“Vancouver July Jazz Summit with Karin Plato”

May 8, 2014

I’m in the finally planning stages for this 5 day vocal jazz workshop in July featuring pianist Jillian Lebeck, bassist Adam Thomas & guitarist Bill Coon. It’s a “from prepare to perform” style workshop for vocalists interested in singing jazz and blues music. Contact me via email for further information: karinplato@shaw.ca


New York City: Big, Bold, and Beautiful

January 13, 2014

I count myself lucky to have experienced this past Christmas holiday in a very exciting and inspiring city. That would be New York City! I should mention too that I believe NY must also be one of the most “efficient” cities around because even as the snow began to fall at the beginning of what was to become a huge snow storm in NYC and surrounding areas, the city prepared to handle the snow and ice everywhere by attaching snowplows on the front of each one of their city garbage trucks. They were able to clear the streets in this way and then upon the return trip once the roads were passable again, they were able to pick up the trash. It might sound simplistic and perhaps insignificant however in a city the size of NY with the amount of garbage including paper and plastic that is placed out on the sidewalk each week, the efficiency and speed seemed a remarkable thing to witness.

New York was indeed remarkable and of course that wasn’t just to do with the snow removal technique. I come back to my home inspired by all the wonderful art and music and culture I was able to take in. Jazz music, classical music, Musical Theatre and art from classical to modern were some of the things NY had to offer. People, everywhere PEOPLE as the city’s population grew with the days leading up to the ball dropping in Time Square on New Year’s Eve. You could see and feel the excitement on the sidewalks throughout the day even on the more cold and bitter December days. People didn’t care about the cold; they were there to experience the city that makes New Year’s Eve famous. They were there to shop, to eat, to line up for hours waiting to see The Empire State Building, they were going to see the famous sights and there was a joyful spirit in the air somehow. Yes, NY was a buzz of joy and excitement and perhaps it always has that no matter what the season. We didn’t join the throng (that would be over a million people) on New Year’s Eve but it was exciting to be there in the city and get a sense of the sheer number of people that were there to experience the famous ball drop in Time’s Square.

One musical highlight and personal thrill to me was getting to meet vocalist Kate McGarry in person and hearing her perform twice and discovering that yes, she is as wonderful live as she is on all her recordings. I do hope we’ll be able to get her to Vancouver to perform this year. We were able to hear her in a brand new project in which she is collaborating with vibraphonist James Shipp, pianist Vitor Concalves and drummer Ritchie Barshay. They perform an eclectic array of songs including some of Kate’s originals. I love Kate’s original songs. They ring true and they leave an impact on you as a listener. In fact everything she sings leaves an impact it seems. She makes you feel the depth and possibility of the song’s story. Her voice is dynamic and full of expression and yet she is never gratuitous in any way as she sings the song’s story and sculpts an emotional contour. There is never a false note or an ending that disappears too soon and you hear every syllable and consonant and above all you are captivated. Whether she is burning through a bebop tune or caressing a lullaby’s lyric, Kate McGarry appears to sing with ease and precision and freedom and truth. Can you tell that I am a big fan? I am!

Vibraphonist James Shipp is a monster musician with a whacky sense of humor and ease on the stage. He created some truly fascinating arrangements that enabled the group to have a very specific sound suited to Kate’s approach to music making. I think they make a great team and they really began to develop a group sound. Certainly I hope they will be recording some of this fine music. In any event I think Kate McGarry is a jazz vocalist that people need to check out if they haven’t already done so.

There was much more music that we heard but perhaps I’ll go on to the art now. Getting a chance to view some art galleries opened up our minds and excited us about creative possibilities and that will remain a strong memory of this holiday as well. Huge installation art displays such as those on display at DIA were large in scope and at times also in philosophy it seems. Some art seemed to make more sense and more of an impact once a person could read a little bit more about the artist’s intention. Certain artist’s definitely impacted the way I came to see shape, form, contrast, mood and emotion when viewing or walking through and around some of the art installation. One artist, Richard Serra makes enormous and I mean ENORMOUS pieces with metal. You might walk around something resembling a sunken ship or walk through and around a type of path within 2 metal sloping walls where each person walking through will experience their own sensations with respect to space, or lack thereof or height and slope etc. I found this quite fascinating since most of the art I’ve ever viewed has been on a wall or has been a sculpture perhaps smaller in scale than the size of a sunken ship.

One huge hall at DIA displayed a long series of related works by Andy Warhol. Just walking through and viewing an entire room devoted to a series with one painting and all its numerous variations was really quite an experience. It wouldn’t be the same seeing only a few of them on display I imagine.

I loved every minute of being in one of the smaller galleries in NYC too. The Whitney Museum was where I was able to see much of Alexander Calder’s work. Getting a chance to walk through and witness the history of an artist’s work and see where he developed and changed styles and approaches was fascinating. To see that development and change in the works left behind and realize that certain experiences in the artist’s life will have him/her change directions and completely work towards a completely new direction is revealing. Perhaps it reminded me that there is always time to change and follow your muse so long as you are open to it, even if you have been doing something a certain way for a long time.

I suppose in some way being able to view some of the art I saw was a way to shake me out of my box and open my eyes to other possibilities in creativity or creative thinking at least. As a musician I believe this is very useful, this “shaking of the box” or the mindset one might find oneself in. You might not know immediately how this experience will affect your own art but certainly it must. We’ll see as the year 2014 unfolds…



December 6, 2013

I was sitting at the piano and leafing through song books (of which I have many yes, MANY books) and I was sight reading and singing through potential choices for adding to my repertoire. This is something I do on a regular basis as one can never have enough songs in a repertoire or at least there’s always room for one more song. Nowadays I will sit at the piano and sing and play various songs and then in conjunction with that discovery and experience I will typically go to the internet and there I’ll go see who else has recorded the song and I’ll look for more information about the song; the composers; what show the song might be from if it is a standard. Almost immediately I can find video and audio clips on youtube and elsewhere for me to hear various renditions, both professional and amateur. With one simple click I can do this research and become informed about songs and their origin. This is remarkable to me somehow even though I almost take the technology for granted these days.  I can scarcely imagine my life without advanced technology it seems! Yes, I might not have a technical mind but technology is definitely MY BUDDY!

The world of technology and the internet and software programs have enabled me to be a more efficient musician I suppose. There’s still always pencil and paper for making charts and composing and arranging songs but following that I return to software programs that allow me to create a permanent file that can be altered or revised as I see fit and which can be neat and crisply printed out for my band mates as the road map to the tunes.

So, there’s the beginning stage of sitting at the piano; or maybe just listening to another musician’s cd and being inspired to learn the same song and (hopefully) create my own arrangement to in fact make it “my own”. Yes, I suppose I’d say that it doesn’t make me a better musician. That still comes through practice and determination and a creative spirit I suppose but I for one am grateful that I have my buddy with me helping me along this adventurous ride…

As to the title of my blog entry being “MY BUDDY” . I should note that is actually a song title as well. MY BUDDY was composed by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn and it was published in 1922 and there have been numerous artists who have performed and recorded it including people like Chet Baker, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme and Barbra Streisand. Perhaps I’ll include in my repertoire now too. It is a beautiful song…


Autumn’s Embrace

September 18, 2013

One of my favorite times of year is NOW. Fall with all of its changing colors and crispness and time of putting away summer daydreams and beginning the transition to what seems to be the “in between season”. There’s school for the kids.  There’s University or College for many young adults. There are classes of all kinds for adults who decide that they too wish to continue to learn and study new things whether that be music, a new language, art, a new sport or exercise program and so many more options.  September and October seem to be the months where those activities of learning and studying begin once again just as other things retreat or in some cases disappear for another year. Here in Vancouver typically the fall weather remains warm and often sunny before the rainy days of winter arrive. The changing landscape throughout our city is breathtaking at times particularly with the oranges, yellows, browns and red colors appearing on the trees and in many of the fall blooming flowers.

In my life as a musician and as a music teacher it’s a season for getting back to my music studio after a summer of teaching in other places and after days of summer leisure and rejuvenation.

One of the events on the horizon this fall I’m particularly excited about is coming up on October 16 at Vancouver East Cultural Centre.  It’s a concert that I’m producing entitled AUTUMN’S EMBRACE. I’m thankful to Coastal Jazz & Blues Society for co-presenting this event. Several of my musician friends and associates are involved and what a truly wonderful talented bunch of jazz, blues and soul artists they are! We’ll be performing lots of songs about the fall season and in the world of jazz and pop music certainly there have been some incredible songs written on the subject, lyrically and melodically. We’re also going to be including some original songs for this concert, one that I’ve composed entitled Autumn’s Embrace, the title for the concert itself. The audience will be treated to solos, duets, trios and some ensemble arrangements too. Yes!

There’s much to do in preparation for a concert such as this since it involves so many people but I am feeling rejuvenated at this stage and I’m truly excited not only to be singing in this concert but to be there to hear some of these wonderful singers and players share their gift of song. It’s not every day that 9 vocalists get to share the same stage for a concert and that’s what will happen. Our very special guest vocalist is Mr. Dal Richards who at 95 is singing beautifully and continues to find joy in performing music. The full line up of artists performing include: Jim Byrnes, Marcus Mosely, Steve Maddock, Brian Tate, Jennifer Scott, Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Laura Crema plus I’ll be singing too. Our featured band is pianist Chris Gestrin, clarinetist James Danderfer, bassist Laurence Mollerup, drummer Joe Poole and for a couple of songs we’ll be featuring bluegrass star John Reischman on his mandolin. Jim Gordon, co-host of the program “The Travel Guys” will be the MC for the concert. My partner Gorm has created what I might describe as a giant leaf-mobile for the concert. It’s beautiful and has a type of gentle revolving motion that suggests autumn leaves in glorious colors hanging from their branches before their descent to the ground.

So, here’s to fall; the season of  falling leaves,  warm sweaters,  and songs about autumn… Concert tickets for the October 16th event available @ tickets.thecultch.com


Autumn’s Embrace…

September 18, 2013

Autumn's Embrace...

I love the fall season here in Vancouver. The days often remain sunny and the colors magnificent!!


The Mosquito Ensemble Daily Summer Performance…

July 24, 2013

On this July summer camping trip in the beautiful mountain forest in Idaho with my partner Gorm, the daily performance by the “mosquito ensemble” & other various flying insects takes place around 1 PM and ends around 5 PM. Let me tell you folks, they want YOU and they mean business and they INSIST that you pay attention to their show! It doesn’t matter that you politely decline or that you wear the customary light long sleeved shirt with long pants and the strongest repellent on the market. Between 1 and 5 are “their” hours and the rules have been made long before your arrival. So…you learn (and hopefully you’re a quick study) or else you are eaten and bitten and very frustrated because of the feeling that you’d like to rip through your skin due to the bites that are activated. Note to self: You are a slow learner silly Karin. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes and bites and itches are there to prove that they are the boss of you. One year you arrive at your favorite camping spot and you can’t believe your luck and good fortune that there are absolutely no bugs bugging you. Ah but you can’t always have things go your way and it can’t all be bug free and isn’t that really just how life itself is too? Yes. Hopefully you find a rhythm and a groove that works for you and sometimes that might mean staying under cover until the coast is clear and it’s “your turn” at the campground. Now enough about what has been bugging me and onto what this blog is typically about and that is my life in music which, can also have the occasional bug…

The past many months I have been “simmering” several projects musically speaking. All the while I’ve mentored and taught several young and older people and I’ve continued my work on music as a composer and arranger too. I’ve been a vocal coach to a couple of professional musicians and I’ve felt proud and excited for them as they discover the art of singing. While they are already instrumentally proficient, the use of their singing voice presents new challenges and a type of learning curve and seeing them attempt certain concepts regarding the art of singing and all that may entail is gratifying to me in my role as teacher.

I have performed somewhat infrequently since I haven’t been on tour and I’m not doing the smaller more casual gigs in my city of Vancouver these days.  Some of my favorite performances in the past few months have been in my duo project “TAKE TWO” with my girlfriend Laura Crema. Of course I love her as my friend and we’ve found a musical connection as well. I also delighted in a little Vespers concert that I did during which I shared a few tunes with Molly Macleay, one of my young and very talented piano/vocal students.

I have composed and arranged lots of music, attended concerts and listened to much recorded music. I have practiced and experimented and as I have said “simmered” many an idea regarding any future music projects. Curiously at the end of this simmer stage I’ve decided to once again create an event that involves me as producer, artist and concert manager. I have produced concerts before but this is of a larger scale and I am truly excited to have so many incredible artists involved. Of course in this situation it will be a labor of love and I will only be a small part of the actual concert performance. There is much to do and plan and many people will depend on me to be organized and thoughtful and creative in this process. I hope that I am up to the task!

On this hot summer day I will only say that “IT” will take place this coming October in my city of Vancouver. For now, I’ll soothe my mosquito bites and count my blessings that 5 PM is almost here and what (hopefully) awaits me as the hours pass by is a clear night, a dark sky, constellations galore, satellites zooming along in many directions and if I’m really lucky…a shooting star or two.  In a few days, I’ll head back to Vancouver and then fly to Whitehorse in the Yukon where I’ll be teaching at a Summer Music Camp. Of course I am hoping the mosquitoes decide to remain here in Idaho and I have Image invited them to accompany me. It’s no time for The Mosquito Ensemble to go on tour is what I am thinking. Hopefully that’s how they will feel too… Happy Summer everyone!




I hear you! I can hear you again…

April 23, 2013

I write these words on a spectacular sunny day in Vancouver. It’s April the 23rd and I know it’s a lucky thing that I am able to sit on the sun deck, type away while hearing chickadees and finches and other birds happily chirp away while they’re busy nesting and occasionally play in the birdbath. I am especially happy about being able to hear them because not so many weeks ago I had temporarily lost my hearing in one ear following a vacation in Mexico where I happily played in the ocean and thrilled to ride the waves on a boogie board.

Who knows exactly why I had this hearing loss. It may have been due to a cough I had or getting too much water in my ears or some other thing. I only know that when it happened and when it appeared that my hearing would remain thus I was at first very concerned and frustrated and yet it was also a good learning experience for me. How so? Well since I am a musician it was obviously frustrating because what I was able to hear as I sang or as I tried to listen to the world around me was as though I were walking around with an ear plug in one ear; the way a singer might close one ear if she wants to test her own personal monitoring system while singing within a group. It felt very strange and when I sang as a guest in Mexico on two occasions I was aware and unaware of sounds around me and about my own voice. I was able to focus on my pitch (or at least I tried to) and to relate it to what my “good ear” could hear as the key but what I couldn’t seem to figure out is my decibel level. I also couldn’t figure out how to use any nuances in singing since that is all about hearing and color and balance.

Typically I am known as a “loud talker”. I am excitable and somewhat” high strung” as it’s known and it comes out in the decibel level of my speech unless I am very careful. I come from a loud family! Now with my one ear’s hearing gone I couldn’t judge my volume at all and when I thought I was speaking too loudly was asked to repeat myself several times. Strange!

What this experience did teach me perhaps is that musicians who suffer with hearing impairment or loss of hearing due to aging etc have great challenges to face.  I have some good friends who deal with hearing loss and now perhaps I am more aware of how difficult it must be for them at times to make music. I am thankful to have my hearing back and I know how lucky I am at this point in my life to have very acute hearing across the spectrum of frequencies.

I think about some of the famous musicians who were deaf: Beethoven as everyone knows composed and orchestrated several compositions while completely deaf. He still heard the music in his head and aren’t we glad that he did!!!

 Dame Evelyn Glennie, a Scottish born percussionist has been deaf since she was about twelve years old. Isn’t it remarkable then that she has made such a career for herself performing around the world? Somehow she is able to use other senses to experience the music through her feet connecting to the floor.

On this perfect spring day I look and I listen and I hear it all once again…the chickadees and the breeze and ok I do live in a city after all; I can hear the traffic zooming along.  Lucky me!