About Karen Robinson
It is said that Karen writes music for musicians. She creates imaginative lyrics with compelling melodies - interesting songs. Halifax’s 2015 Jazz Festival program commented, “You don’t have to be a musician to be charmed by her smooth tunes. Karen’s unique turns of phrase and fresh melodies draw the audiences in, and her artistry will leave you wanting more. Catchy, quirky and creative.”
Karen was raised in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia on land that was farmed by her family for almost 300 years, and lives now with her partner in the Halifax area. Singing and performing were always a part of her life. While earning Bachelor's Degrees in Science, Education and Fine Arts and during a successful career as an environmental health professional, Karen continued her music training with private vocal coaching and music theory. All this rolled together within those years of life experience to deepen her professional career in writing and singing. “Karen has a beautiful voice with a vintage sound and organic charm. Jazz folk at its finest.” (Scott Ferguson, Music Producer /Musician)
Career Highlights: Six-time performer TD Halifax Jazz Festival; Vocalist and songwriter with the Sackville Concert B; Toronto’s Hugh’s Room Tribute to Peggy Lee with the amazing Jackie Richardson, Eileen Joyce and Patti Jannetta; 9-piece band Spring Tour to theatres in Nova Scotia; clubs in Rio and Buenos Aires; Clubs in Ho Chi Minh Vietnam; CD Release at Halifax’s Carleton; two Apple Blossom Festival Coronation Galas; JazzEast’s 2014 Spring Series; repeated CBC Radio and CTV airplay; Stayner's Wharf monthly show; The Press Gang’s Art of the Duo; The Rose and Kettle Concert Series; The Al Whittle and Marigold Theatres; and guest vocalist with the Big Valley Swing Orchestra.
In 2022 Karen released her sixth album ‘The Flip Side: Well, what do we have here!’ a collection of lighthearted, fun, songs. Three songs from this album are semi-finalists in the International Songwriting Competition (ISC): ‘My Phone’, ‘Love’s A Moving Target’, and ‘Tadpole Blues’.
Karen’s music video ‘Ode to Gertie Ryan’ received First Prize in the Music Video category of the Women’s Freedom Song Contest 2023, and a WRPN Women’s International Film Festival 2023 Exceptional Merit Award for Comedy.
Her fifth album, released in 2021 ‘When We're Together’, was released with a one-hour online concert on Eastlink TV. From that album, ‘The End of Time’ earned Best Jazz Song, spring 2022 in the World Songwriting Awards. ‘A Song for Mississippi John Hurt’ was a top-ten finalist in their spring 2021 Blues category, and ‘Feather and Bone’ and ‘Gamecock and His Hen’ were top-ten finalists respectively for their spring and summer 2021 best jazz songs. Music video ‘The Night the Lights Went Out’ received a Nature Without Borders International Film Festival Winter 2023 Exceptional Merit Award.
A single released in 2019, ‘October 31st’, was a semi-finalist in the 2021 International Songwriting Competition children's category.
Her 2014 album of original songs, "Karen Robinson WITH", received an industry award nomination from Music Nova Scotia. From that album, ‘Cats and Crows’ was a top-10 finalist in the 2022 annual USA Songwriting Competition jazz category. The Chronicle Herald’s Stephen Cooke said of the album, his Pick of the Week, “Karen Robinson With is like a love letter to the Maritime jazz scene with some of its finest players giving shape to her original songs about love, loss, and finding the strength to soar when fate tries to drag you down. …The range of expression is vast, the songs are rich and complex, and Robinson is direct and always present in the moment.”
"Karen is one of the most eclectic songwriters I know. She easily moves from one genre to another and interprets each style with ease and grace.” (Clary Croft, musician, historian, teacher).
Musician and recording engineer David Findlay adds, “…music like the golden days of jazz. One takes. What you hear is what you get. A real voice singing a real song, not electronically “corrected”; with superb arrangements, brilliant musicians, and lovely definition - a mix of classic and progressive jazz; women’s power songs. Yes, power, sometimes delivered on a silk pillow. Hear the stories. Listen for the musical detail. It is all there.”
Karen’s first release was an archived historical documentary album that she produced and on which she provided vocals of traditional folk songs.
Karen plays drum kit and guitar and was first to perform Red Coat Laddies (by A. Robinson and Quinn) - a performance that led the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to make it their 125th Anniversary Musical Ride theme song. Her career includes co-writes and backup vocals on several artists’ albums, and as a weekly vocalist on a world-syndicated CTV music series. Her musical history has been intertwined with an award-winning non-music career as an environmental health professional and with raising a family. Karen delivers music to be remembered whether it is a house concert for twenty or a show for thousands.
Karen says, “I am so enjoying writing, recording, and performing songs with these fine musicians. Life often had other plans for me, but I have remained determined. Several starts came to an end because of events such as the death of a brother, a life-threatening illness (CBC Radio did a one-hour program on my experience with that disease), and more, but also for happier reasons, such as raising my children. It was another life-changing situation that allowed music to rise again. My elderly parents needed help for the last several years of their lives, and my life became so unpredictable from day to day that writing songs was the one portable artistic release possible to do. My father said, ‘Maybe it is finally your turn, Karen.' Maybe it is. I dedicated my first original jazz CD to my parents’ memory.
I would love to sing my songs for you.”
Contact Karen for more information, to book a concert, or join her email news list using the form here.
More About Karen:
Karen has deep roots in music, with several family members having made their mark in various ways. Her Aunt, Dr. Fleurette Sweeney is co-founder of a successful on-line university, and is a skilled, ground-breaking teacher who uses music to help new Canadians learn our language. Fleurette began years ago as renowned song historian Dr. Helen Creighton’s transcriber/assistant. Karen's Uncle Hugh Sweeney was a gifted teacher and band-leader who gave many a musician their start. Her uncle Reverend Ernest Sweeney was founder of the 50-plus-year-old Maritime Old Time Fiddling Contest. Her grandfather, Daniel Sweeney, was an Irish fiddler and storyteller in shows along the Eastern American states around the turn of the last century. Karen learned traditional songs at his knee as a child. So this part of family history would not disappear, in 2001, with the help of older relatives, Karen produced a CD of stories, songs, and games called Daniel and Lydia Sweeney’s Family. CKDU radio featured it in two one-hour shows to help others create their own family music CDs. CBC’s Weekend Morning has aired several excerpts as well. Copies are available through this website.
Music was always a driving force in her life. However, Karen, B.Sc., B.Ed., BFA, Environmental Consultant and president of Enviro-Health Consulting Ltd., was also president and CEO of CASLE, Canadians for A Safe Learning Environment, a 25-year-old registered charity based in Nova Scotia but with far-reaching effect (Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CASLE and www.casle.ca ). A skilled professional in school Environmental Health and Safety, Karen authored numerous reports on healthy schools, spoke locally, nationally, and internationally, and was the primary author of Healthy School Design and Construction, a document being used to build all new schools and public buildings in the Province of Nova Scotia and beyond. Karen is a long-term board member with the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia, was a regular columnist and cartoonist in their national magazine, and contributed to and reviewed their internationally acclaimed consumer guide, www.lesstoxicguide.ca. Karen was recognized for her life’s work in environmental health in a special ceremony by The Honorable Myra A. Freeman, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, has been nominated several times for the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada, and has received many awards, including the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal and four Commendations from the Nova Scotia Provincial Legislature.
Before Karen raised her two children, Karen was a professional dance/movement educator while also working full-time as a psychology lab instructor. She was Canada's first female Chief Instructor for the Canada Safety Council's Motorcycle Training Program. She operated their training centre in Windsor, N.S, where she licensed new motorcycle riders and upgraded the skills of experienced riders, making riders and the highways safer places.
Karen earned a BFA from NSCAD, worked as a full-time studio artist/potter, and served as a show juror for NSDCC and the NS Department of Culture. Karen's artwork was carried by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's gift shop for 15 years, and in several top galleries in North America.
More recently, Karen has led a 10-year campaign to preserve the Sandy Lake (Bedford) and Sackville River area as a regional park. www.sandylake.org
Karen and her brother are partnering with Annapolis Valley farmers to return their 60-acre heritage family farm to crop production. These North Kentville Farmers recently succeeded in a multi-decade effort to have their four farms returned to A-1 Agricultural zoning - a rare achievement.
The dichotomy of Karen’s life is a deep caring for improving the human condition on one side, and the Arts on the other. All of this weaves its way into her music, her interesting songs.