Musician of the Month – March

📝By Eric Xiao

Musician of the Month is a series of SJAM Music blogs that highlights the accomplishments and experiences of one outstanding SJAM Music student each month. The Musician of the Month for March is Samer Rustum!

Grade 12 SJAM student Samer Rustum has maintained an incredible aptitude for music ever since joining the SJAM Music community for the first time. His countless involvements and accomplishments within SJAM Music truly gives him a spot among the most renowned in the community.

Prior to entering high school for the first time, Samer has always been interested in the subject of music. However, coming from Saudi Arabia, he never had much of an opportunity to actually perform music, since practicing music there wasn’t a common activity. Joining SJAM Music would allow him to explore his musical interests even further and apply what he learned through actual performances; he would have countless spotlight moments for years to come.

Samer picked up the baritone saxophone in his Grade 9 Music class, and it has become his staple instrument ever since. As expected, learning one instrument wasn’t enough for him; Samer’s curiosity led him to pick up other instruments along his musical journey, such as the (ambitious) French Horn in Grade 10 as well as the piano very recently.

After enjoying an excellent introduction to music in Grade 9, Samer was intent on becoming involved within the various ensembles and groups that SJAM Music had to offer. In Grade 10, he joined SJAM’s Junior Band and Junior Jazz ensembles to get an initial taste of some authentic music-performing experience. In his senior years, Samer would join a plethora of musical groups, including SJAM’s Senior Band, Intermediate Jazz, and Tahir’s Peers. He would also become part of SJAM’s Music Council and organize several SJAM Music events, and he also went caroling with a couple of his SJAM Music friends during Christmas of 2019.

Why is Samer so incredibly passionate about music? Back in Saudi Arabia, he highly enjoyed watching and listening to music performances from others, even though they were not very accessible back then. By having the opportunity to not only listen to music more often, but also perform music himself throughout his high-school career in Canada, Samer has found himself an excellent way to destress from school and work, as well as a lifelong hobby of his. More significantly, he finds performing pieces to be an incredibly rewarding experience, as one might experience when they, for example, perfect the running notes in Variations on a Korean Folk Song (personally gave me lots of bad memories 😦 ).

Samer partakes in many hobbies aside from those related to music. Biking is among his favourite recreational activities, especially when doing it with friends. In his spare time, he also enjoys tinkering with hardware like Arduino circuits and chips, as well as coding, where he is most proficient in Python, Javascript, React, and C++. Samer also likes to game with his friends and by himself, either playing CSGO with others or single-player games like Civilization by himself.

Towards beginner musicians, one of Samer’s most important pieces of advice for playing music is to

“have fun and just enjoy it.”

Being able to enjoy what you’re playing is truly what makes musicians dedicated to their craft. More specific to the technical side of music itself, Samer stresses the importance of long tones in practice, saying that

“you shouldn’t sleep on long tones, they keep your intonation and breath game strong.”

Long tones are where you hold a note for a long period of time to practice intonation and breath. He even emphasizes practicing long tones more than the actual pieces that you’re performing, so make sure to practice those long tones you future musicians 🙂

Samer clearly has a well-developed proficiency and passion for music. His high-school musical journey, along with his unique backstory of coming from a setting with little exposure to music, truly makes him stand out among the SJAM Music community.

Thank you Samer for answering our interview questions, and stay tuned for next month’s Musician of the Month blog 🙂

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