“Uncle” Bruce Skerritt turns 70 in style

Bruce Skerritt

Last Sunday, master musician Bruce Skerritt celebrated his 70th birthday at the Krave Banquet Hall located on Nugget Avenue in Scarborough.

Skerritt has been a mainstay on the music scene in Toronto for the last 40 years bringing his infectious form of jazz and Calypso jazz music to Toronto, to many parts of Canada, and around the world.

Guest included the High Commissioner of St Kitts and Nevis Sherry Tross, who travelled from Ottawa to celebrate with a native son. Joining her was Brenda Foreman, Consul General for St. Kitts-Nevis in Toronto. 

The celebration included music, food, drink and more music by musicians from all disciplines, including Gareth Burgess, Andy Phillips, Iain Green, Phillip Crichton, Eddie Bullen, Ricky McIntosh, Courtenay Fraser, Dr. George Roberts who flew up from Antigua for the event, Tony Pierre, Brian Edwards, Grammy award-winning drummer Larnell Lewis, Bruce’s grandson Kaileb, Andrew Stewart, Bryan Huntley, Dr. Tim Rutledge, Prince Cave, Jeremy Hector and Juno Award winner Lance Anderson raised the musical heat, with Quisha Wint lending her voice to the evening. 

Following his recital of a few inspiring poems full of insightful observations of his life and picturesque fantasies, Bruce, the master musician, shared his other passions with a display of some of his photography and several of his paintings. A stunning photograph of pan bassist Wendy Jones with flying locks, testifies to Bruce’s sharp photographer’s eye.  

Bruce Skerritt and HC. Sherry Tross

Although Skerritt is recognized as a master musician around the world it may surprise you to know that he does not have any formal training in music; he never grew up in a home with a piano. He recalled his days managing the Steeles Long & McQuade music store without one day in college. He proudly stated that his complete education was the St Kitts-Nevis Grammar School in St.Kitts, the smallest sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Skerritt, who is suffering from terminal cancer, says he’s the luckiest man to walk the face of this Earth because he is surrounded by great friends like Larnell Lewis and Andrew Stewart. They are, he says, closer to him than some blood relatives. As to his cancer diagnosis, he’s philosophical – he understands the cycle of life and that you’re not supposed to live forever; “So what you have to do is just to do what you have to do and make sure you do it to the best of your ability because you become what you do.” 

About confidence and respect, he says that if you do not have confidence and respect for yourself,  “Don’t expect others to have it for you; if you cannot be honest with yourself don’t expect honesty from anyone else.”

Skerritt recalls the days when he would go to Antigua and St Kitts to do workshops on the islands. He did the music projects for people. It was open to all comers; anybody who was willing to learn was welcomed. 

About his approach to music: “There’s a big difference between playing an instrument and playing music. The instrument never plays music, the pen does not write the poem, the stove

Some of the musicians who took turns jamming

does not cook the food.” He plays music and teaches people in that way.

About his love of working with children: “I enjoy conversing with children, and when you can see the joy in their faces, when they light up, that makes a big difference in how they approach their school work and, in some cases, their lives. I make sure and cover that as well because you’ll become what you do. If you plant mango you’re not getting guava.”