A dream come true: Jason Hayward’s road to professional musicianship

SFU student Jason Hayward looks to channel his passion for music into further studies to become a music professor.

The allure of music had always given Jason Hayward something to dream about. Little did he know that his life journey would take him across the country and even to the other side of the world in the pursuit of something once described by him as a “fantasy.”

Initially, Hayward’s cards pointed in a completely different direction. Growing up in Newfoundland, he was raised in a household that was by no means musical, though he took private saxophone lessons in his youth. Despite his dreams of becoming a musician, lack of insight into the world of the music industry influenced Hayward to not pursue his passion. Instead, he studied business, something that he decided to study through a process of elimination.

“It seemed like a viable choice, since I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor,” Hayward said with a laugh.

But music called to him throughout pursuing this degree in business. Hayward recounted how he would always pass by the music wing of his school during first year; it was then he realized that music could be studied professionally, and he yearned to be there with the other musicians and artists. Despite how long it took for him to get to that point, Hayward appreciated the time he had to explore who he was. It was also then that he learned “business was not for [him]” and that it was time to dive head-first into something about which he had always dreamed.

After his undergraduate degree, Hayward went to Toronto for two years to study jazz music before returning back to St. John’s to focus on performing, teaching privately, and composing music for different jazz combos in the city. It was during this time that he also tried out graduate music studies at Memorial University. But Hayward said that the more he added to his plate, the more “disillusioned he felt with the music scene.”

“It was a time of crisis, on two levels,” Hayward said, describing his return to St. John’s. “I felt like I was trying to do too much and then burnt out, but I also felt like I didn’t fit in. I was too classical for the jazz world and too jazzy for the classical world. I wanted to do my own music and experiment with my own creativity.”

Instead of staying in St. John’s, Hayward packed up everything and went to Korea with the intention of staying for a year to teach English. Hayward took that time to channel his creativity and experiment with electronic music, which led him to remain in Korea for three years before returning back to Canada.

With a newfound sense of enthusiasm for music, Hayward brought his experiences and electronic music back to Canada. Upon his arrival, however, he experienced what he described as a “reverse culture shock” and felt like he once again “did not belong.” Hayward then packed up his bags and went to Calgary, where he met up with a ska reggae band and toured with them across Canada as a keyboard player. This, according to Hayward, was one of his fondest memories performing.

Hayward returned back to St. John’s one more time, this time meeting his current partner in a writer’s group. With her by his side, they went to stay in Belgium for six months before moving to Vancouver, where they currently reside. Hayward is finishing up his post-baccalaureate diploma in contemporary arts, set to graduate after this semester.

Throughout his travels and experiences, Hayward has come to call himself a jazz and contemporary classical musician, experimenting with different genres and being influenced by artists such as Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker.

Hayward also enjoys the singer-songwriter genre, citing musicians like Paul Simon and Sting as influences that have pushed him to try something new and to write his own music and lyrics. With his post-baccalaureate diploma, however, one of his group projects requires him to compose music for a short film. For this type of music, Hayward looks to the likes of John Adams for influence, while taking some of his own elements of creativity to add to the sound.

When it comes to finding inspiration, Hayward says that he draws on many different sources, such as literature, poets like Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski, and visual art. But beyond these muses, Hayward is a strong advocate for “doing the regular work.”

“I am a firm believer that doing the work is the most important part of anything,” Hayward said. “The inspiration will come when you do the work and see what comes out of it.”

Most importantly, Hayward is a big believer in passion and creativity.

“My main muse is my creative drive,” Hayward replied. “Creativity is most important to me, and definitely what gets me going every day.” It is this love that Hayward feels for his music that he hopes other people feel every day for their own passions, regardless of what they are.

Looking ahead, Hayward would like to continue his studies in hopes of one day becoming a professor of music while composing and performing his own works professionally. With his passion, experience, and creative drive, Hayward most certainly is someone to watch out for in the Vancouver music scene and beyond.