Karen Yackel, artistic director and founder of the Airdrie Children’s Choir and the Airdrie Women’s Choir, moved to Airdrie seven years ago to teach music at Good Shepherd and Our Lady Queen of Peace schools. Due to health issues, Yackel only spent a year there, but after recovering and spending time contemplating her direction she says, “I think after all these years I might be getting back to feeling like myself and feeling like I want to do things the way I feel I need to do them.” Hence, the Airdrie Children’s Choir was born.
Yackel’s musical journey began in Grade 3 when she took group piano lessons offered at her school. She loved it and continued taking lessons, eventually reaching Grade 9 piano. At 14, she began taking singing lessons with a teacher in her neighbourhood, then took lessons from teacher/mentor Blaine Chapman. At the University of Calgary she studied with Donald Bell.
Your music teachers become more than just teachers. You’re showing them your soul.
Yackel has a B.Ed. with a minor in music and is a certified teacher of Music for Young Children. She taught in Cranbrook for eight years while also conducting the Kootenay Chamber Orchestra Choir (later the KC Singers) and considers the choir a career highlight. She has taught/directed groups that have won festivals in both Alberta and British Columbia. “I like to have quality in whatever I do – I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” she says, “but it’s so important that it’s fun at the same time.”
‘Musical moments’ are her greatest joy. “A musical moment,” she says, “is when everybody knows the piece and everybody is pulling together. You can feel it resonate in the room. It’s an emotional thing you can’t explain but everybody feels it.”
“Music has been with me for so long it’s just part of who I am,” says Yackel. She has tried other things but always comes back to music. “I love teaching people about my passion for music,” she says. She wants the choirs to be comfortable, friendly and non-judgemental. “I want people to get to know each other and accept each other,” she says. “I want the group to be cohesive because that’s when we can make music.”
Yackel has both performed in and directed musical productions and teaches piano in her home studio. Her daughters are musically talented and will be helping with both choirs.