James Conquer

James Conquer

James Conquer

Master's (2019), Music Performance


“I have developed close friendships and musical collaborations that will continue for a long time.”

I am in the Master of Music Performance program, studying saxophone. Growing up in Scarborough, Ontario, music was always a large part of my family life. All four brothers took piano lessons and sang in choirs throughout our childhood, leading to all of us pursuing musical studies at the university level. I felt after my bachelor’s that I had hit my stride and wanted to continue studying and learning and dedicate myself to my craft — school provides a focused timeline and environment for study that is not available in the “real world.”

I was offered a very competitive scholarship, so it was an easy financial decision to return to school, especially with the recent changes to OSAP, focusing more on grants and less on loans. I chose U of T in particular because of the opportunity to work with my professor, Dr. Wallace Halladay, one of the most pre-eminent saxophonists in Canada. He was very supportive of me throughout my undergrad. I had made great strides under his guidance and I wanted to continue studying with him and learn as much as I could from him.

My colleagues are not just classmates; I will be working and collaborating with them for the rest of my career. I have developed close friendships and musical collaborations that will continue for a long time. Over the last two years, I have played with the U of T Symphony Orchestra, U of T Opera, U of T Wind Ensemble, gamUT (contemporary music ensemble), and the U of T Saxophone Ensemble.

Toronto has the largest arts scene in Canada and is full of concerts, events, programs, and work opportunities as a musician, and campus is walking distance to all the major halls in the city, jazz bars, clubs, and contemporary music venues. It is great to be so immersed in a city as vibrant as Toronto. I see as many concerts as I want, can usually go on the cheap as a student, gig and teach freely, and make important connections for work and life after school. In Canada, there is no other city where you can do all of those things as a student-musician.

If you’re interested in graduate study in music performance, be organized, willing to learn and be challenged, and work hard. There are many opportunities for success at the Faculty, and if you work hard and have good results they will come to you. Make time to go out and listen to concerts and immerse yourself in the variety of musical traditions present in the city. Take advantage of living in the city, working with the top Canadian musicians and the many international artists who come into town.