for the Musicians' Portrait Project.
Jan Urke was born in Toronto of Estonian parents. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto in 1978 as a member of the double bass studio of the late Thomas Monohan, then Principal Bass of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He continued his studies in 1980 at the Banff School with Stuart Knussen.
Jan's early career — from 1973 to 1979 — included performances with the Hamilton Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the National Ballet of Canada, the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra and the Bolshoi Ballet Company. He was a member of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec during the 1973 - 74 season and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra during the summer season of 1983. He has been Principal Bassist with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra since 1980.
He is currently an Instructor of Double Bass at the University of Alberta; he served for a number of summers as a resource artist at The Banff Centre.
During one of his visits to Estonia, in 1991, he witnessed the Soviet coup d'etat and Estonia's subsequent declaration of regained independence. In 2009, he witnessed performances at the Estonian Song Festival comprised of 27,000 performers attended by an audience of 120,000 in Tallinn. He has recently adopted Estonian citizenship.
At his leisure, Jan enjoys photography, mountain biking and cross country skiing.