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A songbird soars

Libby Coulthard finds her voice

- Words by Darcy Nybo Photography by Lia Crowe

Libby Coulthard discovered her love of music at a very young age.

“When I was five, I used to set up concerts in my home for my parents. That’s when I first fell in love with music. I took piano lessons and took Royal Conservatory for four years, but I preferred to listen to something and then play by ear.”

Libby, who was born and raised in Kelowna, was torn in several directions for a place to put her creativity.

“Once I got older, I started taking ballet. I was into so many different things right up to grade 12, including competitive horseback riding. Once I graduated, life happened, and music went on the back burner.”

While Libby continued to be drawn towards singing, she was busy working and trying to make ends meet.

“I didn’t have any extra money to put into music lessons. I thought about it a million times. How can I get into this industry, how can I make this work for me? But it just didn’t work out. I didn’t have the resources and I was working different jobs. Then my mom got breast cancer and died a few years later. It wasn’t the right time to think about taking lessons.”

Life continued its forward march and before she knew it, Libby was divorced with two small children and there was still no room to follow her passion.

Then, one day, she was invited out by friends to be a fourth in a golf game. She met a man there and seven years later, they were married. Fortunately for Libby, her husband recognized her passion for music.

“For my 50th birthday, my husband Shawn gave me lessons to Barb Samuel’s professional vocal program. At the time, I was struggling and feeling unfulfilled in my life. I had a great husband and great kids, but I felt an emptiness inside. Shawn has always tried to make my life better, and he recognized my passion even if I didn’t.”

Libby loved her vocal lessons (and at one point, she and her two daughters were all taking lessons). “After six years in the vocal program, Barb told me it was time for me to leave her program. She said I needed to go and spread my wings. She changed my life forever. I’m now a professional vocalist and I could never have done it without her. I am forever grateful.”

Libby spread her wings by performing in Rock Me Baby with Sista B and the Boyz at the Creekside Theatre. The show was sold out. Three years later, in 2022, after COVID-19 shutdowns, it was sold out again.

“That first performance was a surreal moment in my life; I could not believe it was happening. We rehearsed for months. The moment I stepped out on the stage, I locked eyes with Barb, and I knew I was more than ready. She trusted me and believed in me enough to include me in her show. The reviews were amazing, and I was high on life.”

In 2021 Libby connected with her nephew, saxophonist Jesse Zeman.

“We started doing outdoor gigs, including outdoor events with Parks Alive. Jesse and I called ourselves L & JZ. He is such a talented musician. He was awarded most promising musician by Diana Krall back when he was in high school. We did soft rock, pop, R&B, jazz, almost everything. During that time we played a lot at the Vibrant Vine Winery.”

In November 2021, L & JZ were performing again at Vibrant Vine when a man approached Libby and said his band was looking for a singer.

“He said it was a rock band and I’d be a good fit. I told him he probably had the wrong person. But he didn’t take no for an answer.”

In April of 2022, Libby began rehearsals with her new band Instario.

“I was comfortable as a background singer,” Libby said, “but they wanted me to be up front. I went and rehearsed. Even after the first gig I was really nervous to step into the lead singer role. I said to the band I didn’t know if this was for me…I’m glad they pushed me because today our harmony vocals are what make Instario magic.”

Instario play all classic rock songs, the kind of music Libby simply loves.

“We have Greg Gaspari on lead guitar, Jason Agostino on drums, Colin Moorman on bass and sax, and Roman Picco on keyboard and male lead vocals.”

Libby confesses that at the first recital she ever sang, she thought she was going to throw up. Fortunately, that’s not the case today.

“I am now a confident singer. I still feel nervous before a show. I think it’s a good thing, you should never get too comfortable. You need nervous excitement because you don’t want to slip into complacency. If you get there, you don’t give 100 per cent to the audience. You can be the best technical singer in the world, but if you can’t connect to the people you’re performing for, you won’t last long. I believe a singer is only as good as the life they’ve experienced. Sometimes it’s the hardest stuff that makes someone a good singer. Being able to relate with the lyrics and connect to your audience is so important.”

Libby believes being a singer in a band isn’t just about entertainment.

“I’ve learned that I could take my talent and touch people’s lives in a positive way, in a way I never imagined before. There was one gig in 2022 when I was playing with Jesse at Kerry Park downtown. There were a lot of homeless people there, people with much bigger problems than I’ve had. Being able to share my gift and sing to them was amazing … I saw spark, recognition and connection.”

After that day in the park, Libby allowed her light to shine even brighter. She realized that by sharing her gift, she could make a small difference in her life and the lives of others.

“I truly feel that every gift a person has lying dormant in their soul has the potential to fill a void in someone else’s life. When we let our gifts lay dormant, they will trip us up over and over again until we pay attention to them and recognize they are valuable. You just have to embrace them and the recognition you receive for your efforts pales in comparison to the satisfaction that you feel when you are fulfilling your potential.”

Today, Libby still plays periodically with L & JZ. She is also committed to singing with Instario.

“This is a special group of musicians, and I am excited about the upcoming gigs in 2023. For me, it’s all about sharing my gift with people. I no longer worry about perfection. Instead, I strive for connection.”

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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