January 08, 2015
Name and hometown: Chad Schroter-Gillespie. I’m from Calgary but I also lived on Vancouver Island for seven and a half years, so that also has a big place in my heart.
How and when did you become involved in music?[When I was young], I played hockey but I was also really interested in music because my dad was a musician and he was always playing piano around the house. My parents said I wouldn’t be able to do both because it was too expensive, so my dad asked: “Which would you prefer?” I had to pick between music and hockey. I hummed and hawed about it and then one morning I came into his room and I said “It’s going to be guitar,” and he smiled and shook my hand. It felt like the right decision.
Do you regret not playing hockey?
No! I still play outdoor hockey all the time. It’s great! My body is probably in better shape from not getting beat up.
What instruments do you play?
Guitar is my main instrument right now. I started playing when I was 12 and stopped when I was 18 at which time I started playing drums. I played drums for seven years. I went to school for it and toured as well. When I moved back to Calgary, I started playing guitar again, because I didn’t have a quiet place to practice drums.
So, you went to school for drums? Why don’t you tell me a bit about your education background?
I have diploma in jazz performance from Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, BC and then I went on to do a degree in digital media at the same university.
What do you do at the National Music Centre?
I was originally hired as a musician educator, which I absolutely love, and then I started doing some video production. I do a lot of videos for different departments. I also work events and Guitar Club.
What is your favourite part of the job?
They are all rewarding in different ways. I always like to feel that I have a new challenge and things aren’t stagnant, so it’s really nice to have the diversity of the different jobs. They all inspire me in different ways and I really feed off that.
How does working with kids inspire you?
In so many ways! It brings so much joy into your life to be the person that opens a window of possibilities to students about what music is and what they can do with music. I think about the teachers that did that for me, so it means a lot to me to give back in that way. On numerous occasions, kids come up to you and say “This is the best day of my life!” How can that not put a giant smile on your face? It’s great!
Why is learning through music important?
I think of it like three-dimensional learning. It helps you experience and understand things in a more holistic way. You see it with the students when they are experiencing concepts about science but through music. You can see the light bulbs going off. It feels like much deeper learning in a more meaningful way.
You mentioned you work with Guitar Club, which is a free after-school program that teaches teens to play guitar. What is a Guitar Club memorable moment?
I don’t know if I have a specific moment, but the thing I love about Guitar Club is that it connects people with other musicians. I think a big mistake a lot of musicians make is that they don’t leave their bedroom when they are practicing; they can be great players, but they don’t know how to play with other people. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen Guitar Club bridge that gap, which is exciting. We are starting to see people who are starting bands and making music together.[In Guitar Club] there are a lot of students who haven’t found a lot of success in their lives and Guitar Club has shown them they can accomplish something, especially when they perform on Gig Night. That’s a really valuable experience for them.
You also mentioned that you create videos for NMC. Is there one you enjoyed working on the most?
I really liked working on the video with Gotye and Nick Launay. I always read Nick Launay’s name on album covers when I was growing up, so t0 meet him was really cool. Also, it was great to meet Gotye, someone that just won three Grammys. He was humble and a really smart person, a creative spirit. I felt grateful to be able to capture his experience and his process.
What is your favourite object in the collection and why?
I love the Hammond organ. My dad played one when I was a kid, so I have good childhood memories of it. I remember when you started it up, it sounded like a spaceship.
I also really love the giant music box (Symphonion). It has a really nice, rich sound to it, and it’s just such a cool invention.
What song do you have on your playlist that would surprise even your closest friend?
The odd time a Top 40 hit will catch your attention…Katy Perry’s “Roar.” I had a lot of Guitar Club students that wanted to learn that one. I heard it the other day on a large stereo, and it has a huge sound. I gotta give credit where credit is due.
What is your favourite music venue?
I really like seeing music at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. It has great sound and it’s a good atmosphere.
In terms of playing, it’s always fun playing on Saturday afternoons at the Ship and Anchor. There is a really fun, positive vibe and it’s the weekend so everyone is in a good mood.
Tell me about a time you had to perform in front of an audience. What happened?
My first performance in front of people was in high school at the battle of the bands at Western Canada High School. There was an overwhelmingly positive response. That was the first time that validated that I was doing the right thing.
I really love playing in smaller venues. There was a venue called the Corner Lounge in Nanaimo and I used to play there a lot with my reggae band. It [the stage] was so small that the bass player would be right over my shoulder. But we always played so great because we were all so close together. I’d look up and we’d both be smiling away having the time of our lives.
Playing in the Salmon Arm Blues and Roots Festival was really fun because it was big energy and was the next level of musicianship, so for me that was a point of achievement musically, to know that I could perform to an audience of 2,000 people.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
Well, I won most enthusiastic dancer in high school. The guys didn’t want to dance in gym class, so my friend and I just jumped in. They invented an award for me, and do note that it is most enthusiastic, not best dancer.