Pavia, Nino DiPasquale, Noah Gotfrit, Parker Woods, Pressley Murillo, Rachel Maddock , Raph Augustin, Riley Glen Skworoda, Riley Poystila, Ron Samworth, Rory Hislop, Ruthie Ha, Sarah Jo Kirsch, Saul Berson, Scott Walters, Seth Kitamura, Shane Raman, Shruti Ramani, Sofia Avelino, Spenser , Steve Marshall, Suin Park, Syndey Tough, Taras Luka, Teresa Marie, Tess Meckling, Thad Bailey-Mai, Thomas Harris, Thomas Hoeller , Thomas Houlden, Tim Reinert, Todd Stewart, Tota Mandez, Tre Dumas, Trent Otter, Tyler Murray, Volkan Mutaf, Will Chernoff, Will Clements, Wynston Minckler, Yamil Chain-Haddad, Zenia Marshall







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