When I think about music and my music making, I’m reminded of the Spanish word “mas” which means “more”.
Meaning – I believe that music must possess meaning to be worthwhile. Sometimes that meaning comes from a text that tells a story, or paints a picture, or directs our attention to the spiritual plane. Sometimes that meaning simply comes from the stirring of the soul in response to a voice, a harmony, or a building of tension in the musical elements. Whatever the stimulus, meaningful music is what I strive to create. It must first mean something to me. Only then will the performer and the listener find something of worth. And that is what Len Ballantine Music is first of all about.
Accessibility – I believe that music ought to be accessible and approachable to the performer and the listener. That is to say, the music ought to be within the grasp of the musicians, and listeners need to be readily able to understand it. Both the music I strive to create, and the teaching I endeavour to impart, always contain a strong accessibility factor.
Satisfaction – I believe that music should be satisfying. If I’ve done my job well, there will be a high satisfaction component to both the role of the performer and to the result in the listener. The intent of my music and teaching is that all the participants come away with a deep sense of satisfaction. And this is the final reason why Len Ballantine Music exists.
If there is one word that could describe my life-long musical journey it would have to be ‘diverse’. As a child, my family home was a veritable potpourri of music of all kinds. Piano studies with father began at the age of four, and he ensured that there were excursions in winter to hear the Detroit Symphony, and picnics in summer to Belle Isle to hear the Concert Band under Leonard Smith. And every Sunday there were hymns and choruses to be sung in church to the unique accompaniment of a fine brass band which my father conducted. I soon learned to play a valved instrument myself and willingly adding my voice to the constant stream of four-part harmony as our family drove the miles from Windsor ON to Halifax NS to visit my parents’ war-time friends.
Home truly provided a diverse musical environment, and by the time I arrived at the University of Toronto to study piano seriously, I had already embraced an eclectic world of sounds and styles. It’s no surprise that I simply couldn’t settle into a life limited to playing the piano. So I left the performance program where I had earned a scholarship to study with the eminent Swiss pianist, Pierre Souvairan, to enter the composition stream. And my musical world continued to evolve when I began to sing in the University’s Concert Choir under the direction of Lloyd Bradshaw. Everything I already was as a musician and pianist came into a new light as the world of vocal music suddenly emerged for me as a passion. The further influence of Elmer Iseler and the Festival Singers of Canada sealed my fate. I became hooked on choral music, motivating singers, and arranging music for vocal, piano, and brass.
But I couldn’t settle into any one path. For a time I taught music at Wellesley College School, did summer stock music theatre with David Warrack, played piano for Rita Sward’s Ballet School, was a paid soloist at Eastminster United Church, was the organist and choir director at St. Stephen’s and St. John’s Dixie Anglican Churches. I even wrote jingles for Sony Walkman, the Waterbed Gallery and Cooper’s Baseball gloves! These years were tough but truly incredible as a testing ground of my musical capacities.