Name: Karl Schwonik
Current City: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Year Won: 2009
1. What led you to apply to the VSA International Young Soloists Competition?
I was completing my undergrad degree at McGill at the time. They have a truly fantastic facility there in Montreal that has a full recording studio, along with a number of Sound Recording students looking for experience recording musicians in the studio. I had just finished an overnight session in the studio for a Sound Recording student. It was about 5 a.m., no one was in the halls, and I had just schlepped my drumset back up to the 3rd floor practice rooms. It was at that moment that I saw a poster advertising the VSA International Young Soloists Competition. I thought: “wow, this sounds really fantastic!”, so I applied and the rest is history!
2. What is one of your proudest accomplishments (personal or professional) since winning the competition?
There have been many positives in my career since the competition in 2009. I have released 4 full-length recordings in that time, completed many tours around the globe with my jazz groups, and won a plethora of other awards and honours. Being a performer can be a very interesting career, as every day can be a different performance in a different place with different musicians. Keeping with the improvisatory nature of jazz music, there are many times when these skills transfer over to the business side and day-to-day life of a freelance musician. Quite often we have the freedom to choose and create our projects and hold the success of them in our hands. Compared with some of my friends and colleagues in careers with considerably less flexibility, this is a very nice perk to have. 3. What was your biggest takeaway from being a VSA International Young Soloists Winner?The VSA community is exceptional and I am proud to be a part of it. VSA is constantly in motion with many new and great ideas churning each year. Being a part of the family has been quite rewarding, and I look forward to staying in the fold in the coming years. In addition, the prestige of the competition definitely carries weight both domestically and internationally. I am honoured to have won the competition, and I have a great deal of respect for others who have had the same pleasure.
4. Tell us something exciting you’ve been doing lately (performance, project, travels, job, etc.).
These past few years I have had the pleasure of performing with the Hutchinson Andrew Trio based out of Alberta, Canada. In my time with the band, we have recorded a new record in New York City with Grammy winning saxophonist Donny McCaslin, toured North America, performed in Europe, been nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for Jazz Recording of the Year, and played the main stage of the Montreal International Jazz Festival three times (two times after winning the top competition at the festival called the TD Grand Prix). The band plays a lot of contemporary jazz, which offers a lot of space for me to bring creativity and energy to the composition.