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Retired lawyer organizes fundraising jazz concert for cancer research

Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 12:10 PM | By Carolyn Gruske

A first glance, it would appear that jazz musicians from North America and South America, the bankruptcy and insolvency law community and a rare cancer have nothing in common with each other, but because of the efforts of a retired lawyer, they’re absolutely linked.

Steven Golick

Steven Golick

On Nov. 9, a jazz concert at the Toronto Centre for the Arts will serve as a fundraiser for cancer research. The event will also be used to present a lifetime achievement award to Janis Sarra, a University of British Columbia professor who not only holds the title of presidential distinguished professor at UBC but who is also co-author of Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law of Canada and The 2017 Annotated Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, and founder of the Annual Review of Insolvency Law conference.

The organizer behind the event, which is called Chords for Chordoma, is Steven Golick.

Before retiring, Golick spent most of his career at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP where he was a partner in addition to being the former chair of the insolvency and restructuring group. Golick is also a professional musician who played keyboards in a variety of rock, pop, funk, disco and jazz groups. In addition to that, Golick is a survivor of a very rare form of cancer known as chordoma.

According to Golick, chordoma occurs in roughly one in one million people.

“It’s a cancer that comes from something we know comes from the notochord, which is the prenatal spinal cord. In a very small percentage of the population, for some reason it grows in the skull or the spine. Usually it’s a very slow growing cancer, at least when it first grows,” he said, explaining that surgery is the standard treatment, although sometimes a follow-up radiation treatment is also prescribed.

Golick’s tumour was in his skull. And while he has passed his five-year cancer-free anniversary, the odds are the cancer will return in the future.

In researching the disease, Golick encountered a U.S.-based not-for-profit foundation that was working on chordoma research. He developed ties with the foundation and put together a fundraising concert in New York on behalf of the foundation. While he was happy with the result, he realized that it wasn’t fair to ask Canadians friends and colleagues to donate to an American charity that can’t issue tax receipts to Canadians. So he decided to organize an event here.

“At the same time I wanted to build the chordoma community in Canada — find out who the other patients are, and their caregivers, so we can actually build something sustaining. I came up with the idea of going to the Canadian Cancer Society and suggesting a joint venture with the Chordoma Foundation,” he said.

The money will be raised in Canada and donated to the Canadian Cancer Society which will issue the tax receipt for the donors. Then the two organizations will jointly direct the funds to perform chordoma research in Canada.

In trying to figure out what to do to raise the money, Golick said he didn’t just want to call up people he knows and ask for contributions as “it’s just not fun and when you’re a chordoma patient, at least for me, I like to think of things that are fun, because if I’m going to do them, I only have so many days to do things.”

The idea of a fundraising jazz concert, which combined law and cancer, registered on what he calls his “fun-o-meter.” He figured he could bring in the insolvency community by honouring Sarra, and satisfy his love of jazz at the same time.

“I got very lucky pulling together some of the top jazz musicians from South America, the U.S. and Canada,” he said.

“We have people who have played with everybody from Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald to Mel Tormé and piano players like Chick Corea and trumpeters like Dizzy Gillespie. We’ve got the crème de la crème de la crème of people out there.”

The lineup is percussionist Memo Acevedo, saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, pianist André Mehmari, guitarist and arranger Chico Pinheiro, pianist Dave Restivo, singer Liz Rosa, singer and actress Jackie Richardson, percussionist Howie Silverman, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and bassist Dave Young.

Golick says in addition to bringing together musicians who haven’t played with each other before, the concert will debut new compositions and arrangements.

“It’s really going to be exciting for people. If they like Cuban or Latin or Brazilian or swing, this is going to be a great evening for everybody.”

In order to meet his fundraising target, Golick reached out to the Canadian insolvency community which he describes as “all very supportive.” He estimates his former colleagues will make up half of the audience with the other half being music lovers and the cancer community.

At this point, Golick has already raised “far in excess” of his goal of $250,000.

“I think Canadians are extremely generous,” he said, adding the insolvency and restructuring is exceptionally generous.

“On top of that everybody is touched by cancer in some way. I think the stat I was reading a while ago was 50 per cent of Canadians would be touched personally by cancer, the odds are you know somebody who has. Everybody recognizes the need for cancer research, and particularly with some of the rare cancers … when it comes to the rare cancers, they’re not as well funded.”