Going for the Beat

As the famous Alice Cooper song says, “School’s ouuuuuut for the summer!” 

But for kids of various ages whose passion is music, classes are set to resume next Monday, when the Yukon Summer Music Camp begins.

The week-long annual event offers instruction in a wide range of musical forms and styles, for students of varying levels of skill and experience, all under the guidance of professional instructors from both the Yukon and outside.

One of those instructors is jazz percussionist Karl Schwonik, of Calgary, who will be making his third appearance here to impart his knowledge to eager young minds. “I hope to give everyone in my classes some tools to improve their skills, some exercises to work on throughout the year and also hopefully some inspiration to take their music to that next level and enjoy it,” he says.

Although still just in his 20s, Schwonik is a seasoned veteran, with 20 North American tours under his belt and appearances at both New York City’s iconic Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Schwonik started playing violin at the age of five, but later decided to focus on the drums instead, and jazz drumming in particular. “The drums have such a great power to shape the band and music. The dynamic colour and rhythmic range we have are immense. That is one of the reasons why playing the drums can be a lot of fun,” he says.

Adding to the challenge of being a professional musician is the fact that Schwonik is legally blind. While that might persuade some people to seek a different career path, it hasn’t deterred Schwonik. “The challenges with the drums are little to none in this respect. The instrument doesn’t move around when you play it like a violin or cello, and the surfaces like the cymbals are fairly large,” he says. “So even if your depth perception is poor, like mine, there is room for error.”

Living in a large urban centre such as Calgary also helps. Schwonik credits the city’s resources with facilitating the development of his musical talent. With numerous solo and group projects on the go throughout the year, he still looks forward to the opportunity of sharing his knowledge in a smaller Northern setting.

So what keeps him coming back? In part, it’s his love of summer music camps.

Having attended a few during his youth, Schwonik says he enjoyed the fl ow of interaction, and the new skills he learned.

Besides the chance to meet and work with new students, coming back to Whitehorse also allows him to reconnect with friends who share his love of jazz. “Jazz can take on so many moods, feelings and possibilities. There is such a broad range of jazz styles out there that there is something for everyone…or something different for each day of the month,” he says. “This, combined with the improvised solos and arrangements, makes it a compelling style of music to play and listen to.”

The Yukon Summer Music Camp runs from July 27 to August 1. Information about classes and performances can be found at www. yukonmusiccamp.ca.

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