Bernie Arai’s musical career as a performer, educator, composer and recording artist spans styles through jazz, improvised music, traditional Japanese, and electronic and computer music. On drum set, percussion and electronics, he works with some of Canada’s most accomplished musicians. Born, raised and based in Vancouver, Bernie has performed across the country with various ensembles, and has also toured across the United States, Japan and Europe.

A graduate of Capilano University Jazz Studies program, Bernie has amassed a great debt to the educators who helped shape his musicianship during the course of his studies , including Fred Stride (UBC); Brad Turner, Ken Moore, Dave Robbins and Dylan VanDerSchyff (Capilano); Ian Froman (NYC).

Bernie's own ensembles include his most recent quartet featuring Skye Brooks (also on drum set), Tommy Babin on bass and Chad Makela on saxophone, a reunion of an electronic/acoustic trio with Chris Gestrin and Jon Bentley (on keyboards, woodwinds and electronics) called New Diversions. Electonic and acoustic ensemble Densabi features Bernie using digital sound synthesis and feedback with Chris Gestrin and shakuhachi master Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos to create improvised ambient music. Along with saxophonist Jon Bentley Bernie co-led a hard bop sextet called Ugetsu for over 15 years.Thanks to Vancouver’s supportive scene, Bernie also works with many of the country’s finest musicians as a member of ensembles such as: the Brad Turner Trio, Bill Coon's bc double quartet, the Bill Runge quartet, the Hard Rubber Orchestra, the Jennifer Scott Trio, the Ihor Kukurudza Trio, Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra, Sharon Minemoto Quintet and Quartet, the Paul Keeling Trio and Quintet, Tommy Babin's Sendero Luminoso, Altered Laws, Mimosa, and many others. He remains in demand as an accompanist and band member for many legendary musicians from across Canada and around the world, appearing in concert at numerous music festivals worldwide, and on CBC radio jazz shows. He has had the opportunity to guest host CBC's long running radio show Hot Air on two occasions, once to spotlight the powerful musicianship of Claude Ranger, and once to explore the influence of Canadian jazz on Canadian jazz musicians.


A dedicated and experienced educator, Bernie continues to teach based in Vancouver, including work as an instructor at the Vancouver Community College School of Music. He has served as director of jazz bands at the University of British Columbia Summer Music Institute, and as instructor in the Capilano College Jazz Studies program, the Phil Dwyer Academy of Music and Culinary Arts, the Douglas College Summer Jazz Intensive, North Shore Summer Jazz Intensive and the Vancouver Creative Music Institute, and also teaches workshops and clinics in local schools for jazz bands and drum set. Bernie works with large jazz ensembles of different levels, leading workshops with community big bands and adjudicating at high school jazz festivals including Surrey Schools Jazz Festival, Kiwanis Jazz, Vancouver District Jazz Festival. He has presented on rhythm section pedagogy at the BCMEA conference, and in 2015 was the director of the BCMEA Honour Jazz Band.

see bernie's discography, his performing credits or his list of projects

promo photo available here