Canadian pianist Jamie Syer will soon be marking 50 years as a concert musician and teacher. As a teenager, he was fortunate in receiving excellent instruction in Calgary. Later, he was a graduate student at the Yale School of Music where his teachers included Ward Davenny and Claude Frank.
Jamie received first prize in the CBC Talent Competition in 1977 and completed his Doctoral degree from Yale in 1986. His first academic position was at Mt. Allison University. He was subsequently on faculty at Mount Royal Conservatory, the University of Calgary, and the University of Regina. Church music was always an important part of his activities, and Jamie served as organist and choirmaster at a number of Calgary congregations.
From 2004-2012 Dr. Syer lived in Victoria, where he held several positions at the Victoria Conservatory, including as its first Dean from 2010-2012. During those years, he benefitted from the experience, advice and friendship of many colleagues at the Conservatory, especially Winifred Scott Wood.
Jamie founded and directed the Conservatory’s Young Artists Collegium Program, which continues to provide enriched instruction and mentoring for talented young classical musicians. He was a sessional instructor at the School of Music, University of Victoria, where he also lectured for the Department of Continuing Education and led two travel study tours to France.
Returning to Alberta in 2012, Jamie was for six years Manager of the Sundre Municipal Library. Discovering the new roles of public libraries, Jamie was instrumental in fostering not only books and literacy, but also the Library’s growing visibility in its community.
Jamie and his wife, violinist Laurie Syer, live on a farm in Bergen, Alberta, which has been their home base for musical activities since 1992. For 20 years, until 2014, they ran an annual summer music workshop for young people. “Strings & Keys” attracted hundreds of students during that time, as well as faculty who returned year after year from across Canada. Jamie has performed at a wide variety of venues in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Denmark, Hungary and the US. Together, he and Laurie were featured performers at the Cambridge History Festival and the central-European interdisciplinary conference “Canada in the European Mind.”
Now partly-retired, Jamie continues to enjoy teaching piano, and performing chamber music with the Springbank Piano Trio. He has time to indulge his longtime interest in letterpress printing, and assists Laurie with the products of their outdoor wood-fired brick oven, featured at the Bergen Farmers’ Market. He is a busy adjudicator of music festivals, glad to see festivals less competitive than when he was a festival performer himself. Most recently, Jamie has been producing a series of “long-distance piano duets” with former students and colleagues. These recordings are on his YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq4FQt64NU0p35a6pKY8BIg