Music Issue: Finding a better fit on a different stage

Editor’s note: As the Juno Awards 2013 prepare to celebrate the best of Canadian music this weekend, Western Journalism students help us celebrate the best in Western Music. Read the full Music Issue.

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“If Bob Dylan did it, I could do it.”

Western Music professor Jay Hodgson knew a modest voice was not going to stop him from pursuing a career in music. However, his initial desire to become a singer has led him to a more fulfilling career path. In addition to teaching at the Don Wright Faculty of Music, Hodgson is also a noted record producer.

“Producing music is joyful and manic,” he said sweeping back his shoulder-length blonde hair. “People give me their songs and my job is to balance the sound quality. It’s a high pressure job but it’s cool.”

Hodgson attended the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto at the age of six. He studied classical music to please his parents, but knew he was more interested in the rock ‘n’ roll genre. His eventual decision to pursue a career as a rock singer worried his mother.

“I remember her crying, asking me how I was going to make a living out of this,” he said.

Hodgson enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., when he was 18. He formed his own band while at Berklee and released an album. However, his experience as a singer was different than the one he had envisioned.

“I didn’t like performing. I hated it,” he said.

Berklee emphasized music performance which meant there was little opportunity for “book learning,” Hodgson said. He missed being in a traditional learning environment.

So, Hodgson returned to Canada where he completed a master’s degree in music criticism at McMaster University in 2002 and a doctoral degree in music at the University of Alberta in 2006. That same year, he joined Western as a faculty member and began teaching record production. While at Western, Hodgson created the Jedi Mastering production company and produced music for artists such as Ritchie Hawtin and Noah Pred.

Pursuing a career as a music producer can be daunting. Hodgson struggled to balance his passion for music with his personal life. He has learned to schedule consistent breaks in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Making music can lead to an unhealthy fascination. It gives you a buzz and you become addicted to it,” he said.

Fellow colleague Norma Coates praised Hodgson’s commitment to sharing his knowledge about music with his students. Coates has known Hodgson for six years.

“Western is really lucky to have him,” she said.

Western isn’t the only place where Hodgson’s musical genius is making an impact. Hodgson has produced songs for artists from Berlin, Japan, and most recently a hip hop group from Sierra Leone.

“I’m still amazed by the fact that there’s a hip hop group from Sierra Leone that wants to work with Jay Hodgson from London, Ont. That’s cool,” he said with a hearty chuckle.

While record labels from around the world work with Hodgson on different projects, he feels more thrilled when alumni students want him to produce their music.

Amanda Lewis, a PhD student in musicology, found a valuable mentor in Hodgson. His passion keeps her focused on being a student as well as a musician, she explained.

“The best advice Jay has given me is to never stop making music,” said Lewis.

The benefits for Hodgson don’t come from winning awards. His passion for music helped him build a career that gave him the opportunity to earn a living as a professor and pursue his interest as a record producer.

“The most meaningful experience is when I’m collaborating with my buddy on a record and we connect through music,” Hodgson said. “That is really cool.”