After 23 years as artistic director of the Guelph Jazz Festival, Ward 5 resident Ajay Heble figuratively hung up his signature beret and passed the torch on this aspect of his life. As founder of the award-winning festival, and in his role as the founding director of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) at the University of Guelph, Heble has put Guelph on the map as a destination for the world’s best jazz musicians and social research on improvisation.
Ajay Heble, Founding Director of the Guelph Jazz Festival. Image from today.mun.ca.
The Guelph Jazz Festival is a three-time recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of the Arts, and winner of the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Starting an annual music festival is not just about the music — it also requires leadership to motivate and mobilize and team of volunteers, marketing, business entrepreneurship, grant-writing and an ear for “inspired and provocative” musical talent. Under Heble’s direction, the Jazz Festival has attracted some of the world’s best to our city and has “delighted aficionados from around the world with his innovative and daring programming”.
Heble is also an accomplished musician in his own right, which he shared at a closing concert on the final day of the 2016 festival. Thankfully, his vision is deeply embedded in the Jazz Festival culture and will be felt well beyond his “retirement”. For his contributions to the arts and academic excellence, we are proud to highlight Ajay Heble as this week’s Ward 5 Hero.