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  • Dean Thiessen

A grateful 2022: 124+ people

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

This picture pretty much sums up the best part of 2022: people. It was the busiest and most musically fulfilling year I've ever had and that definitely came with its challenges. The conflicting feelings of doing too much while also somehow doing nothing at all were pretty turbulent. Calling myself a composer and yet barely having time to compose and calling myself a pianist while barely having time to practice, these are just a couple of the challenges I had last year and I know I am not feeling them alone in the music / art community. Giving myself the time to reflect helps me validate the hustle and grow the appreciation and love for my community. I got to share the stage with 124 people this year and yes, there is a complete list at the bottom of this page.

I keep a journal of all the gigs I play. I try to do it the day after the gig but it is usually a few days or a week later that I actually get a chance to sit down and do it. I take note of the band members and the venue and then write a little blurb about the gig and if anything funny or really special happened. Needless to say, some gigs take up more lines than others. I really love doing this and encourage all my music friends to do the same because it is often so hard to put into perspective how much we actually do and it's easy to forget things in the hustle of getting to the next gig or the desire to always look ahead. Looking back can be a pretty good view too.

LET HER SING - Music Heals' International Women's Day Event

I got to arrange and MD a special musical piece for their event with an incredible cast of talent: Dee Daniels, Dawn Pemberton, Bukola, Paitra Walker, Monica Sumulong Dumas, Jamie Lee, and Francis Henson. An absolute dream team and I am so grateful to Cindy and Taryn (the co-captains of this event) for giving me the reigns on this beautiful and powerful idea.

"PROXIMITY" - Rachel Maddock Then in April I got to work with one of my great friends, Rachel Maddock, on an incredible piece of her's called 'Proximity'. Rachel is a kind soul and creative dancer and choreographer and I'm grateful whenever we get to work together. Working with an artist from a different discipline is such a fun challenge. Rachel and I have developed a pretty good common language of how we can communicate effectively within each other's lexicon. You can watch a short excerpt of the performance here


May 14th was my 30th birthday and I celebrated it by finally getting a big band together. What a dream come true! The STRANGER FRIENDS ORCHESTRA was born. Thanks to the pandemic, booking rehearsals for a 14-piece big band, which is usually a nightmare, was the easiest thing I did all year because no one had much of anything going on. I will be forever grateful to these people and their generosity for helping me get this band off the ground. What a way to turn 30. More videos here


'UnZappologetic' is a tribute band to the great Frank Zappa and was the brain child of Feven Kidane and Daniel Deorksen. We had 2 shows in 2022 (one in May and the other in October) and this music is constantly challenging and so much fun to play.

"Bending" - Alex & Noah Alex Clancy and Noah Gotfrit are a tap dancing / bass playing duo that created a really special piece called 'Bending' that we performed in June. Alex created some truly beautiful and unique choreography and Noah's musical intuition was the perfect accompaniment. I loved working on this project with the two of them along with Brad Shigeta. There was some serious talk of mounting this production again so keep your eyes peeled.

The East Van Wailers

Burnaby Summer Stages was a super fun venue this summer. A new band consisting of Bonnie Northgraves, Joe Abbott, Josh Roberts, Me, Wynston Minckler, and Nick James was born. Almost weekly, we play together in some sort of iteration with different bands but never all together. And when we finally got the chance to play altogether, holy smokes, is was FUN! We played a handful of gigs over the summer and now we go by the name 'The East Van Wailers'

The Electric Band

THE ELECTRIC BAND was a new band that was formed this year. Our first gig was a private event in the summer and that gig snowballed into a few more throughout the year with the first public gig on Sept 10th at the White Rock Comedy Festival of all places. The band is our take on an organ trio with Marcus Abramzik on Bass, Jamison Ko on Drums, and myself on organ and keys. We had some incredible gigs this past year and already booking into 2023 :)

John Korsrud's ABSOLUTE UNIT

My composition teacher / mentor John Korsrud is one of those people that if he asks you to play in some new band he has cooking up you just say 'yes' and don't ask questions. John Korsrud's ABSOLUTE UNIT had its first gig at LanaLou's in June and then almost monthly until the end of the year. This band is insanely fun and I get to rub shoulders with some of Vancouver's rhythm section jazz elders like Andre Lachance, Ron Samworth, and Jillian Lebeck. Our first gig of 2023 is already in the calendar!

Spencer's Dream Continues On Sept 17th I had the chance to arrange some really wonderful music for an 8-piece string section as part of a very large live production. This gig was a good couple months of work but I was so so so grateful for a chance to put my arranging chops to good use in a professional environment and with a generous and super pro group of string players. I remember standing on stage conducting the strings with a great rhythm section and thinking 'yeah, this is IT'. There is a very large chance that this is an annual gig so here's hoping there will be more string arranging in 2023!

Postcards from Zambia - Jason Winikoff

In the late summer my friend Jason Winikoff messaged me an asked if I wanted to be in his Zambia-Jazz fusion band. When people ask you these kinds of questions you just say 'yes'. And I am so glad I did. Jason is an ethnomusicologist focused on the music and culture of Zambia. This Fall / Winter was quite challenging for me in some personal ways but this music was a saviour in many ways that I can't quite put into words.


These are just a few of the highlights from the year that stood out. But I cannot possibly look back over a year without feeling big love for all the bandleaders I get to work with on a regular basis: Bonnie Northgraves, Cindy Dai, Teresa Marie, Georgia Lee Johnson, Amber Tsang, Casey Thomas-Burns, Jeffrey Dawson, and Josh Roberts. Similar feelings go to my Stranger Friends bandmates Thad Bailey-Mai, Wynston Minckler, and Ben Parker for being genuine friends and inspiring people. And a big thank you to all the venues/bookers/community people: Guilt and Co, Tangent, Frankies Jazz Club, Tim Reinert, Tyrant Studios/Daniel Deorksen, Corey Weeds, all the beautiful swing dance communities, Vancouver Tap Society, Lynn Valley Voices, Chorisma Choir, Vincent Lim, and Brian Fraser at Brentwood Presbyterian Church!

And now here is a list of every person I got to play music with in 2022. I know I am missing some, so apologies in advance.

Aaron Lee, Aaron Loewen, Adam Kyle, Alana Lopez, Alex Clancey, Alvin Brendan , Amber Tsang, Andre Lachance, Andrea Siradze, Angela Cavadas, Anita Li, Anthony Cenerini, Ardeshir Pokeramati, Ben Goheen, Ben McRae, Ben Parker, Bonnie Northgraves, Brad Kennedy, Brad Shigeta, Brent Mah, Bukola, Casey Thomas-Burns, Chad Galpin, Chad Makela, Chelsea McBride, Chris Berner, Chris Blaber, Chris Fraser, Christina Raquel, Cindy Dai-Thiessen, Clem Pytel, Cole Woodland, Conrad Good, Daniel Hersog, Dan Howard, Daniel Deorksen, Dawn Pemberton, Dee Daniels, Derek Maroney, Doug Gorkoff, Emilio Suarez, Feven Kidane, Francis Henson, Frank Zieginson, Geoff Claridge, George McNally, Georgia Lee Johnson, Gina Hannewyk, Gordy Li, Gregory Dent, Hayley Bennet, Jamie Lee, Jamison Ko, Janine King, Jason Winikoff, Jeffrey Dawson, Jen Kim, Jesus Caballero, Jens Erik Christiansen, Jillian Lebeck, Jina Lee, Jocelyn Waugh, Joe Abbott, Joelle Lush, John Korsrud, John Nicholson, Jonathan Bentley, Joseph Lubinsky-Mast, Josh Dublin, Josh Roberts, Juhli Conlinn, Kaelin Murphy, Karl Dejong, Karen White, Katie Stewart, Kaya Kurz, Kayden Gordon, Liesel Rios, Louise Lee, Luis Melgar, Madeleine Elkins, Madelyn Read, Malcolm Aiken, Marcus Abramzik, Matt Franceschini, Matthew Smith, Michael Kim, Mike Shannon, Monica Sumulong Dumas, Natalia Pardalis, Nebu, Nick James, Noah Franche-Nolan, Noah Gotfrit, Paitra Walker, Patrick Kao, Paul Lee, Rachel Maddock, Richard Maddock, Riley Poystila, Ron Samworth, Ronnie Swirl, Rory Hislop, Seth Kitamura, Shane Raman, Shannon Scott, Sofia Avelino, Spenser Cheung, Stephen Edwards, Steve Kaldestad, Steven Lin, Suin Park, Sydney Tough, Teresa Marie, Teresa Riley, Thad Baliey-Mai, Thomas Holden, Thomas Holler, Thomas Smith, Tim Sars, Todd Stewart, Tony Kastelic, Trent Otter, Volkan Mutaf, Will Chernoff, Wynston Minckler, Yamil Chain-Haddad.

So excited for another year of making music in 2023!

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