Top brass: This music alum and her saxophone build community through their sound
By Zach Siddiqui, Communications Coordinator
“It was always the idea of the saxophone that really captured me,” says Kaylar Chan, a graduate of Douglas’s Music Diploma Program.
Taking up music from a young age, Kaylar was inspired by her grandfather’s love of classic woodwind players like Plas Johnson. Now, as a Douglas alum, she has built a resilient, self-driven career in the Vancouver music industry, playing gigs and creating fresh sounds with all kinds of people.
We caught up with Kaylar to ask her about her beginnings at Douglas, her relationship with music today, and her advice for anyone interested in pursuing music themselves.
Why did you choose Douglas College?
I grew up in Surrey, so it was always just across the water. And it was in a part of town that I really loved: the New West Quay, a beautiful, historic place to spend time. I still remember my orientation day, and what it felt like walking into the school. The campus looked beautiful, but intimate. Just the right size not to feel intimidating. I still have the T-shirt from that day, you know; it’s one of my beloved pyjama shirts.
How did the Music program set you up for success?
Douglas taught me how important it is, as a musician or otherwise, to build relationships, to open yourself to people. The music industry reaffirms that for me the more I engage with it, and Douglas’s Music program let me connect with so many people. The program is how I met my current partner, at our audition – and we just celebrated our 11th anniversary. Some of my best friends are from Douglas, too, and I still play music with people from school. It’s the network I built there that I take forward with me into my current career and lifestyle.
What career path have you taken since graduating?
Before COVID-19, I had made it to a point where I was self-employed, my own boss, deciding my own schedule. Just making music with as many people as possible. I was performing two to five times a week, especially with my main band, Raincity, which started with three Douglas students. Then, once COVID hit, I was fortunate enough to have been able to reorient my work somewhat. That meant doing less gigging and more creating, discovering what I wanted to say with my craft. I focused more on teaching lessons, producing film scores, painting and recording/writing lots of music, including my first solo works ever. Luckily, gigs are trickling back in now. But we can only wait and see.
Can you tell me more about Raincity and the music you make?
We’re a five-piece rage-funk band. Defining our genre is hard because we’re trying to create something people haven’t heard before. But we make music that might speak to those who’ve felt unseen in the world.
What about this band resonates with your personal values?
Raincity embodies a lot of what is important to me – especially the representation and recognition of women in the music industry and in the world in general. There are three women in the band, and us five coming together… The strength and support of my bandmates are why I’m comfortable with dancing on stage, swinging the saxophone while yelling into the world.
At the same time, this isn’t a story unique to me. Growing up, I only saw a few artists in the media who would make me think, “I’m capable of that, too.” I didn’t experience that until I searched it out myself in my 20s.
What’s your biggest goal for the next five years?
A huge goal we’re trying to realize right now is creating a studio space on the property I live on. With a base like that, you can really foster a community — not just one of talented musicians, but also of amazing friends, all with different perspectives. It’s like I said before: music comes down to the network you build and how you interact with people. That’s especially true in Vancouver, surrounded by a sea, snow, mountains and a national border. There’s not a lot of directions that we can easily take, so there’s this close sense of community. Everybody knows everybody, especially if you’ve been around and have been putting yourself out there for a long time.
What’s your advice for students considering the Music program?
The great thing about Douglas is that the College is always doing their best to stay ahead of the curve. This is especially true when it comes to keeping up with the industries its students are working to enter, like music. And they do so in a way that is much more affordable for young people starting to make these big decisions. My courses at Douglas were completely affordable for me, just from working part-time.
What would you say to a budding musician who’s hesitant to pursue music as a career?
As a career path, music gets a bad rap for certain things, like financial stability. Be open to surprising yourself, though, especially if you already have a relationship with music. It’s an artform that can connect you with people, networks and opportunities for success in ways you’d have never even considered. In the end, happiness is really the point, right? Spend the time you have doing things that fulfil you. And music is that for me.