Freelance Musician and Instructor
On Tammy Kundakcioglu’s first day of Humber College classes in 1984, she and Kira Payne couldn’t help noticing one another. “Oh wow,” thought Tammy, “there’s another girl with a saxophone!” They were the only female woodwind players in the music department. Kira came right over, and a great friendship was born.
Today, Tammy is a freelance musician and itinerant instrumental music instructor for the Toronto District School Board, teaching concert band instruments to middle-school children and playing in various big bands and musical ensembles. But she never forgot the struggles of the early years – or how Kira helped her get through. “We were hungry and had very little money, so we sort of held each other up while we were getting on our own feet. There was a huge bond.”
That bond would inspire Tammy to establish a tribute in her friend’s name after Kira’s death in 2016 at age 50. And what a name Dr. Kira Payne made for herself! Kira became a professional musician – an inspiring trailblazer in the male-dominated jazz scene – a physician and a psychiatrist.
“She was phenomenal,” says Tammy. “She touched every single person’s life that she met.”
Thanks to Tammy, Kira’s positive and transformative influence lives on. “One of those last nights, we were laughing about days at Humber and how we got each other through. On the way home, I thought, I could start a scholarship in her name for a first-year saxophone player… someone who might be a little hungry right now, who might not be able to afford the instrument they need.”
The scholarship was noted in Kira’s obituary, and the donations poured in. Now, Tammy looks forward to the annual ceremony, where she shares with students what Kira did, “and what they can do.” Thanks to Tammy Kundakcioglu’s thoughtful actions, her cherished friend will continue to inspire and “hold up” young musicians, now and for years to come.