High Notes

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Music can change the world because it can change people - Bono

“The Grammy awards that you see on stage? Those are just props…the real ones come in the mail much later.”

Ron Korb would know. Not only did he attend the Grammys this past February, but he was part of Masa Takumi’s team that won Best Global Music Album at the ceremony.

Masa himself will receive a gold statue, and Ron will be honoured for his contributions with a certificate from the Academy. It’s not even his first. A previous nominee for his album, Asia Beauty, Ron received another certificate this year for his contributions to the Best Immersive Audio Album by Stewart Copeland, former drummer of The Police and 3-time Grammy winner Ricky Kej from India. This will give Ron a total of 5 Grammy certificates, 4 of which are for winning albums.

For Ron, the Grammy experience was truly a multinational one. His appearance onstage received loud cheers not only from his friends and family back in the Toronto area, but from the other side of the world as well.

“Having all your Japanese friends say that they saw you on TV, and people reaching out that you haven’t seen in 20 years, that was really cool,” says Ron.

He also got to meet some of his musical idols, including the opportunity to have dinner with the noted American jazz flautist, Hubert Laws.

While the Grammy Awards were definitely on Ron Korb’s ‘pinch me’ list, as one of Canada’s most accomplished instrumentalists, they were far from his only brush with fame.

He recalls seeing the great flautist and saxophonist Moe Koffman on television as a child, and then later spending his teenage years watching him play live at George’s Spaghetti House in downtown Toronto.

Later, Ron had the opportunity to know Moe as well, and had the pleasure of having Moe in the audience when he performed at a master class at the University of Toronto.

Ron moved to Japan in the 1990s, and said studying traditional music there changed the way he played.

“In Japan I was studying court music, where there’s no vibrato at all. It was a hard thing to get used to because we’re inclined to vibrate every note, so this was learning another way to create expression,” says Ron.

Ron has worked with artists throughout Asia, including performing at the World Expo in Nagoya, Heian Shrine in Kyoto and writing hit songs for prominent Hong Kong pop singers.

In 2020, Ron played Chinese, Japanese, and Western instruments (including backing Andrea Bocelli!) for the soundtrack to The Eight Hundred, which had the biggest box office ever in China and became the second highest grossing film Internationally of 2020.

He says, “I was gratified that they asked me because there are so many great musicians in China. The score was also produced in Hollywood and it was a really great experience working with the team in Los Angeles.”

Ron is also proud of his involvement with High Notes Avante and has been connected with the registered charity for several years now.

He’s seen firsthand the impact that COVID-19 lockdowns had not only on eliminating live performances, but on our overall sense of anxiety.

In his own experiences, he notes that the first time after re-opening that he took a plane, or was in a crowded room, it all felt “a little funny.”

In the meantime, he’s grateful to be performing again, and excited to be part of this year’s High Notes Gala for Mental Health.

“I’m always amazed at the calibre of people that Ingrid brings in,” says Ron. “Anyone attending the gala is really lucky.”

Listen to Ron perform his own compositions at the High Notes Gala at the Flato Markham Theatre on Monday March 27th. He will be joined by Bill Evans on piano and Xioqiu Lin on Erhu. Get Your Tickets Here.

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