Honours Music, 1999

KathrynFor Kathryn Ladano becoming a Musician and Music teacher was never a question, she had started lessons at eleven and a natural affinity for the subject. Encouraged by her teachers, she knew this was the path of her destiny, and she began to plan how to get there. When it came time for Kathryn to start her post-secondary studies, she had originally looked at Wilfred Laurier but the school did not offer classes to students wanting to major in the Bass Clarinet, which is Kathryn’s main interest. She then inquired at the University of Waterloo where she was pleased to discover that she could not only study with her particular instrument, but an instructor there was actually able to teach Bass Clarinet specifically. Kathryn recalls, “Although it wasn’t my first choice it ended up working for the best”. She valued the flexibility of the program, which allowed her to shape her education to fit what she needed as well as what she was interested in learning about. Kathryn graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor in Honours Music. Since graduating Kathryn has gone on to accomplish many things, and take on a variety of roles with organizations like NUMUS and Wilfred Laurier University. Kathryn has also continued her studies, receiving a Masters of Bass Clarinet Performance form the University of Calgary and is nearing the end of her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at York University. 

First getting involved as a board member in 2007 and then coming back again as a board member in 2011, Kathryn has held every position possible at NUMUS. She currently serves as their Artistic Director, a role she was awarded with after her excellent work stepping in for a previous Artistic Director.

This is my dream job,” Kathryn says, “I just love to program great concerts.

Bringing artists to the region and sharing new music gets her excited and she loves being able to bring this to the community. In her role, Kathryn has also created the one of a kind NUMUS Student Curator Contest, which gives young people interested in potentially becoming Artistic Directors themselves the opportunity try out the position. Contestants are asked to plan a sample concert and the winner will get to have this concert become a reality. This is an incredibly valuable opportunity for young artists to gain some experience in the field and Kathryn really enjoys working with young artist initiatives.

                Kathryn is also highly involved in teaching; she teaches classes at Laurier, an ensemble, a group class, as well as private lessons.  The moment a student starts to make discoveries about their own skills, the moments when they realize they really can do this are the ones she likes best. In her teaching, she brings her passion for music and particularly her passion for improvisation. The benefits of improvisation for musicians is the focus for her Ph.D., in a recent publication titled Free Improvisation and Performance Anxiety in Musicians Kathryn explains that the technique is beneficial for the skill of the musician and for their mental health as well. Kathryn is known for her own improvisation during performances, and she has brought this experience to the classroom. Teaching a group class on the topic, she was able to see how the students began to realize they had opened up a completely new world of music with improvising.

Her signature style of improvising is the basis of the latest album from Stealth, a duo that includes Kathryn and percussionist Richard Burrows. The album titled “Listen” released in 2015 was crafted by sorting through five full days of improvised recordings, of which the duo selected the best sections.  Stealth is hoping to go on tour, and bring their unique improvisations to music lovers. “I like bringing something new with my performances,” Kathryn explains, performing for her isn’t just about being able to play the music she has created and loves. It’s about creating a new experience for the audience, and bringing something to them that they’ve never heard before. This desire to bring something new to her shows is what makes her stand out as an artist, in a world where many are after one sellable hit. No one is too interested in pushing the envelope anymore, but that is where Kathryn, both in her solo performances and with stealth is different.  Her successful improvisation distinguishes her from other performers. With a tour in the works, you would suspect Kathryn to be dedicated solely to Stealth, but that isn’t the case. She has a goal of releasing another solo album, and desires to continue teaching and being involved with NUMUS.  From the outside, looking in her ability to juggle so much is both incredible and inspiring.

For her hard work and success in the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Kathryn was awarded the Waterloo Region Arts Award for Music in 2016. It is a reminder of the hard work she has put into the community through her work at NUMUS among others. The Waterloo Region music scene would not be the same without her passion to explore improvising and new ideas, and her desire to bring amazing talent to the local scene.  Kathryn reflects on her time at Grebel, the 20th century music class she had taken, it had introduced her to contemporary music, and since then she hasn’t turned back. She continues to pave a new path for herself and other musicians, like her students, seeking something different and exciting.


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