Jazz saxophonist Phil Dwyer will perform with his son Ben and soon-to-be son-in-law Hans Verhoeven (not pictured) at the Lighthouse Bistro on Sunday, March 4. (Photo courtesy Evan Shay)

Vancouver Island jazz saxophonist Phil Dwyer coming to the Lighthouse Bistro

Dwyer will perform with his son on bass and his daughter’s fiancé on drums

Some famous musicians lend their celebrity to causes they value. Phil Dwyer decided to take his advocacy one step further: He decided to enrol in law school.

The seven-time Juno Award-winning Vancouver Island jazz saxophonist graduated from the University of New Brunswick’s law program last spring and is currently articling at a firm in Port Alberni.

He said pursuing law was something he wanted to do for a long time. One reason behind his career change was a growing dissatisfaction with the “radical change” the music industry has been facing over the past 15 years.

“The business end of [the music industry] did get a little bit discouraging and I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I had other things I wanted to do,” Dwyer said.

“I had other interests and law was kind of at the top of the list because I thought it would be a degree and sort of a path to getting involved in different issues that I had an interest in: environmental issues and human rights issues and social justice-type issues.”

Dwyer said it was weird going to school with students the same age as his children. He described himself as “the guy that kept on putting up his hand whenever we were talking about something that happened before 1998.”

He said his law school experience was a little different being a nationally celebrated musician.

“In my first year of school I was appointed to the Order of Canada,” Dwyer said.

“And when I went to the ceremony at Rideau Hall I ended up sitting next to [former] chief justice [Beverley] McLachlin at dinner … so that did raise a few ripples at the law school.”

While he is now dedicating nearly all of his time to his law work – his first steady, non-music-related job – Dwyer is still finding time for his music.

Since returning to Vancouver Island, Dwyer has been performing with his son Ben on bass and his daughter’s fiancé Hans Verhoeven on drums. He said its the closest thing he’s had to a regular band in a long time and that he and his son share a telepathic connection he’s felt with few other musicians.

“For me it sort of takes it beyond the norm into kind of a special zone, musically. You can get where you want to go a lot faster because the level of intuition and compatibility is very high so the level of musical conversation gets very interesting very quickly and that’s not something that happens as a matter of course,” he said.

“It’s something that takes a lot of playing together and a lot of trust and a lot of common musical sensibilities.”

On Sunday, March 4 the Phil Dwyer Trio comes to the Lighthouse Bistro. Dwyer joked that they’ll be ready to hit the stage after after a run-through on the mainland.

“We’re warming up for our show in Nanaimo with a show in Vancouver the night before,” he said.

“We’ll work out the kinks on the Vancouver audience and be like a well-oiled machine for the show on the fourth.”

WHAT’S ON … The Phil Dwyer Trio performs at the Lighthouse Bistro on Sunday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for students. Available at the Lighthouse Bistro (250-754-3212), Fascinating Rhythm and www.quadwranglemusic.com.


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