Music In Halifax
Is there room for good music in Halifax?


Originally published in New Works Magazine in September 1985, this piece looks at the viability of all sorts of music in 1980s Halifax.

Story by Craig Benjamin
Photography by Kelly Bentham


Bucky Adams at the City Club, 1985
Bucky Adams at the City Club, 1985

Bucky Adams tells a story about when he was ten or maybe eleven years old and the Barnum and Bailey Circus was in town. The circus brought a Dixieland band from New Orleans to play in a sideshow on the Commons but the trumpet player died on the way. Adams, spotted sitting on his doorstep playing his father's horn, was given the job.

"They gave me ten dollars for my performance," he remembers. "They wanted me to leave town with them—Yeah, but I was kind of young then and I didn't want to leave home." He laughs, a little ruefully. "I'm still here."

Adams is a good, untrained saxophone player with a deep affinity for jazz. He has lived 44 of 48 years in the same house on Maynard Street. When he was younger, he played with some of the best jazz bands Halifax has known. Most of the other top players left the city in the late Fifties and early Sixties. "They went on to greener pastures. They went to the United States or they went to Upper Canada where they could get paid and earn some respect." Adams stayed behind.

"I think there's so much Nova Scotia in me I find it hard to leave," he says.

When Adams talks about his music he also talks about his ancestry, and about the influence of a whole generation of jazz players who jammed in the house when he was young. Adams feels he is in touch with a genuine Maritimes musical spirit, with the history and soul of local music. But by deciding to make his living in Halifax, he has had to accept that reaching an audience with his music would be slow, hard work. So far he has had only occasional and limited success.

Peter Power, president of the Atlantic Federation of Musicians, says the opportunities for musicians in Halifax are "great." "The variety of audiences is as wide as the variety of music," he says.

Power does admit, however, that there are more musicians in Halifax than there are jobs for them. "It's a bit more of a buyer's market than a seller's market," he says.

Next: The club scene