Joe Sullivan comes from the Northern Ontario town of Timmins. He grew up in a large franco-ontarian family, where music was a part of daily life. He began his formal training on piano and later, at the age of fifteen, started playing the trumpet. During his youth, he led an active musical life that included classical piano competitions, rock bands and high school concert and stage bands. He also composed music for several theater productions. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in classical trumpet at the University of Ottawa in 1981. His interest in jazz led him to the Berklee School of Music, then to the New England Conservatory of Music, where he received a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies in 1987.
Since then he has lived in Montreal and has been active as a performer, composer, arranger and bandleader. A prolific composer, Sullivan leads and has written extensively for both his jazz sextet and his jazz Big Band and is active with a variety of small groups. He has seven compact discs to his name, the most recent being “Whiskey Jack Waltz” (Perry Lake Records 2013) with jazz quintet and “Northern Ontario Suite” (Perry Lake Records 2010) with the Joe Sullivan Big Band. He has served as conductor and arranger with the Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra; has been a member of the Vic Vogel Big Band for some twenty-five years; has appeared as a trumpet soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal; and has performed with numerous jazz artists of international repute, including Slide Hampton, Don Thompson, Lorne Lofsky, Pat Labarbera, Kirk Macdonald, Rémi Bolduc, John Medeski, John McNeil, Alain Caron, George Garzone, and Ranee Lee.