Mary Ancheta is a Canadian Filipina born in Hamilton, Ontario. While teaching at the Ontario Conservatory of Music she received her B.A. of Music at McMaster University. Now a Vancouver, BC based composer you can hear her work on such Networks as Showtime, Netflix, HBO, National Geographic, Bravo, The Hallmark Channel, CTV, Fox, Crave, The Discovery Channel, Freeform, TNT, and more.
Ancheta cut her teeth playing keyboards with such acts as Khari McLelland, Kimmortal, iskwē, Buckman Coe, Ashleigh Ball, Dutch Robinson, Francis Arevalo, Jill Barber, Tonye, Marlie Collins, Alex Flock, Missy D, and on recordings with the production duo Cookie Cartel.
Mary has a passion for storytelling and the human condition. She enjoys collaborating with other artists and her aim is to help tell more diverse stories through her music.
Recently, the Mary Ancheta Quartet performed at the 36th edition of the Toronto Jazz Festival, after the show, I asked Mary if we could take five for a little interview. She agreed and here is that interview.
TCM: Hi Mary, I hope you are doing well and enjoying the summer jazz festivals. I know many people are happy to be getting back to a sense of normalcy and putting the past behind them. I like to ask artists about their experiences and epiphanies if any during the recent pandemic we have all just come through? So, any books in the works or creating an opera?
Mary: My epiphanies over the pandemic were the fragility of life which I wrote Impermanence about. It reminded me to try and be kinder and have more empathy with people. I was reminded to be present because things can change at any minute. Time with people you care about and love, is of the highest commodity.
I just finished scoring a short film Directed by Michele Kaye in Toronto called Nosocomephilia. I am also completing an album that combines my roots and some of my loves: Traditional Filipino Percussion with Synths recorded at the New Music Centre in Calgary and a live String Quartet.
TCM: Mary I enjoyed your music, some straight-ahead jazz and lots of funk with a great helping of modern sounds, care of your wailing synth playing. How did you come about putting these great tunes together for the new EP, Level Up?
Mary: I started to write the Level Up EP over the pandemic as I had more time to myself to focus. I also think I really had something to say musically. After playing with so many different artists as a session player I felt like I wanted to share that part of my writing with others.
I was inspired by the organ funk of the late 60’s like the Meters to the 70’s fusion like the Head Hunters, to synth sounds from the 80’s. I sent my band the tracks and we collaborated that way initially.
TCM: I have recently found out that you are originally from Ontario, are you from a musical family? How was the musical experience in Hamilton?
Mary: Filipinos are certainly musical people. It’s in our genes – It’s in our blood. My sister played organ growing up and I would play the same songs by ear. I looked up to her and wanted to play as well.
I learned to play the organ and played everything from R&B to Anne Murray, to Bach, to Booker T & the MG’s when I was growing up. There was quite the scene in Hamilton during my youth.
I had an original band called The Misunderstood. We loved Brit-pop and we created our own spots to play in, even when it wasn’t the ideal venue. Audiences would come out to these underground spots and we would play on shared bills with Hardcore Bands to ShoeGazer Bands to Rock bands. It was a real eye-opener and I certainly learned a lot.
As I got older I improvised more and this was some of the building blocks that led up to my love for jazz.
TCM: I see from online research that you have experience with film soundtracks. How did that happen for you?
Mary: I have always been writing songs and I fell into having my music in Film and TV when writing with my old project Transientworld. We would have our songs licensed out to various TV Shows and from there, my interest grew to write more custom scores.
I am a lover of movies and storytelling and I hope to lend my voice to more diverse stories. Golden Delicious, the award-winning feature film I had the opportunity to score, directed by Jason Karman, is coming out in theatres next month.
TCM: The tunes from the new album Level Up are great. The band sounds wonderful and there seems to be great sympatico. Have you worked with these musicians previously and will you be working on more projects as a band? Future projects in the works? Things to let our readers know about? Plans, dreams and aspirations?
Mary: I have played with the musicians on Level Up before in different instances but this is the first time that we have all played together as a unit. Everyone brings their skills and I think it really levels up the project by getting everyone’s input into it.
We are working on new material after our last tour date which is July 14th at the Halifax Jazz Festival. I look to incorporate different genres into our new music such as Hip Hop, elements of world – Afrobeat, and electronic.
TCM: That sounds great Mary. I am looking forward to hearing more from you and the band. I’ll be keeping an eye out for your music scores too. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.
Mary: Thanks so much, Paul. Great to meet you. You asked some very thoughtful questions.
YouTube Video – Mary Ancheta Quartet: Level Up
Listen to Level Up on Spotify