It was unequivocally Don Palmer’s belief in my own potential that let myself, as a late-20s self-taught indie art-rock electric bassist, pass an audition into the Dalhousie University Music Department. Applying without any of the standard educational prerequisites, instead having 10 years experience of playing indie rock and experimental sound art, and having baffled his fellow audition jurors with my attempts to play Bach on bass guitar, just as they were in the process of asking me to leave, Don Palmer broke protocol and stood up, walked over to the piano, and counted off a 12-bar blues in Ab. This was, in contrast, entirely within my skill set, and after several choruses and a reasonable ending, Don looked over to his classical collogues, and said firmly “We need a bass player in the Dal Big Band” - and just like that, my career trajectory pivoted to the groove that I work to maintain to this day, studying not only jazz and classical but rather music of all sorts. I learned so much from Donnie, about jazz of course and especially about improvisation, but also about being a musician more broadly. He confirmed and encouraged my belief about how the borders between musical genres were imaginary, and ultimately about how being a musician was to be an artist, with all that entails. He championed my uphill course of study at Dal, and helped arrange for me to take jazz bass lessons with Skip Beckwith to balance out my classical studies. Conversely, Don also went to bat for me when the classical string teachers didn't want to let me take their courses because I was a "jazz bassist" by pointing out that I wasn't yet, and he would know, so therefor they should try to teach me classical music while they still had a chance!
Don recognized my passion for unusual music of all sorts and art and sound and experimentation of all kinds, and reminded me on many occasions to never let that go. He told me to remember that that was real, no matter what was important to other people. 18 years later, to be myself appointed Artistic Director of Upstream Music Association, of which Donnie had been a founding member, was only possible because of the start upon the path he made possible for me. I try to further this generosity to others whenever possible, especially in remembering to take chances on young artists, and to remember to take the time to be surprised.