“…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 from jazz to polka. Fresh out of high school, Schwonik embarked on a tour with 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.
Schwonik has completed over thirty substantial tours throughout North America as a leader. In his travels, he has performed in country barns, world-class jazz clubs and concert halls such as Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center. Schwonik’s five albums released on Chronograph Records have received much acclaim and have been nominated for several awards. His 1+4album was #1 on Canadian jazz radio charts for nearly two months. Both 1+4and Visions From the Farm, were nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for ‘Jazz Recording of the Year’. Additionally, Schwonik has worked with several leading jazz artists throughout Canada, the US and UK, including the award winning Alberta-based Hutchinson Andrew Trio.
In 2008, Schwonik founded the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society in Wetaskiwin, AB. The WJS strived to build awareness for the arts in the central Alberta region with its three main programs: Jazz Camp, Jazz-in-Schools and community concerts. Through its ten years of operation, nearly 20,000 rural students were involved in these programs. Active as a volunteer, advocate and arts leader, Schwonik has served on several boards including: Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Arts Awards and Foundation and Travel 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 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 Artist Award, the VSA Arts International Soloist Award, the AFM International Diversity Award and the Queen’s 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. He has completed studies in music, business, and arts leadership at Cambridge University, the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of Calgary.