A Brief History of Scrap Arts Music, the company
This is a story of a project that started with zero money and an ambitious, quirky dream.
It was the spring of ’98 –– Justine Murdy and Gregory Kozak were nine years into their marriage and feeling anxiety over affordable accommodation. Vancouver’s condo tower boom was in full swing, and rents and housing prices were skyrocketing… Justine, who was studying architecture, asked drummer/composer Gregory, “what’s your 5-year plan?”— a surefire question that sends panic through any artistic husband.
After a long pause, signalling that he’d given it a lot of thought but perhaps didn’t have complete confidence, Greg mused that what he really wanted to do was build and create an “orchestra of invented instruments for his original music.” His challenge was that he didn’t think he had the skill set to design and build.
At that moment the penny dropped: Justine considered their collective talents — architecture and music — and the whimsical possibilities with funnyman Gregory at the helm. High-end scrap from construction was everywhere. They could use this cheap material to create instruments unique to their time and place.
With a twinkle in her eye, Justine replied: We can so do this!
At that moment “Scrap Arts Music” was born.
Drawing from their eclectic backgrounds, the duo began collecting materials and ideas, and conceiving of musical instruments and compositions that are intricate, playful, and powerful — creations destined to delight both the eyes and the ears. Within months, the best musicians in Canada and beyond were being attracted to the project.
Gregory had studied Afro-Cuban jazz in NYC, as well as piano composition, world percussion, Indian raga, modern dance, and metal fabrication. Justine had studied architectural design, and worked professionally in heritage and material culture studies. Gregory and Justine’s approach in Scrap Arts Music was to combine the unlikely worlds of rhythm-based music and grassroots concepts of vernacular architecture.
Inspired by world and folk instruments that are hand-made from “local” materials, Gregory and Justine ultimately decided to create their 21st century instruments from the most abundant, inexpensive and readily available resource around them: Vancouver-based construction and industrial salvage.
Vancouver’s multi-decades long building boom generates mountains of high-quality construction cast-aways that, along with industrial debris from coastal activities, end up in local landfills. Scrap Arts Music disrupts this “waste cycle” by sourcing, recombining, bending and welding choice scrap materials into whimsical, eye-catching and great-sounding, mobile sculptural instruments. Materials ranging from spun aluminum, steel railings, submarine parts, artillery shells, old accordions, and marine exhaust hose are transformed into beautiful sound generators.
A reflection of their unique time and place, Gregory and Justine’s “orchestra of invented instruments” proves that industrial ‘throw-aways’ can be transformed into beautiful, valuable, sonic creations.
Scrap Arts Music repertoire is created for quintet and demands impressive technical precision, athletic dexterity, and adventurous spirit. A next generation of hyper-talented West Coast musicians are at work on the company’s newest production, “Children of Metropolis”. Joining Gregory Kozak in the current line-up is Chris Blaber, Alex Campbell, Masako Hockey, and Kristen Klehr; Jill Cooper serves as swing.
Since debuting in the USA in 2001, Scrap Arts Music has performed for literally hundreds of thousands of people from:
- Canada in the north, through to the USA, Mexico, and Guatemala in the south;
- the UK including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Europe including Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium;
- and Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Macau.
Scrap Arts Music performs full length concerts, educational matinees, masterclasses, and at special events. A spectacular experience was performing at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, broadcast to millions.
Many of Canada’s best percussionists trace their beginnings to Scrap Arts Music, including:
- Spencer Cole, currently in Weaves (2017 Juno- & Polaris Prize short-list -nominated);
- Christa Mercey, Cirque du Soleil (Kurios);
- Scott Bishop, Blue Man Group (Chicago);
- Rob Chursinoff, Tegan & Sara and Bell Game;
- Malcolm Shoolbraid, Thigma (Salt Spring Island); and,
- Richard Burrows, TORQ.
In every production, Scrap Arts Music abides by the same mandate started 20 years ago:
Give consideration to the visual possibility of music. Take SCRAP, transform it through the ARTS of sculpture and choreography, and then —with five extraordinary percussionists— create beautiful MUSIC suitable for global audiences.
Scrap Arts Music… built on an urban dream, since 1998.
Warning: your family members may want to pick up some drum sticks after seeing Scrap Arts Music.