“…Schwonik colors the [music] with an active imagination and serious technique…”
– Frank Alkyer DownBeat magazine
“…a marvel of smoothly intricate and creative timekeeping…”
– Brad Walseth JazzChicago
Named one of Calgary’s ‘Top 40 Under 40’, YAMAHA Drum Artist and legally blind drummer Karl Schwonik grew up on a farm near Gwynne, Alberta. Early on, he was exposed to a wide range of musical situations ranging from jazz to polka. Fresh out of high school, Schwonik embarked on a tour with 2-time Canadian Country Music Award Nominee Heather-Dawn. This was followed by an invitation to study at the Banff Centre where Schwonik was the youngest participant ever in the long-term career residency program.
Still in his 20’s, Schwonik has an extremely active schedule; he has completed over twenty-five substantial tours throughout North America as a leader. In his travels, Schwonik has performed in country barns, world-class jazz clubs and concert halls such as Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center. His third of four recordings on Chronograph Records, 1+4, was #1 on Canadian jazz radio charts for nearly 2 months. Both 1+4 and Schwonik’s first album, Visions From the Farm, were nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for ‘Jazz Recording of the Year’.
In 2008, Schwonik founded the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society in Wetaskiwin, AB. The WJS strives to build awareness for the arts in the central Alberta region with its three main programs: the Wetaskiwin Jazz Camp, Jazz-in-Schools and community concerts. In 2011, Schwonik joined the Board of Directors for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA). The AFA is a government agency responsible for disbursing nearly $30M annually in grants and scholarships to artists and arts organizations in Alberta.
In demand internationally as both a guest artist and instructor, Schwonik has taught students of all ages at over two hundred educational institutions. He regularly lectures on a broad range of topics in jazz, music business and artists coping with disabilities. Some of these institutions include: University of Toronto, Indiana University, The Banff Centre, Brandon University, University of Lethbridge, Red Deer College, Denver School of the Arts, and Triton College Chicago.
Among the many honours, awards and distinctions Schwonik has received are winning the TD Grand Jazz Competition at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Emerging Artist Award, the VSA Arts International Young Soloist Award, the AFM International Diversity Award and the Queens Jubilee Award. The list of supporters of his projects, research and initiatives includes the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Anne Burrows Music Foundation and numerous others.
Schwonik plays YAMAHA drums and hardware, as well as Vic Firth sticks.