It was during a session of swing dancing at the Reservoir Lounge in Toronto that led jazz singer Sophia Perlman to form one of her earliest bands.
"There was a band playing, and I would hang out there a lot, and the swing dancers didn't like me because I would get distracted by the musicians, midway through a tune, and I'd stop dancing and crash into people," said Perlman, who plays in Nanaimo on Tuesday.
"Eventually I started hanging out with the musicians more than the dancers. And the doorman, who also sang there on Wednesday nights, heard me sing and invited me to sing with his band and before I knew it. .. the bar had offered us a regular gig every week and that was that."
Perlman was in her third year of the contemporary music program at Humber College, and that was the year she felt things began to open up for her as a musician.
Though she was involved with musical theatre and was a "really bad" saxophone player in the high school jazz band, postsecondary, Perlman tried to be practical and planned to pursue a career in journalism.
However the summer after graduation, she ended up at a musical summer camp that changed everything.
It was the long-running Interprovincial Music Camp, headed up that year by trombone player and composer Hugh Fraser.
"The best piece of advice he gave all of us that week was, 'If you think you want to be a
musician, you should not have a backup plan, because being a musician is a really difficult life, and if you have a backup plan, at some point that's what you're going to fall back on,'" said Perlman.
That experience was so formative it "flipped a switch" for Perlman, who decided upon her return home that full-time music would be her pursuit.
Coming from a musical family - her father is the founder and publisher of long-running music magazine The Whole Note, the decision was embraced by her family.
Perlman is now on the West Coast leg of the tour she has dubbed "the singer release tour," with band members Adrean Farrugia on piano, Ross MacIntyre on bass and Jeff Halischuk on drums.
Though she released the album Sophia Perlman & Adrean Farrugia: Alive at Musideum last year, the tour marks her first year primarily making her living primarily as a singer.
"I had a job with the Canadian Children's Opera Company - I'm an alumnus of their organization - and I was running all of their outreach programs," said Perlman, who worked with close to 2,000 children in total.
"I was creating programming for elementary schools, and creating operas with elementary school kids, and then teaching their two youngest training choirs, and I loved it."
However it was so all-consuming that eventually something had to fall by the wayside, and for a long time that was her own musical pursuits.
"It started to feel like instead of doing two jobs I was trying to juggle two full careers, and it became too much of a challenge."
However the importance of her work with children still resontes with the artist.
"Ask anyone my age who grew up in Ontario what the 'commonsense revolution' meant for the arts and for music," she said.
"We really had the heart cut out of many of those programs and it's been a really slow recovery. But when the school systems aren't able to support those (programs), it's really amazing to see the way that community steps up and says, 'this is important.'" Perlman brings her signature sound to Simonholt on Applecross Road on Sept. 17.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 students, available at the venue in advance or at the door.
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