Community Story Series – The Men Behind the Music

Take a minute and envision what figure skating would be without music? We all know that music has the ability to amplify emotions, it can pump people up, and bring up feelings of happiness or melancholy. The difference of where a beat lands, or a certain instrument enters the song, can change everything. Meet Hugo Chouinard, the owner/founder of Sk8mix and the man behind much of the music in figure skating. How many routines do Hugo and composing partner, Karl Hugo, contribute to? (Yes, they are both named Hugo 😊) Well, at this year’s Olympic Winter Games, Hugo and Karl lent their talents to 51 different athletes from 14 different countries.

This is not Hugo’s first endeavour in figure skating. He used to be an ice dancer – and a pretty good one, in fact. Hugo and his partner finished fourth on the Junior Grand Prix circuit in 1993 and used to skate on the Canadian National Team before retiring from competition in 1995. At that time, when he was just 16 years of age, Hugo began tinkering with musical arrangements for his own routines and started out on a four-track tape recorder in his bedroom. One year later, he purchased his first computer system designed solely for music editing.

Over time, word got around, and skaters started coming to Hugo with requests for their own programs. Today, what started out as a way to improve his own figure skating programs, has grown into a full-scale business. On average, Hugo creates approximately 2,200 arrangements a year, for any level of athletes, some of which include original composition by Karl.

Cool fact! Most skaters design their music to fit their routine. What does this mean, though? To design the music to fit the routine? Well, sometimes it can be slowing down the crescendo, so it hits just perfectly on the throw in a pairs program. Or, it might mean having his partner Karl compose a song for an athlete from a video of their choreography, much like how movie soundtracks are composed. In addition to this, sometimes Karl will compose a musical bridge bringing two songs together. It is all dependent on the needs of the skater for that particular routine.

So, how much is there to the music that backs figure skating programs? Quite a lot, it seems. First off, you need to find the perfect music to highlight the skaters’ skills and Hugo has put together numerous Spotify playlists to help this crucial part of the process. There are strict rules about the length of routines. In Ice Dance, you must have audible beats throughout the program, so overlay composition is frequently required to make sure there won’t be any music deductions. According to Hugo, skaters from the National level and above often continue to modify their arrangement throughout the season, as choreographers and/or athletes rearrange and fine-tune their programs. This means the finished product that is unveiled at an event, such as this year’s Olympic Winter Games, has gone through numerous iterations before we see it in competition and it may be different from one competition to another. There is so much more to music than one could imagine.

This is quite the job, as Hugo and Karl create arrangements for artistic swimming and gymnastics, as well. When you add this to the work they do in figure skating, Hugo has created over 51,000 arrangements to date, adding up to countless hours in the studio.

Hugo and Karl really are the music men of figure skating. One could also argue given his previous participation as a skater and as a coach, as well as the top music service provider to the world’s most elite figure skaters, that Hugo Chouinard lives, breathes, and genuinely loves figure skating. Hugo has found a way, through the combination of his passions, to stay involved in skating for life and his legacy will live on in legendary and recognizable figure skating programs for all time.

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Skate Canada’s Skate for Life programs support and encourage skating for well-being, health and enjoyment. Information about our programs can be found at www.skatecanada.ca.

You can find Hugo Chouinard on Instagram @sk8mixhugo and via his website https://sk8mix.pro/.

The Skate Canada Community Story Series will cover exciting stories from our sections, community skaters and coaches. If you have a story from your club or section that you would like to share with us, we would love to hear from you. Please contact Skate Canada at [email protected].

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