A Real Star. Violinist Carissa Klopoushak

Stephanie Turenko, Toronto.

Carissa Klopoushak is not your average Saskatonian. This musical maven is just starting a long career ahead of her in the Arts. Many may know Carissa from her Ukrainian progressive folk band TYT I TAM which has toured Canada for many festivals, including Plast Toronto Malanka. The New Pathway was able to catch up with Carissa regarding her recent visit to Toronto and discuss what she is doing now.

Now living in Ottawa, Carissa is a professional violinist in the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO). Carissa jointed NACO in September 2014 officially after being a supply musician for the past 5 years.

The orchestra, which consists of 60 musicians, was in Toronto last weekend as guest musicians with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Every week there is a new program and the orchestra musicians are expected to keep up.

“It’s not your typical 9-5 job,” Carissa tells the New Pathway. Carissa’s average week consists of several rehearsals, dress rehearsals and concerts. That is not including the time the musicians are expected to learn their parts at home. “I usually practice between 2-8 hours a day. It’s a sliding scale depending on the goal,” Carissa explains.

Currently, she is also working on an exciting project with NACO titled WolfGANG Sessions at Mercury Lounge in Ottawa. WolfGANG Sessions are meant to push classical music out of its comfort zone by musicians creatively collaborating with contemporary and classical music styles. There will be a projection artist and a DJ at the event, who will sample the music for a later dance set.

“Orchestras tend to be on the conservative side, so with WolfGANG we are trying to cater to a different audience, by staying away from Beethoween and Mozart,” Carissa explains. The event will only feature music composed by musicians who are still alive which will definitely encourage a new generation of listeners to enjoy classical music.

The Orchestra also travels quite a bit: “Every year we have one international tour. This year we were in Scotland. Last year we went to China! There are plans for more Canadian touring across the country, but we also do small tours regularly such as our trip to Toronto,” Carissa explains.

The New Pathway inquired about the physical aspect of Carissa’s profession. “It’s important to stay physically fit” says Carissa, “It’s something I’ve learned for myself over the years. In our profession, injury used to be taboo. Musicians would never speak about their injuries but now things are changing. We all go to see physiotherapists. It’s not so much for injury as it is for prevention”. It’s clear that the orchestra musicians take care of themselves. “My doctor once told me musicians are athletes of the micro-muscles,” Carissa explains. Being a musician is most definitely a challenging job both mentally and physically.

So what is next for this already extremely busy young Ukrainian-Canadian? Every year Carissa runs a three-concert chamber music festival in Saskatoon called Ritornello Chamber Music Festival (www.ritornello.ca). She does everything from marketing, finding venues and hiring the musicians. She has also just finished recording her classical debut album which will be out in the spring. In addition, her band, TYT I TAM is working on a new Ukrainian folk album.

A laureate of the 2012 Canada Council of the Arts Musical Instrument Bank Competition, Carissa performs on the 1869 Jean Baptiste Vuillaume violin (with Vuillaume model bow), generously on loan from the Canada Council. Carissa has taught violin and chamber music at McGill University where she also recently completed a doctorate in violin performance, focusing on the little-known violin repertoire by Ukrainian composers.

With all this on her plate, the Ukrainian-Canadian community can only expect great things for this rising star. To learn more about Carissa and her work, visit her website: http://www.carissaklopoushak.com/