Greg Kustka-Tsimbidis, a Grade 12 CDS student from Thornhill, has been playing music since he was two-years-old. Greg has a passion for music. He plays many different instruments and listens to many different styles, but it was one instrument and style that turned his passion into his future.
His parents are not musicians, but they love music and wanted Greg to learn an instrument to help him grow. They believe playing music is not just entertaining but important for the neurological development of a young child. Along with playing the piano, he also learned the cello and then tuba in the Senior School band.
Around Grade 8, Greg’s passion for music began to waver. “When I was younger, I definitely enjoyed it, but you have to go practice now. That died off as I aged. I could do it, but it wasn’t my ‘wow’ interest, I wasn’t like ‘I really want to go home and play the tuba.’” He may not have known it at the time, but it wasn’t the art of music he began to tire of; he just hadn’t found the instrument or style for him. That changed a year later, when he started playing the drums.
The drums re-ignited his passion for music. His parents feel that Greg has always been rhythmically inclined, but never put him into lessons as a child. That changed part-way through Grade 9 when he finally picked it up, “It’s primitive, there seems to be something I can express through rhythm and percussion that I can’t through words. It was a lot more fun for me. I guess it was the drums that kind of made me want to continue my career in music. I might as well go into it because I’m spending this much time.” But it wasn’t just the drums that caught his attention; it was also a distinct style of music.
Improvisational music, like Jazz, is another reason for Greg’s newfound passion in music. Unlike traditional music styles, Jazz works on harmonic progression and a melody that musicians compose on the spot. Jazz builds off of a framework to create an organic piece that is unique, a style that he enjoys. “When I get into a groove, I just feel good”, Greg explains “When I’m playing and I get ‘in the pocket’ as they call it, I feel most comfortable expressing myself through music.” ‘In the pocket’ is a feeling that exists between multiple musicians as they improvise music, in a consistent manner, allowing the instruments to collaborate together.
Greg currently plays in the Senior School Jazz Band as part of the after-school music program offered at CDS. His music teacher, Nick Arrigo, describes him as “hard-working, studious and a true leader,” so it’s no surprise that Greg was recognized with an Outstanding Achievement Award for Music in Grade 10. These recognitions have created further opportunities within and outside of school.
Every September, Senior School music students spend three days playing music with their instructors at a band camp up north. It was there, where his music teacher Nancy Promane, introduced him to her brother, Terry Promane a professor at the University of Toronto. Prof. Promane suggested Greg join the Humber College Saturday music program, an outlet for high-school students who are very serious about music, and want to play with other professionals.
Prof. Promane speaks highly of him, “Greg is certainly one of the hardest working young players out there who continues to do all the work necessary to achieve his goals.”
Two weeks ago, five members of the Grade 12 Music Class presented their Independent Study Unit performances for faculty, students and parents. Each performance was truly spectacular, including Greg’s multiple performances on piano, drums and xylophone. CDS faculty member Steve McCutcheon summarized the audience experience as follows, “What I truly enjoy about attending concerts is when the music transports me to other places and times. Greg (The Master) K.T. took me into his world. What extraordinary talent.”
Greg is now looking at a future in music. He has been auditioning at universities and colleges since mid-fall, but has yet to make his final decision. We wish him well on his musical journey.