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John Wyre: Biography

John Wyre
1941 - 2006
Region: Atlantic

John Wyre

John Wyre (1941-2006) was born in Philadelphia, Pa., where he began his percussion studies in 1954 with Fred Hinger. From 1959 to 1964 he pursued his studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., with William Street.

After graduation he joined the Oklahoma City Symphony as timpanist for the 1964-65 season and then became timpanist of the Milwaukee Symphony for the 1965-66 season before moving to Canada in 1966 to become the Toronto Symphony timpanist under music director Seiji Ozawa. John performed with the TSO as principal timpanist for eleven seasons. He has also been the timpanist for the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, and for seven years was on call as acting timpanist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

As a performer he has also been part of the Marlboro Music Festival, which he participated in for eight consecutive seasons, 1961 through 1968. He returned to Marlboro for performances in 1996 and 1998.

John was invited by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu to perform in the Contemporary Music Concert Series held at the Space Theatre of Osaka's Expo 70, and during this stay in Japan John made his debut as a soloist and a composer with the Japan Philharmonic in his own composition, "Bells," conducted by Lucas Foss.

In 1971 John was the soloist in Takemitsu's "Cassiopeia," a piece written for orchestra and solo percussionist, with the Boston Symphony . He toured with the San Francisco Symphony in 1973 and 1975.

John is one of the founding members of NEXUS, which began  in 1971 as an improvisation ensemble and over the years has established itself as one of the most innovative chamber ensembles in the world.  NEXUS was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1999.  John resigned from the ensemble in October 2002 after thirty-one years to devote more time to composing.

As a composer John has received many commissions  and his compositions have been performed around the world by NEXUS, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony, the Japan Philharmonic, Finland’s Tampere Kaupungin-Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony,  and many other orchestras in North America. His symphonic work “Connexus” has been recorded by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and NEXUS.

He is the recipient of the 2002 Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award, through the Canada Council for the Arts, in recognition of  his exceptional talent and his achievements in music.

He has taught for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, the University of Toronto, Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario), the Banff Summer School of the Performing Arts, and the Eastman School of Music, and has participated in workshops and masterclasses at universities and music festivals around the world.

He is artistic director of World Drums and has organized and directed international drum festivals since 1984, including: "Supercussion" in 1984 for the Toronto International Festival;  World Drum Festivals for Expo 86 in Vancouver;  the 1987 Calgary Winter Olympics; the Commonwealth Summit Conference in Vancouver in 1987; Expo 88 in Brisbane;  Expo 98 in Lisbon; and Expo 2000 In Hannover. He was artistic director of the Musaïc Ensemble for Festival Canada in Ottawa in July 1998.

In 1991 he created the music for an IMAX film on the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, using his world music ensemble, BUKA.

John produced two concerts in Japan in October 1998, which brought together Japanese marimba player Mika Yoshida and Canada's Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan, performing music from Japan, Indonesia, the Caribbean and South America as well as his own compositions.

His new  book, Touched by Sound, A Drummer’s Journey,  is published by:

Buka Music

18 Victoria St.

St. John’s, NL A1C 3V3


John Wyre passed away on October 31, 2006



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