Pianist, keyboardist, percussionist and composer Christopher Simmons started his music career in Orillia, ON, Canada. His father Herb Simmons, (1917 – 2005), was a composer and pianist/organist. At the age of 16, Herb wrote the school song for Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute (KCVI), founded in 1792, which was a secondary school in Kingston Ontario, Canada and was the oldest public secondary school in Ontario and the second oldest in Canada until it closed in 2020. Herb played semi-professionally starting in the late 1930’s until the late 90's with several jazz bands around southern Ontario. Christopher’s influence from his father was evident, in that at the age of 8 he received his first of many drum sets and started playing professionally at the age of 14 by frequently performing with his father’s trio and other jazz groups for several years.
After studying drums and percussion in high school, Christopher enrolled as a drummer, in the advanced applied music program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, ON. Over the course of his studies, he became the principal pianist of the Mohawk College Big Band. Like his father, it was very evident that Christopher had a natural talent on the piano. In his final year at Mohawk College, he was hired as an assistant piano instructor. After graduating; Christopher performed the Hamilton and Toronto circuit for several years as a sideman in several groups; including being keyboardist with local Hamilton sensation and JUNO Award winning blues singer Harrison Kennedy; as well as being the keyboardist in JUNO Award winning composer, Rick Tait's Fusion Big Band. He also did live keyboard demonstrations and workshops for Roland Canada and Remenyi Music. Christopher then went onto lead his own jazz fusion group, resulting in live interviews and performances on radio as well as recorded and live syndicated performances on national television across Canada. His group was also featured at the very first Orillia Jazz Festival. In 1991 he was awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, which enabled him to live and study privately in New York City. Pianists he studied with were; Richie Beirach, Lynne Arriale, and Jim McNeely; pianist, composer, arranger for the Grammy Award winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
While in New York City, some of Christopher's performance highlights included; Musical Director/Pianist at the Centennial birthday tribute on April 29th, 1999, by paying homage to the late great pianist/composer/band leader Duke Ellington (1899-1974); at the Triad Theater. The sold out tribute featured New York City gospel/jazz vocalist Karl Dion Dixon, and several special guests including Duke’s only sibling; his younger sister, the late Ruth Ellington (1915-2004). Christopher also performed piano and keyboards at several NYC music venues such as; 55 Bar, Cameo's, CBGB's, Chicago Blues, Dan Lynch Blues Bar, Jazz Gallery, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, Knitting Factory, Leisure Yacht Charters, Man Ray, National Arts Club, Nell's, New Music Café, Oak Room Supper Club, Smalls Jazz Club, S T Bar, Sweet Basil, The Bottom Line, Visiones, Waldorf Astoria, and Zinc Bar. He also played keyboards with the Sunday Gospel house band at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar, had a solo piano house gig every Monday night for several years at the iconic Empire Diner, and did several recordings sessions at studios such as; Acoustic Recording, Imagination Room, JSM Music, New Breed Records, Roberts Lane Studios and Turkisher Studios.
Now living in Toronto, Christopher has devoted his career to music, in several capacities. To date he has released seven CD’s as a leader. His most recent CD “Know The Now”, which is entirely acoustic; features Artie Roth on bass and Kevin Dempsey on drums. It was recorded at world-renowed Noble Street Studios, and engineered by JUNO Award winning engineer George Seara. The original compositions reveal several genres of music influenced by blues, classical, gospel, new age and jazz. The performances maintain a stylistic consistency that provides a solid foundation for highly creative interplay, heartfelt expression and dynamic improvisation. He also has original compositions that are part of music licencing libraries used in media such as, advertising, film, internet, radio and television. He has performed in various Toronto venues such as; Home Smith Bar, Musideum, Gallery 345, The Pilot, Jazz Bistro, Array Music, etc, and continues to be active in music festivals such as; TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Summer Music in the Garden, Arts in the Parks Summer Concert Series, and IMSTA. Performance highlights include paying homage and doing a tribute to the late great jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk on October 10th, 2017; the Centennial of Monk's birth. Also, in December 2019, the Christopher Simmons trio with special guest jazz vocalist June Garber, were featured in Toronto at the Jazz Bistro. It was sponsored by Opimian Wine Club de Vin and Champagne Doyard, and was completely sold out.
As a strong proponent in the power of healing through music; Christopher served as a board member and was on the artist roster with Music Can Heal; a non-profit organization bringing uplifting, live music to those in need. He has also volunteered his time with the University Health Network (UHN) to perform at Toronto General Hospital for 'Music for the Heart & Soul'; as well as at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for 'Music in the Atrium'. Additionally, he has provided comfort and hope, by singing and performing at the Dorothy Ley Hospice; as well as the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy; which offers guests art-based programs, that include but not limited to, visual arts, music, dance, yoga and theatre arts. Christopher has also assisted Soul Drums in team building circles, which inspires teamwork through the power of collective synchronized drumming.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Christopher decided it was critical to give back and worked tirelessly to fundraise over $1,000,000 for symphonies which are dedicated to serving the community through outreach programs such as; online music-education materials that help educators and parents with remote learning; connecting with isolated seniors that provide comfort and hope; and virtual, live stream performances that are still being heard and viewed by millions around the world.
Christopher continues to volunteer his time, and is very honoured to be an adjudicator for MusiCounts, which is Canada's premier music education charity, affiliated with CARAS and the JUNO Awards. MusiCounts celebrates musical excellence and puts musical instruments into the hands of kids that need them the most, while striving to see that all children and youth across Canada have access to music education. He also is the administrator for the group "Late Great Jazz Pianists" on Facebook; which is dedicated to jazz pianists of the 20th century who are no longer with us. In celebration of their legacy, the group pays homage by posting articles, biographies, obituaries, memorials, photos, recordings, reviews, transcriptions, and videos, in relation to everything they contributed to jazz piano.
Christopher is now focused on arranging, composing and practicing for his next record release in 2022!