Corinne Plomish joins the HCA Music Faculty this year, with an extensive performance and teaching career that spans over four decades. In addition to performing with the likes of Daniel Lanois, Arsenio Hall, Dan Hill Martin Short, and The Beach Boys, she was a faculty member with the Contemporary/Jazz Vocal program at Mount Royal University for 10 years. We are excited to welcome Corinne to the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, and spoke to her to about her musical background, instructional philosophy, and the importance of music in our lives.
How did you first get involved in music and what experiences led you to pursue it professionally?
I started singing when I was 6 years old and then professionally, doing television, when I was 10. My brother, Roger (RIP), was a wonderful musician and we worked together tirelessly on tunes while he played guitar/piano and had me sing with him. Oftentimes, we’d sing harmony lines together, which came easy to me, and would be a precursor to my future career as a ‘jingle’ and session singer. Harmonies were a big thing in our household and he was an integral part of showing me the ropes regarding that idiom. Our entire household was about music so it was inevitable that I would pursue it. Bands graced our basement on a regular basis which opened up the professional world to me, even as a kid. In retrospect, it was such a gift to be able to observe great musicians in my midst. And there were a lot of them. I was encouraged to study an instrument by my parents and my brother, and I started to play piano at 7 years old.
You’ve worked with some stellar musicians – Dan Hill, Daniel Lanois, and The Beach Boys, to name a few. Did you glean any particular lessons from working with these musicians?
Daniel Lanois was the first to introduce me to the studio world. I worked regularly for the Lanois Brothers’ (Dan and Bob) at Grant Avenue Studios. By the time I was 15 years old, I had a roster of jingles and sessions on my resume. As my career progressed and by the time I was in my late teens, I had been exposed to so many incredible musicians/singers, that it would influence me beyond my wildest imaginings and be a threshold for great things to come. I was very privileged to work with so many successful artists and hone the skills that are needed to work in that realm. Daniel Lanois and his crew were a huge influence on me professionally and musically. You had to be on your game to work for these guys, and they helped me bring that game to most of the sessions and jingles I did. Dan Hill and artists like the Beach Boys were much later, so I was already very versed in my profession and what I needed to do on stage etc. Great experiences overall. Wonderful artists too!
From your years of stage experience, do you have a favourite performance moment?
The Arsenio Hall Show with Dan Hill. I’d only been with Dan Hill for a couple of weeks after securing the audition with him, and his tune, ‘Can’t We Try’ hit number one so we were catapulted into a full blown tour along with TV performances. The Arsenio Hall show was the first string of TV events we did and as it was live to tape (which meant we were performing ‘live’ for a later air time presentation, there was no margin for error). Truly great experience on the Paramount Studios lot.
The other performance that stands out for me is with Alfie Zappacosta and his band at The Diamond Club in Toronto. There are others, but these two events were memorable in overall strength of performance and just a general great vibe and experience.
Could you describe a typical lesson with you? Is there a particular instructional philosophy that guides your lessons? What is your favourite aspect of teaching?
Every student that I encounter comes with a particular musical DNA and I approach the individual from that standpoint. How people hear music, rhythmically, harmonically, ‘feel-wise’ all play into my assessment of where I start with that person. The idea that they are or become equipped to step out into the professional world of performance is paramount for me as an instructor and as such, I try to encourage vocal students to study theory/harmony and a general sense of chart reading etc. Additionally, I encourage them to study an instrument. Each student’s musical background plays a big part in where I start with them. The more musically well-rounded the singer is, the better chance of holding on to the integrity of who they are as an artist. When and if they move out into the music business, big companies can crush that artistry when they’re looking for a record deal etc., so they need to be studied and aware, musically, who they are and what they want. And then there’s just plain hard work via warm-ups, vocal strengthening techniques and working through sections of charts and tunes and learning how to build a song dynamically. Learning how to work with other musicians is a big one too. The ‘listening’ aspect of musicianship is huge. Overall, having a set of tools you can access when you’re performing on stage, is so vital and I try to cover each student with those options. I also teach vocal improv, which can open up a student to experimenting with different phrases, melodies and sounds, that can truly enhance a song. I also encourage that they be versed in some of music’s history. That’s important to me.
What should people look for when choosing a music instructor?
Generally, people should look for a teacher who is a musician and one who excels at their instrument. I play piano and accompany all my vocal students throughout most of the lesson and I feel that’s very important. An instructor needs to be proactive in equipping each student with sound musical background and knowledge and if that teacher is a musician and has a theory background for writing, reading etc. it can only help that student get better and achieve a more thorough study they can take with them into the professional world
How would you describe Hamilton’s music scene? What excited you about the city’s arts scene?
I was born and raised in Hamilton and was living elsewhere for many years. I just arrived back here after a very long time, and am so glad to be home again! From what I see, the Hamilton scene is thriving. Back then I worked in the Hamilton/Toronto area as a singer and musician and it seems to be as exciting as it ever was. I hope to be involved in a much grander manner as we further settle in. I have a few gigs coming up in September/October. You can check my website (www.corinneplomish.com) under ‘Shows’ for places and dates in the GTA.
It keeps us vital and makes us better people overall. It moves us to understanding and experiencing things in a deeper manner. And music, in particular, is an art that seems to carry an endless supply of new ideas and skills that are constantly challenging us, as well as the students we will come to know and be lucky enough to have in our care. And let’s face it, music is cool. It’s the only profession I’ve ever known. I’m really glad about that.
Corinne Plomish currently teaches on Saturdays at Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts. To book a free 15-minute meet and greet, please contact us at 905-528-4020 or info[at]hcarts.ca