Justin Kautz, 2016 artist in residence on Gabriola

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, April 5 2016

When Justin Kautz started waking up at 4:00 a.m. singing, his parents had forewarning that he might grow up to be a singer-songwriter. Kautz started playing piano at age three and eventually moved on to trumpet, trombone and euphonium before finding guitar. “It’s hard to carry a piano on your back,” Kautz says and now primarily composes songs using guitar and ukulele. 

Kautz is the recent recipient of the Artist in Resident (AiR) program which has been offered by the Haven in collaboration with the Gabriola Arts Council since 2012. The residency program provides artists with accommodation for four weeks and coincides with the Isle of the Arts Festival. Emerging artists aged thirty and under are invited to apply from across the world.

For Kautz, coming to Gabriola has meant freedom. “I’ve had a chance to breathe outside the confines of my normal life in Edmonton. It’s been an opportunity to explore myself and a part of the world I’ve not been to before. I’m a singer primarily but I only started playing guitar eight months ago. The ukulele was my transition instrument to the guitar.”

When Kautz sings his voice fills the room, and his energy is infectious. He says his heart lies with crooner styles like Nat King Cole, Tom Jones and Michael Buble. “Being a big band crooner is what I see every day when I wake up.”

Kautz is a trained engineer but once he completed his education and got a great job he quickly realized that sitting at a desk just wasn’t right for him. Kautz has never looked back. “Music allows me to communicate the energy and force inside me and be able to share that with people. People either look at me sideways or they find it beautiful.”

During the Island of the Arts Festival, Kautz will offer a body percussion workshop on April 9, which involves using the body to create beats. Kautz demonstrates a STOMP type performance and says he will also open the Festival Launch with a musical performance. He has already created four new songs for guitar and says he takes every opportunity to perform visiting the Open Mike Night at the Skol and the Surf. “I have an overflow of thanks to the Haven and the Gabriola Arts Council for providing me with all I could ask for. The weather, I don’t know who’s in charge but thanks for that.” 

Kautz will return to Edmonton after the festival where he will incorporate his new songs into a “Review Show” at the Fringe Festival in Edmonton in mid-August with the Toy Guns Theatre Company, where he is the Associate Director of the dance theatre group.