There is no musician in the world who is truly a singular talent. Turn on the television or listen to the radio, and you’ll hear numerous singers performing across a variety of genres who may appear to be narrowly focused in their talents, but are truly multi-talented individuals who compose, perform, and may play instruments in the course of making beautiful music.
Lara Solnicki is a Canadian jazz artist, and part of a growing community of musicians from that country gaining increased notoriety, as her music grips fans around the world. Her talent, like many other musicians, crosses genre lines as she amazes her fans with jazz melodies written with her own poetic background as the foundation.
Singing from Birth
Lara didn’t just pick up singing as a habit during her schooling years; as she tells it, or more accurately her mother, she’s been singing since she was a young baby in the crib of her parent’s home:
“My mum tells me I have been singing since I was a baby. She would sing ‘Row Row Row’ to me, and from my crib I’d sing three repeated notes back to her that were the same pitch, with perfect intonation. Needless to say, this is quite some time before I learned to speak. My parents listened to classical music mostly, and a lot of Italian opera. As a child I used to sing along to Madame Butterfly, doubling both the soprano and tenor leads, filling our house with sound. I had no training and would sing my heart out until I eventually became a bit hoarse!”
Although she was probably not truly singing from too young an age, the story provides proof of her love of music. The classical music her parents listened to not only captured her very young mind, but it stuck with her as she grew. She spent 9 years of her life studying classical music, even pursuing and earning her Bachelor’s degree, Performance Diploma, and Artist Diploma from the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Since 2008, she has studied jazz voice and improvisation, even expanding upon that to study jazz ear training for two years with a focus on improvisation, thrown in as well. Much of her experience with and ability in jazz has been self-taught. Before you judge her comments on her ability though, she does credit many of her teachers from the Glenn Gould School for having an immense impact on her career:
“The person who made the greatest influence on my career is the collaborative pianist and vocal coach Steven Philcox. Steven was a vocalist’s dream – sensitive, very well-schooled. He was transparent in his art to the point where he was lost in a kind of service to the composer, which is the highest level. It sounds like a cliché but when you see and feel it, you know.”
More than a Musician: A Pianist and Poet
Solnicki is a musician first and foremost, but she is not purely a singer. She began to play the classical piano 2 years before she started her BA programme, with group keyboard lessons at the Royal Conservatory, in the community school programme, which was followed by private lessons. Over the course of 5 years she progressed from 0 grade to 10, completing each piece from each grade level with an average of 1 hour of time per day to work on her craft.
Ever since Solnicki was in public school she had an interest in writing, assuming that it would eventually be a second art for her. In fact, many members of her family were writers, including her mother who was a poet and taught high school English, as well as creative writing courses. More recently, she has added to her titles of singer, pianist, and poet with a lot of hard work, as part of Inner Circle Music, the label that produces her jazz music. She is a perfect fit at a label that works with international artists of varying backgrounds. Controlled by American alto saxophonist Greg Osby, Solnicki shared his description of the label in the following terms:
“It is a label that builds bridges, translates cultures and aspires to change the way we perceive and use musical traditions. We do not operate with the typical business structure or label model as has been done in the past. All of our artists are key players. We try to evoke the sound of true independence.”
As her citing of Osby’s exemplifies, culture plays a role in many musician’s careers. Solnicki has no interest in recreating the sounds of someone else, and wants to bring her own unique personality to the forefront through her music. To this end, culture plays differently in each musician’s sound, and as a Canadian jazz musician, Solnicki has her own views on culture, music, and unique appeal:
“Culture is huge. I don’t think it’s even possible to know what Canadian jazz sounds like until you’ve been immersed in other communities of musicians. That’s when you can hear yourself as a Canadian…Learning to hear ourselves objectively is tough. Of course, we cannot change what we cannot hear. An artist must be able to be as objective as possible about their art while they are practicing and listening back to what they do. Once you stop hearing, you plateau.”
Solnicki’s career is on a bright trajectory at the moment following the recent release of her new album, “Meadow,” an event that was three years in the making. Moving forward, she is determined to continuing reaching for success, managing her time as a vocalist, educator, and poet, with a lot of hard work, patience, and gratitude. Although she admits she’s no fan of the impersonality of the Internet, she is expanding her use of Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and other platforms to reach out to her fanbase and build an increasing web of connections.