About CharlenaMusician. Teacher. Artist. Performer. Songwriter.
A powerhouse vocalist and adept multi-instrumentalist, Charlena uses her musical/vocal training to create fiery, eclectic, soulful blues-rock and haunting, personal electronica.
Charlena is a Canadian musician, songwriter, artist, and music teacher.
At age 19, a sponge for anything music-related, Charlena’s music career began when she moved to Kitchener, Ontario, and joined the goth/electronic band Puncture Vine as an electric violinist and back-up singer. For three months, she slept on the floor of the studio while Puncture Vine recorded its second album.
Afterward, she went on to join various bands touring and/or doing studio work for their albums. Charlena was studying violin with Margret Zak from the Guelph Symphony and classical voice with Anita Noel at the Beckett school. Zak encouraged her to begin teaching beginners and, soon after, Charlena acquired her first violin student. She would teach on Sundays from her apartment and slowly the day filled with students.
In August 2006, Charlena released her 1st solo album Ebb & Flow and toured the Southern Ontario club circuit promoting her new album. By this time she was teaching almost full-time as a self-employed music teacher.
Summer 2007, Charlena traveled to South-East Asia for nine weeks and wrote half of her 2nd album Sticks & Stones on a small-bodied cheap guitar she purchased for $15.00 US in Laos after a two-day slow boat trip down the Mekong River from Thailand to Laos. She later donated the well-used guitar to a child who couldn’t afford one while teaching English and Guitar to orphans as a volunteer for the last two weeks of her trip.
Summer 2009 proved to be beautiful and vast. Charlena performed 30 shows in 43 days for her first Western Canada Tour. She used the time to reflect, write songs, visit old friends and family, and share her music with her audiences and fellow bands. She joined forces with Toronto-based folk hip-hop pioneer Jimi Maze in Edmonton and toured together in Jimi’s van, sharing shows and stories and songs. “Jimi and I learned each other’s songs and we both rocked out with vocal harmonies, guitar, Jimi’s loop pedal and the 5-string electric violin I rented for the tour! It was a riot!”
In 2012, Charlena released her 1st electronic, trip-hop single Save U packed full of jazzy influences, drum and bass rhythms and ear candy that bounces from ear to ear when listened to with headphones. “It took me a year to finish Save U and it has more multi-tracking than both of my first two albums combined! I played 90% of what you hear in the song and brought in heavy weights Davide Direnzo (drums) and Mark McIntyre (stand up Bass).”
In 2015, Charlena met inventor Bernie Rohde and was filmed performing Save U with his Infinity Mirror (Night\Shift Kitchener 2015). This mirror is lined with sound-activated lights that give the illusion of peering into a light tunnel! That footage became the stunning and unique official music video for Save U. Charlena loved how the lights reacted to the frequency’s sounds! Both artists felt inspired by one another and a friendship blossomed. Charlena and Bernie have been working together on creative projects ever since and have big plans for 2017!
Winter 2016 proved to be trying. The winter was cold and dark—the loss of David Bowie and Prince were unimaginably hard. Charlena felt as if two deeply intimate musical soul mates were taken from her life. She and the rest of the world saw and felt so many heavy moments and she remedied that by releasing her 2nd single Endocardium along with a self-produced and edited music video.
Summer 2016, alternatively, was literally the brightest it has ever been! Charlena fulfilled her childhood dream of travelling alone to Iceland to travel by bike, camp, and write songs with a ukulele, harmonium or piano in churches (when possible) for a month! “I once read that my musical hero Bjork biked Iceland and wrote songs along the way in a similar fashion, creating the song Anchor Song. I decided in my early teens I would do that beautiful and powerful pilgrimage one day….” It was all and more than she ever dreamt of! The overpowering energy, physical challenge and immense beauty of Iceland’s surreal landscapes inspired her to sing, record, write and cry tears of joy everyday of her trip. “You will hear much of this trip on my 3rd album…including field recordings of soundscapes I managed to capture!” *Trip journal link coming soon!
Likening songwriting to birthing a child, she says, “You send it out into the world and you want it to be successful and beautiful, but if someone doesn’t see it that way, then I don’t care. This is my baby.”
Fall 2016, never one to rest, Charlena is recording her 3rd album (her first electronic album) while also developing an all-new live stage performance.
Today, Charlena is also owner and head teacher at Russell Music Teaching Studios where she teaches voice, violin, piano, trumpet, guitar and ukulele privately as she continues to study classical voice, violin and piano. Cherishing her students, she’s seen as “the funky aunt” and takes her position as a role model very seriously. “I want to create opportunities for my students that I would have only dreamed of.” Charlena holds true to that statement, organizing shows, free workshops and performance opportunities in Waterloo Region for both herself, fellow musicians, and music students.
I want to live in a world filled with passion, music, drive and integrity.
Born in Ontario, Canada, to a Canadian British-Irish father and an African-American and Black Creek indigenous Native American mother, Charlena lived in the beautiful district of Muskoka, in Central Ontario, in the woods and waters of Lake Joseph until age 3. Her parents’ radically different parenting styles helped to shape Charlena into an open-minded creative force; a dreamer, a hard worker, a romantic lover of life, art, music, the environment and human rights.
At age 3, when her parents split up, she and her mom moved to Cambridge, Ontario, where she grew up modestly. Her mother influenced her to love classical music, reading, Shakespeare, the library, yoga, dance, crafts, crocheting, art and writing. Her Mom often had Motown records playing or Phantom of the Opera, Grieg or Les Miserables blasting in the house.
At age 4, Charlena was already obsessed with music and would watch David Bowie in the adventure musical fantasy film The Labyrinth almost daily. One day, while watching an orchestra on TV, she decided she wanted to learn the violin—she loved Elenor Rigby by the Beatles. There wasn’t money for violin lessons and her Mom was strict, teaching her to work since the age of 6 (a paper route).
At an early age, she learned to be strong and never give up. She spent her winters sitting up straight, helping out with chores, holding down a job and trying hard in school. Charlena loved listening to stories told by her Mom and Aunt about their childhood memories of growing up in Detroit, Michigan, USA. They shared some pretty eye-opening memories that scared Charlena into being quite street smart and not at all interested in peer pressure. She knew better, remembering the stories and wisdom passed down to her.
She spent her summers visiting her free-spirited Dad who allowed her and her little brother to run wild deep into the Muskoka woods unattended, climb trees, dream, sing to the sky, jump in the lake from the roof of the boathouse and run from swarms of bees when they accidentally upset a nest!
With her father, Charlena learned to love old cars, wood cabins, canoes, leather, stones, and sailing as much as her Dad did. Knowing the “Captain Jack Sparrow” personality of her father, she was given strict instructions from her mother to take good care of her little brother. She did this with great care from a young age and always watched out for him like a second mini-mom, despite her brothers protest. That said, the two would run wild and connect with nature, feeling their Native ancestry as they explored the wonders of Northern Ontario. To this day, Charlena never gets lost in the woods and seldom sticks to trails.
Growing up with a Canadian British-Irish father and an African-American and Black Creek indigenous Native American mother also came with it’s own list of trials. Charlena developed a deep resentment for stereotypes. The history of conflict in her bloodlines all joined into one girl who always felt like the odd one out. She loved all sides of her family and realized she was different, causing her to grow up looking at people as individuals with no want to jump to assumptions about who they might be. You might be able to see why she was seen by her peers as a weirdo, geek, goodie-goodie who hung out with pretty much anyone she felt connected to (goths, punks, skaters, band geeks, her choir mates, cheerleaders, ravers and the offsprings of suburban well-to-do families).
At age 12, Charlena finally began her life as a musician, learning the violin and trumpet, both privately and in her junior-high band class. She also developed a deep love for many influential musicians and cassettes (Bjork, NIN, Smashing Pumpkins, Big Shiny Tunes, Romeo and Juliet Soundtrack, Silver Chair…among others).
In Grade 9, after a couple of years of classical training, Charlena discovered the guitar at her best friend’s house (“it was like an orchestra coming out of this one instrument!”), and promptly taught herself some chords. Applying her poetry to guitar, the songwriter was born. She continued studying trumpet and violin privately with symphony players, paying for her lessons herself working at the Library and The Coffee Grind (where she discovered her love for strong coffee and espresso).
Charlena continues to study classical voice, piano, violin as she delves deeper into her creative and personal journey with nature, sound, learning and growth as a teacher, student, songwriter, community organizer and artist.