Sam Broverman has two passions – music and math. A professor of actuarial mathematics at the University of Toronto, he’s also a jazz singer who released his first album, a tribute to Johnny Mercer, at the age of 60.
Growing up in Winnipeg, Broverman performed in musicals and rock ‘n’ roll bands and sang commercial jingles. When he was accepted by the University of Manitoba for graduate studies in both music and mathematics, he was forced to make a choice.
“I gave up the opportunity for a ‘lucrative’ career in music for the silver career in mathematics,” he said wryly. But ironically music – a field you can make hundreds of dollars in, he said – did help Broverman pay for graduate school.
Broverman and his wife, Sue, moved to Toronto in 1980 after U of T made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, he said. His three daughters were born in the city, and for the next 30 years he focused on his academic career. But he did make time to sing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir as the passion to perform had never left him.
Through the choir, Broverman emerged as a jazz singer. Choir members re-audition every year and usually they sing an excerpt from a piece performed during the previous season. But in 2007, the choir’s conductor, Noel Edison, told them to bring whatever they wanted to sing. Broverman chose the song On the Street Where You Live and he took a lesson with vocal coach, jazz singer Adi Braun.
“We worked the song and I got it ready for the audition, and I kept going back to her for lessons. She pulled more and more songs in the jazz vein and I got drawn into the Great American Songbook,” he said.
After taking singing lessons for four years, Broverman ventured out as a jazz singer, first at jam sessions and then at his own gigs. He was also determined to record before it was too late, he said, “instead of getting a sports car for my midlife crisis.”
For his first release in 2011, Dream Maker, Heartbreaker, Broverman recorded the songs of songwriter and lyricist Johnny Mercer, who penned the classic Moon River. The Mercer tribute, showcasing Broverman’s rich, mellow baritone, was a critical favourite. He went on to record a second tribute album, Leftover Dreams, this time to songwriting team of Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen.
Early this year, Broverman released an EP, Feelings of Affection, which includes one of his original compositions, a humorous song called I Want Everybody to Love Me.
“I particularly enjoy writing parody and lighthearted songs, some with a political edge,” he said. Broverman wrote a hilarious song called You’re Speaking Yiddish, a lighthearted look at some of the Yiddish words that have been adopted into English, for his annual Jewish Boy’s Christmas show, featuring some of the many Christmas songs written by Jews.
He’ll be presenting the show again at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro this December. He’s also a regular performer at math conferences and has recorded a parody album called Songs of the Actuary, which includes two of his own songs and standards for which he wrote new lyrics.
The album was given to some 250 people who attended an actuarial research conference that Broverman helped organize at U of T last summer. He and the talented local musicians he recorded the album with, guitarist Ken Whiteley, pianist Peter Hill and bassist Jordan O’Connor, performed the songs at the conference banquet.
Broverman performs with Hill and O’Connor at 5 p.m. on June 29 at Gate 403, at 403 Roncesvalles Ave, as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. For more information, click here.