Directed by Paula Roberts
Paula Roberts has been at the helm of EKOSingers since its inception in 1979. The first concert was on Father’s Day in 1980, and we have really come a LONG way since then! Paula’s vision combined with the vision of the Downtown Kiwanis Club of Edmonton, whose newspaper ad she answered way back then, has led the choir down a continuous path of musical growth and exploration.
Paula graduated with a BME - choral concentration from Indiana University in 1971 and even back then she was dreaming up shows for competitions for her “dorm” choir. She’s been to Woodstock, played in rock bands, attended Phil Mattson’s vocal jazz workshop, was a conducting apprentice for a year with Michel Gervais, founder of Edmonton’s Pro Coro, and has served on the board of the Alberta Choral Federation. She has a passion for dance, most recently salsa, studied ballet for 10 years, and challenges EKOSingers to not only sing, but MOVE...not necessarily at the same time!
Around town, Paula has taught private voice lessons for the outreach program at Grant MacEwan College, provided her expertise for their week-long summer vocal camps, and also conducted their junior jazz choir for 3 seasons. Other past conducting jobs have included the Northgate Lions Seniors’ Choir, and the children’s program for Edmonton Musical Theatre. Currently, Paula is also the director of Edmonton Vocal Minority, with whom we occasionally share set pieces, and volunteer jobs.
It is handy that along with Paula comes Jamie Kidd, her husband and long time supporter of EKOSingers. Jamie, sound man “extraordinaire,” lends his expertise to help us sound fabulous at concerts, and records our year-end shows and CD’s. Occasionally, Paula’s two sons, Adam and Nathan, help out at concerts as well, and in a few years her grand daughter, Ayla (now 8), may even get in on the act! So it’s become a family affair, not only for the Roberts-Kidd’s, but for all EKOSingers members past and present who form strong bonds as they work their way through the creative process together. This is what keeps Paula and the rest of us coming back for more!
Accompanied by Charlie Austin
Since 2007, EKOSingers has been fortunate to have Charlie Austin as accompanist and resident arranger.
As a pianist, composer, author, and educator, Charlie Austin has influenced an entire generation of western Canadian jazz musicians. As a performer, his versatility and musicianship have seen him establish a solid career for the past four decades, playing in a wide range of settings from festivals, clubs, concerts and theatres as well as recording and television studios.
Now retired, the former head of the Piano Department at Grant MacEwan University taught keyboards, jazz theory, ear training, ensembles and improvisation for nearly thirty years. He continues to encourage aspiring musicians during his frequent appearances at local jam sessions.
Charlie Austin holds a M. Mus. Ed. from the University of Victoria, a B. Mus. from the University of British Columbia in piano performance, and an A.R.C.T. diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music (University of Toronto). His piano studies began in Vancouver with Edward Parker, and continued at UBC with Barbara Custance.
A published author, Austin has released 450 Contemporary Piano Studies in 15 Keys, followed by An Approach to Jazz Piano, which has been used for classroom instruction, and is now available in a revised fifth edition. To date, this text has been purchased in 27 countries worldwide. Reviewers and readers have praised the books for their well-informed, original, and comprehensive approach to music instruction.
As an artist, Austin has recently released a new trio piano album, HOMAGE, an energetic, creative, lyrical interplay of piano, bass and drums, featuring the Charlie Austin Trio with Vancouver's Rene Worst on bass, and Mike Gillespie on drums.