Carissa Kimbell

This week’s featured artist is vocalist Carissa Kimbell, who participated in Jazzology in 2012.

Carissa s received her formal musical education as a student of the Mohawk College Applied Music program in jazz vocal performance, where she studied with Pat Collins, Bob Hamper, Ranee Lee, and Carol McCartney. She also had the opportunity to sing for Norma Winstone, Don Thompson, Ranee Lee and Hal Galper in master classes and sing backup vocals with guitarist Larry Carlton in concert.

Carissa has been performing throughout Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area since the age of sixteen at various venues including t the Reservoir Lounge and the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club. She has worked with Adrean Farrugia, Mary McKay, Mike Malone, Kieran Overs, and the group GRUVE.

Recently locating to Toronto, Carissa is active on the scene as a teacher, songwriter, and performer. In the spring of 2014, her original song, “Shoot Me Down,” reached the top ten for the Toronto region in the CBC Searchlight Competition.  She hopes to release an album of original material in the near future.

Carissa shared her memories of the Jazzology program and outlined her more recent musical activities:

1) Describe your experience with the Jazzology program. What was your favourite aspect?

What was most surprising about my interview with Brad Barker was the amount of research Brad had done (via my website) prior to my interview. As a result, Brad was able to ask me very personalized questions that made me feel comfortable and respected, and feel as though the overall experience was a very accurate representation of my situation/feelings at the time.

2) What is your strongest memory of the Jazzology program? Are there any funny stories or incidents that come to mind?

Brad asked me how I was dealing with my performance anxiety. I told him that I had recently purchased a small bottle of lavender essential oil and I had started holding the bottle below my nose to breathe in the calming scent. I told Brad I had done so en route to the interview to help calm my nerves. Brad summarized the new technique by referring to it as an herbal remedy. I believe that Brad almost said “smoking” instead of “sniffing” but caught himself in time. It was noticed by those who listened – good catch Brad!

3) Would you recommend this experience to other young musicians?

Absolutely. I feel as though being selected to participate is a pretty special thing. From the moment that I was notified and put in contact with Maureen and the JAZZ.FM91 staff, I felt that everyone was genuinely pleased for me, that they knew it was an important thing in the life of a young musician/student. It allowed me the opportunity to be the kind of person and musician that I wanted to be perceived as.

It is important to know how to explain and discuss the creative process and preparing for the interview meant spending some time contemplating my past choices and reflecting on some important moments in my life. In the end I felt that the interview allowed me to summarize my life leading up to January 2012 and to better understand how I had reached the place where I was at that time. Sometimes you can take things like that for granted, so it was nice to be forced to take the time to reflect.

4) How has this experience helped in your personal and professional development?

Going through the actual interview process was an exciting time and it helped me formulate my thoughts in a concise manner. I also gained many new fans/listeners from the broadcast and thankfully, some new friendships with JAZZ.FM91 staff members who have since come to my shows, announced my upcoming shows on air, and have been an overall, lovely connection.

5) This program is made possible by our generous donors and sponsors who strongly believe in the importance of arts education initiatives. If you had the opportunity to thank them in person, what would you say?

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to perform at a thank-you event in the fall of 2013 where I was able to express my gratitude in person. However, it cannot be said enough that supporting the arts is essential and always, always appreciated by those involved in the creative process. It is important to have businesses and people that are not directly involved in the arts recognize the role that art plays in the keeping of traditions and in the development of our culture and relationships.

6) Why is music education important?

Music education is important at every level but especially for young children. When I reflect on my own childhood some of my most vivid memories are when I was singing along to my favourite CDs, playing the organ and belting out songs I could barely find the chords for or singing in music class – always knowing that music was something special. Every person should have the opportunity to experience that same feeling.

Science proves that music has positive effects on the brain – for both the studied musician and for those who enjoy music casually. At all levels there are proven benefits and that evidence can’t be ignored. Music education also has the potential to encourage discipline and dedication, which end up being essential skills for accomplishing any goal.

7) Since participating in the program, what have you been doing?

It has been over two years since the interview took place and so much has happened. One of the biggest changes was my move to Toronto. I started a small voice lessons studio, have begun directing a choir (Joyfull Noise in Bloor West Village), released two original songs, won a spot in the CBC Searchlight Competition’s top 10 (Toronto region) this past spring, gig regularly, received the arts educators foundations course Level 1 certification, am finishing my first EP, applying for grants regularly and so much more. I also maintain a full time day job. It is very, very busy.

8) What music are you listening to at the moment that you find particularly inspiring?

In many ways I’ve gone back to my roots and started exploring some music I wasn’t open to while studying jazz. At this very moment I am enjoying two kinds of music. The first category consists of music where I don’t have to think. In order to fulfil this need I frequent the website Songza.  After a long day at work I like to come home and press play on the “Blogged 50” playlist or similar playlists to unwind. If I hear something I like I will search it on iTunes and make the purchase. I like music that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The second category consists of music that inspires my own writing, singing and performance. This includes artists I hear on Songza and have purchased. Generally I become so obsessed with the sounds that I over listen which results in needing a break from a particular record for at least a few months. Some recent over listening includes Leanne La Havas, Lake Street Dive, Moonchild, Sylvan Esso, Hiatus Kaiyote, Allen Stone, Gregory Porter… and on and on. I spend time listening to these groups because there are aspects of their sound/arrangements that I hope to include in my own music. It is an experience that I both enjoy and learn from – the daily commute makes for a great “study” period.

9) What are your plans for the future?

The simple version is this: I long for music to be my full time gig. Every decision I make is with that goal in mind, while at the same time trying to be realistic about what is financially feasible – which is where things get tricky. I have also been working on my first EP and hope to complete it within the next year with the help of grants.

10) How can people learn more about you and your activities?

Twitter: @CarissaKimbell

Jazzology is proudly sponsored by RBC Emerging Artists Project.

About RBC and the Arts
RBC sponsors a wide-range of grassroots and local initiatives that contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. Proud to support events and passions that resonate with our clients and all Canadians, RBC provides opportunities for up-and-coming artists through programs such as the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, one of the largest competitions of its kind in the world; and the RBC Emerging Filmmakers Competition, part of our commitment as the Official Bank and major sponsor of the world’s top public film festival – the Toronto International Film Festival®.

Learn More about the RBC Emerging Artists Project