As almost all of us know, life has a way of intruding on our plans, dreams and goals, and the resultant adventures can have good, and not so good, consequences. Pianist Karen Marie Garrett knows the yin and yang of this all too well. After the release of her critically acclaimed first two albums, 2005's Allure of Sanctuary and 2007's It's About the Rose (both produced by Grammy winner and Windham Hill label founder Will Ackerman), the future seemed "rosy" indeed for the promising artist. Then….well, we're getting ahead of ourselves. More than a few years ago, in Vancouver, Washington (just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon), there lived a young girl…
Karen Marie Garrett first started taking piano lessons at the age of 5 in Vancouver after her mother purchased the instrument for the family of four (Karen has a brother). Even at an early age, Karen loved the sound of the instrument (although her toes couldn't yet reach the pedals). While still relatively young, she, her mother and her piano teacher attended a Van Cliburn concert (one of the premier classical pianists of the 20th century) and it was a life-changing event for the young girl. As she recalls "It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life…I really buckled down [after that]… practicing [the piano for] long hours with passion. [As a result] the family moved the piano to other side of the home. They needed [some] quiet time." As she continued her music studies, she continued to play only other composer's music and did not consider composing her own melodies.
Later in life, she discovered Will Ackerman's Windham Hill music label (and Ackerman's guitar recordings especially) and it awakened something previously unrecognized in her. This kernel of a dream slowly took shape and form and in 2003, Garrett worked up the courage to submit a sample recording of her-self playing some classical music to Ackerman who replied that he liked it but he wanted to hear some of her music. As Shakespeare wrote, "Ay, there's the rub." Garrett had none, as she had never composed an original piece. However, Ackerman's request fueled her previously unattended to dream and she wrote and recorded two songs for him (which eventually flourished into the 2005 recording, Allure of Sanctuary). Two years later, Garrett and Ackerman teamed up again for It's About the Rose, which received both critical acclaim and radio airplay enough to garner the top spot on national radio charts at New Age Reporter (now Zone Music Reporter). On top of that, the album also won the 2007 NAR award for Best Instrumental Piano Album that year. Everything was coming up roses (no pun intended). And then, as it does, life intruded.
First, the good: In 2009, Garrett found new love and moved from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii, the jewel of the Pacific, where she went to live with her new husband. Once settled in, and with the amazing beauty of those islands as inspiration, she couldn’t wait for the compositional energy to flow again. Before that happened, though, while attending a National Recording Academy event in Seattle in 2011, Garrett suffered a mild heart attack—serious enough for her husband to immediately fly to Seattle to join her. After she was discharged from the hospital, the couple flew back to Hawaii, only to have yet another medical malady rear its ugly head. During her heart recovery period, Garrett's hands became painful and unresponsive when she played piano. She was crushed to hear the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. One can only imagine how hard it was for a piano artist to hear those words. Undaunted, she sought out the best doctors and underwent the surgery to bring her hands back to life. Recuperation was slow and painful, but eventually the pain subsided and she was able to play again without discomfort.
From that point on, it was full speed ahead and she began the task of reinserting herself in the instrumental piano recording world. She eventually travelled to the renowned Skywalker Sound Studios in Marin County, California and worked with producer Leslie Ann Jones. Garrett recorded the five songs there which make up the EP, It's About Love. The mini-album features a mixture of solo piano and piano with cello, cello and oboe, and vocals and clearly illustrates that the talented pianist is back with a vengeance, ready to tackle the music world with a new found appreciation for life and a well-spring of stored up musical ideas.
Karen Marie Garrett has indeed kick-started her recorded music career and her fans, who have waited patiently all these years, will be thrilled that she is back in gear and moving forward. When asked about her goal for her rejuvenated career, she replies "I like the quotation from Plato 'Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.' If I can do that with my music then I am successful."