If it wasn’t for Brandi Carlile, who knows where Mercer Island resident Abby Karp would be standing in the musical realm these days.
While attending a concert at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois, about 20 years ago, Karp was entertaining her infant son when a life-changing moment occurred during Carlile’s impactful opening-slot performance for the Indigo Girls.
When folk rocker Carlile strummed on her guitar and rolled through “The Story,” written by Phil Hanseroth, Karp pricked up her ears and became immersed in the striking sounds that were hovering throughout the outdoor venue.
“The Story” literally added a new musical chapter to Karp’s life story.
“I’m sure it was her voice and it was her melody. And it was not long after that where I picked up my guitar that I had had for many years and really learned to play it and started songwriting,” said Karp, who delved into her craft in her early 30s.
Karp, who is the chair and founder of the newly unleashed Mosaic MI monthly open mic and listening room for musicians and lyrical poets, passionately added: “There were a few steps to get there, but that was the defining moment for me. The power of a song is something I truly have experienced and personally have watched others experience. And it’s an inspirational gift to be able to receive or watch somebody receive.”
The professional singer-songwriter, who also works as a realtor, has resided on the Island for a dozen years and has placed her focus on transforming the local music scene with the initiative that is moving toward nonprofit 501c3 status.
Mosaic MI is patterned after a musical theater that Karp’s songwriting friend runs in central California and is aimed at strengthening the community by offering people a venue to perform and enjoy music along with engaging in conversations and networking following the musicians’ sets. Presenting the monthly gatherings on the Island is the first step toward bringing the creativity, inspiration and musical magic all home for Karp, who travels to Seattle to share her tunes with audiences.
Musicians of all levels of talent who are high-school age and older are invited to perform at the inclusive and supportive events, which take place on the first Thursday of every month from 7-9:30 p.m. at the intimate Suzanne Zahr Gallery (2441 76th Ave. SE, Suite 160). Sign-ups begin at 6:30 p.m. and 20 slots are available. In addition to guitar and keyboard availability, participants from on and off the Island are encouraged to bring their own instruments. Karp kicked off Mosaic MI on Oct. 5 and the music and fellowship will flow from there.
“What a joy it is to offer our SZ Gallery space to talented musicians, through Abby K’s Mosaic MI nonprofit organization,” Zahr said. “Creative gatherings for emerging musicians and songwriters complement our expanding program of uses for our storefront venue. Providing a safe space for self-expression, experimentation and creative vulnerability is vital to our well-being and growth, both individually and as a vibrant, culturally rich community.”
According to Karp and Zahr, Islander Sharon Perez has helped bring Mosaic MI to fruition with her invaluable assistance and connectivity with locals.
Overall, Karp said she was driven to find people who would be interested in grasping onto her vision of uniting people over music.
“This is as equally impactful for a performer as it is for a listener, which is why I call it a listening room,” she said.
Up-and-coming musician and songwriter John Riziki is one of those creative individuals who Karp has brought into the fold and along the path that is dotted with notes and chords.
“Spaces like the one Suzanne and Abby are offering to artists like myself, are very important. A place to be heard, seen and to share in the community of art, are hard to find, and Mosaic offers that wonderfully. I have felt welcomed and safe to express myself and my music and I know what Suzanne and Abby have created will only grow in size and community, for the better,” Riziki said.