In the competitive and sometimes cutthroat domain of independent music, breaks can be hard to come by. Thanks to an ongoing partnership between Manitoba Music and Canada Council for the Arts, 19 aboriginal artists from across the country are on the verge of a big one.
Since its inception in 2006, the Aboriginal Music Performers Camp (AMP Camp) has helped fill a long-existing gap in the national music scene by providing indigenous artists an opportunity to develop their business skills and hone their artistic abilities.
This year, the week-long residency will run from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5 at Falcon Trails Resort in southern Manitoba. The 19 participants include: country singers Jade Turner and Ashley Robertson; award winning rapper Drezus (Jeremy Manitopyes); both members of hip-hop duo Mob Bounce (Craig Frank Edes and Travis Hebert); singer/songwriters Ila Barker, Nelson Little, Miranda Currie, Bebe Buckskin (Danielle Ghostkeeper), Chelsey Jodoin, Arthur Renwick, Brendt Diabo, and Jaaji (George Okpik); vocalists Rhonda Head and Jeremy Dutcher; electronic music producer Wolf Saga (Johnny Sherritt); musician and media artist Melody McKiver; and Sister Says collaborators Gillian and Robert Thomson.
A typical day at AMP Camp will include 12 hours of discussions about business practices, songwriting and song structure, record-production decisions, communication and band leadership and performance skills. Past participants, including Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award winner Shy-Anne Hovorka, JUNO Award nominee Don Amero, and CBC’s The 8th Fire composer Cris Derksen, have gone on to release acclaimed albums, receive multiple music awards and nominations, and make music their full-time job.
We recently reached out to Gerri Trimble, program officer with Canada Council for the Arts. Here’s what she had to say about AMP Camp’s history, purpose and more.
Digital Drum: When, how and why did AMP Camp begin? What is your involvement?
Gerri Trimble: AMP Camp came out of an idea I had to create a circumstance – a place, an intensive residency – where our artists would be the majority, where we could work together to deepen our knowledge of the music industry and also on making our music the best it can possibly be. In my role as a funder, reviewing applications and attending industry events, I had been observing a fair amount of disconnect of various sorts – musicians who had some difficult and preventable experiences, presenters who didn’t know who any of our artists were, artists who didn’t know key people that could help them, and an overall lack of understanding of each other’s working worlds. It wasn’t that there was absolutely nothing – I just thought there could be a lot more.
We at the Canada Council decided that rather than deliver a program like this ourselves, we needed to work with a partner who could take on this role. Manitoba Music, being both a great music industry association and the only one with a focus on aboriginal music, was the obvious choice. Despite differing mandates, in this case our organizations had similar goals.
Collectively we worked on the development of a week-long agenda that had two areas of focus: the craft of music-making and the essential aspects of the business. It’s hard to have a career if both of these areas are not well-looked after.
That was in 2006, and Alan (Greyeyes, of Manitoba Music) and I have been working that way ever since. AMP Camp now runs every two years.
DD: How has the program evolved over the eight years?
GT: In terms of the number of participants, we keep it at around 20 participants and aren’t looking to grow it. Over five days, we also bring in five to 15 music professionals from various fields who offer their expertise in panels, workshops and one-on-one consults. The relatively small group allows for a good degree of interaction between everyone, and allows the discussions to go beyond the provision of basic information.
DD: What types of sessions does AMP Camp offer, and who are some of the instructors?
GT: AMP Camp is geared primarily toward emerging or mid-career professional artists. Our sessions include subjects such tour planning and marketing, as well as songwriting and live performance. This year our instructors will include singer-songwriter Leela Gilday, bassist Marie-Josée Dandeneau, marketing expert and manager Andres Mendoza, and festival artistic director Kerry Clarke, among others.
DD: What is the overall goal of AMP Camp, and what is the biggest benefit for participants?
GT: There are a number of goals built into AMP Camp, most particularly shared and peer learning, as well as critical reflection on our own skills. Participants come away with a huge amount of enriching information, as well as new friends and colleagues from across the country. After everyone goes home, what we hope remains is use of that information and a network of connectedness between everyone who participated.