|Mohawk College Graduation Recital
An Incredible Opportunity
Carolyn Credico is a vocalist and a recent graduate of Mohawk College’s Applied Music program. Vocal jazz gigs have been coming in steadily since her graduation recital last April, thanks to her connections with other music students including drummer Jono Blaak. Credico and the Jono Blaak Quartet have been playing local outdoor patios, festivals and private events in the Hamilton and Niagara region. In recent weeks she has been playing Fridays with the house jazz trio at Hess Village’s Masque Wine Bar.
Earlier this year, Credico was in the studio with Don Thompson and Reg Schwager.
Like anyone else, Credico will face many challenges as she tries to turn a few gigs into a career. But to her advantage, and through some unique circumstances, one of the top priority tasks is already done. Credico has got a high quality, full-length (14 track) jazz CD album recording that is representative of her ability and style in the bag. Many new musicians never make it past this major hurdle, but this young singer managed to gain the production assistance and musical support of one of Canada’s most talented and decorated jazz musicians, Don Thompson.
Here is the remarkable story of how it happened, step by step.
Step 1: Right Place, Right Time
First, Credico was in the right place. She was studying music at Mohawk College. Her vocal teacher Bob Hamper knows the profession and through his initiative a concert and master class with jazz singer Norma Winstone (Banff School of Fine Art) was scheduled. It’s pretty common for special opportunities like this to come up, as Mohawk faculty work their friendships with other professionals in the business. In this case, one of the major players was trombonist Dave McMurdo (now deceased). McMurdo played with The Boss Brass for years before taking on a key teaching role at Mohawk. Suffice to say he was well connected.
Step 2: Volunteer
Second, Credico was one of a few students selected to sing a song as part of the master class. Imagine the situation, “We need some volunteers. Step forward if you would like to sing for this Canadian jazz icon in front of your peers, and then have some constructive criticism shared publicly afterward.” Everyone except Carolyn takes a step backward. “Ah! Carolyn has volunteered!”
Step 3: Make a Good First Impression
Third, Credico made a very good first impression through her lovely tone, comfortable voice control and natural phrasing instincts, and through savvy song selection. Hamper suggested she sing Manhatten in the Rain, written by Winstone. A great song, fairly challenging but somewhat off the beaten path as far as jazz tunes go. It had the desired head-turning effect. Don Thompson (Order of Canada, Juno Awards, composer, jazz pianist, bassist, vibraphonist) was accompanying Winstone at the clinic and commended Credico on her choice of repertoire when they chatted afterward.
Step 4: Lady Luck
Fourth, serendipity or lady luck makes an appearance. Mohawk faculty member Dave McMurdo spoke up during the after clinic chat. Turning to his friend Don Thompson, he said, “Hey Don, you should give this young lady some lessons!” At the time, no one could argue against the idea.
Step 5: Follow Up
Fifth, with encouragement provided by Hamper, Credico followed up. She emailed Thompson a few weeks later. He remembered her and they arranged to meet in Toronto, so Credico made the trip. Thompson was agreeable and open to suggestions, “What can I help you with? I’m not really a vocal instructor.” Seizing the moment, Credico innocently said, “I’d like to record a CD.” In what may possibly be the simplest recruitment of a top-level producer ever, Thompson replied, “I know a recording studio here in Toronto, and I have a friend named Reg Schwager who can help out on guitar.” Thompson was originally going to call another pianist, but for expediency, and since he already knew Carolyn, he took on the job himself.
Step 6: Follow Through
Sixth, they arranged for another meeting to choose tunes. Credico brought a big list back to Thompson. They pared it down and then set out to make the recording. Over the course of a few days the tracks were laid down, and now the work is in its final stages of production.
When asked about what would be on the front of the CD package, Credico says, “I’d like there to be a landscape photograph. Something that suits the music. It’s okay if I’m in the picture, but it’s not really all about me; it’s about the music.”
This work of art, Carolyn Credico’s first recording, will certainly be a treasure, not just because of the great talent of Thompson and Schwager, but because Credico’s voice belongs in that kind of landscape. It’s a place where the song matters.