MUSICIAN + CARTOGRAPHER
I discovered The Strumbellas at a cottage a few years ago. We repeatedly listened to their first album, My Father the Hunter, and as the air filled with sweet sounds of banjo, violin, and guitar, I made a pact with the other cottage goers to gather once again the next time The Strumbellas were in town. And so we did. They've since won a Juno Award, are getting ready to release their third album, and have kicked off their shoes and played one sold-out show after the next, each venue being a little larger than the last. With the intention of catching up and interviewing each one of these talents individually, I begin with Isabel Ritchie, also known as Izzy, if given a sharpie and asked to write her name out on paper (see above). She brilliantly plays the violin, holds it down as the only female bandmate in the group of six, and simultaneously balances a second career as a cartographer, you know...just in case her musical accomplishments weren't impressive enough.
Describe what brought you to what you're doing now.
I started playing violin when I went to a Montessori School and they started offering it in kindergarten. Apparently I came home from school with a slip of paper one day and said, "I want to do this, I want to play.” So years later, when I got to university I kind of stopped playing for a year or two, and I studied Archaeology and Urban Studies. I went down a totally different path but I really missed playing, so I joined an orchestra at University of Toronto. Then I went on Craigslist, and went to the "musicians wanted" section, and I just started replying to ads. I had a few false starts. I joined one band where we had two or three rehearsals and then it fizzled. Then, I was in another band for six months then that fell apart too. Eventually, I joined the The Strumbellas. I almost didn't go out to meet them. I had emailed Simon and he had linked a song on his Myspace, and then they scheduled the first rehearsal the night before one of my exams. I was in fourth year university and thought, "Okay, I can't go meet a bunch of strangers from the internet, instead of studying for my exam. That is not a responsible thing to do." And so I didn't go. After Christmas break they hadn't taken me off the Strumbellas email list so I emailed asking I could still come out to and they said sure! That was almost seven years ago.
What is your balance like now? Are you focusing on music?
I quit my job a few years ago and was doing music full time for a year and a half, and we were touring like crazy and it was really awesome. So we were still really busy with the band, but I got an opportunity to do a job at University of Toronto, working at a place called The Martin Prosperity Institute, where they do urban economic research. I am a cartographer, mapmaker, and data analyst for them and I've been there for about eight months, so I am balancing them both. They're really flexible with the band, which is great. So I am balancing these two passions of mine, the music side and the academic side.