Art-Song Composition Competition Now Open to MacEwan Music Students!

Calling all composers and art-song enthusiasts!

In the spirit of MacEwan’s long history of artistic collaborations, Bent River Records (BRR) is offering an opportunity to have your collaborative original work recorded.

This competition honours the continued support of MacEwan’s Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Dr. Craig Monk. His generous contributions to Bent River Records have made student opportunities like this possible. This contest is open to all currently enrolled (fall 2021) MacEwan Department of Music students.

Thank you to everyone who submitted lyrics in the first round of the competition. We are pleased to announce that Esther Forseth has been selected! Please see an excerpt below of “Preacher’s Daughter” :

“You’re the creature in the water
I’m the preacher’s youngest daughter
Find me swimming with the fishes
Free from breathing old traditions”

ABOUT THE COMPETITION: We will be selecting two original compositions that incorporate and feature the winning lyrics. Instrumentation will be a vocalist and string quartet. 

To protect the anonymity of the composition adjudication process, please do not include your name on the file – please only include that information in the google form. Happy composing!

Submission Category 1: Open to any currently enrolled (fall 2021/winter2022) students. We are asking for a lead sheet with a vocal melody set to the lyrics of “Preacher’s Daughter” and chord changes.  Please submit the lead sheet in PDF format. Mp3 demos are optional. If your work is selected, it will be arranged, performed, and recorded by a professional string quartet and vocalist.

Submission Category 2:  Open to any currently enrolled (fall 2021/winter 2022) BMUS students with experience writing for string quartet and voice. Please submit a fully notated score with 32 bars or 30 seconds of music for string quartet and voice set to the lyrics of “Preacher’s Daughter.” (* with the understanding that the full score will be completed before January 30th if your piece is selected).  The Score should be in PDF format.  

A downloadable PDF of “Preacher’s Daughter” is available below:

Visual artists and designers stay tuned! We will be announcing the cover art design competition soon!

PRIZE: $750.00 honorarium for the winner of each category!

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: 4:00 pm MST on January 7th, 2021

Submission Link:

TERMS & CONDITIONS: For recording purposes, BRR reserves the right to select performers for the winning pieces. The author will retain all intellectual property, and BRR will only have the right to print a limited run for the music department CD as well as a single version, both of which will be for promotional purposes only.

Adjudication will be done by a panel of jurors selected by BRR, and will contain members of the department of music and representatives of BRR. The anonymity of entrants will be maintained; judges will not know the identity of the composers they are evaluating until after adjudication is complete.

Bent River Records values, promotes and prioritizes diversity, equity and inclusion in all of its work. We recognize the systemic barriers that have led to many artists being underrepresented and will continue to do work to amplify and uplift voices that reflect Edmonton’s diverse communities. We are committed to fostering an inclusive culture that represents diverse backgrounds.

Please contact if you have any questions.

‘Going Down Slow’ by Kevin Dean is one of CBC’s favourite jazz albums of 2021

Congratulations to Bent River recording artist Kevin Dean for his album Going Down Slow being listed in the top 15 favourite jazz albums of 2021 by CBC Music!

“[Kevin Dean] put together a phenomenally gifted sextet to explore the blues across nine tracks, including six Dean originals. He’s joined in this endeavour by Caoilainn Power (alto saxophone), Gabriel Lambert (guitar), Andrés Vial (piano), Martin Heslop (bass) and Daniel Verdecchia (drums). Dean, who has one of the most attractive trumpet tones going, sounds especially great on “Get Along or Get Along Now,” an energetic boogaloo. Further highlights include the slowly loping “Lonesome Cowboy Blues;” “Can’t Wait to see you Go,” on which the band has fun stretching the tempo; the surprising acoustic guitar on “Down the Dirt Road;” and Heslop’s sign-off when the album comes to a close with the title track.” — RR

Congrats also to all who worked on the album, including the musicians, MacEwan Design student Sohee Kim who created the cover artwork, the Bent River Records (BRR) team, and to Executive Producer Dr. Craig Monk for making projects like this possible.

Purchase or listen to Going Down Slow

Buy it on CD      |      Buy it on Vinyl

Other albums on the list include Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s Twisting Ways, which was mixed by BRR’s Paul Johnston, and Embraceable You by BRR alum Josh Rager.

Check out the full article from CBC Music

Alexa Cable Interviews Paul Johnston

Hi Everyone!

We wanted to take a moment to highlight something a couple of our team members worked on over the summer.

Alexa Cable (one of our interns) got together with Paul Johnston (Head of Recording at MacEwan University) to discuss the future of recording and recording education. Paul explains how staying employed is the most important skill in the recording industry.

Please show the video some love! 

Behind BRR Album Covers: An Interview with Constanza Pacher

Have you ever thought about the importance of an album cover when promoting artists? When we think about Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, we automatically come up with their respective album covers. It is no doubt that an album’s design plays a big part in making it memorable, recognizable, and iconic.

Bent River Records has partnered for five consecutive years with MacEwan’s Design Program professor, Constanza Pacher, to produce artworks for the label’s releases through an album design contest. This project has led to impressive creations by MacEwan’s design students, guided by Constanza.

Constanza Pacher is an Associate Professor in the Bachelor of Design at MacEwan University. She is a visual communication designer from Argentina with more than twenty years of experience in the design industry. In 2004, she received a master’s degree in Visual Communication Design from the University of Alberta. She has been teaching design, typography, and information design at MacEwan for sixteen years. Her current research focuses on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and the use of experiential learning in the classroom to improve student engagement. Constanza was honoured with the MacEwan University Distinguished Teaching Award in 2016, and an Honourable Mention for the RGD2021 Design Educator Award for Western Canada.

We have interviewed Constanza to get to know more about the album design contest and her role in this partnership with Bent River Records.

1- How long has the album design contest been going, and how did you get involved in this project?

The collaboration between MacEwan’s Bent River Records and Design Studies started in the spring of 2017, when I was contacted by Rose Ginther and Paul Johnston seeking help in the coordination of the design and production aspects of the label. In the true spirit of BRR — which is engaging students and faculty in the complete creation of music products — I decided that the best way I could contribute to this innovative learning lab project was by involving my students in it through a collaborative project in the Typography II class.

Since 2017, all students enrolled in DESN231 Typography II participate as part of their course load in a design competition. This experiential project includes musician interviews, design and preparation of files for submission, and formal final presentations to stakeholders. The project culminates with the selection of a winner, and the subsequent student participation in the final steps for printing and commercial production.

2- How has the reception been for the contest so far?

The reception of this project has been overwhelmingly positive! Artists, faculty, and students alike have been delighted with the results since the start. Students find this real project engaging and worthwhile. BRR and musicians express their gratitude year after year, as the product of this collaboration is always a success. Musicians really enjoy meeting with the students and seeing the results. They find it to be such a treat to have such variety of designs to choose from, to see how their music inspired the different concepts, and how articulate our students are in presenting convincing and professional rationales for their work. 

3- What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of this project?

Even though managing this project requires a considerable amount of time outside of class time, this project is all rewards! My collaboration with Rose, Paul, and Kristjan at the label has been nothing but enjoyable; it’s a fantastic group of professional and creative people that care about student experience as much as I do. In my classroom, I love stepping aside and watch the students work hard to impress the client, not me. It is a project where I know students are not working for a grade, but to earn their seat in the real world of client work.

4- What are your expectations for this year’s contest?

My expectations for this year’s contest are the same as every year: to have a positive student experience and great design. I hope the 69 students this year find the experience worthwhile, take advantage of the opportunity to meet the client, work hard to produce an original and creative concept, and dazzle the client with excellent products, great typography, and thoughtful rationales.

We are happy to announce that the 2021 album design contest is already underway. Keep following Bent River Records blog and social media accounts to get updates on this year’s winners!

Welcome, Brandon!

Hi folks,

Brandon here! I’m pleased to be joining the Bent River Records team as an A&R Associate! I’ve had a career in music for the better part of 15 years, as both an artist and industry professional. My background is as a guitarist, songwriter, studio session musician, freelance guitarist, booking agent, venue manager, and venue concierge. The music industry has always been something I knew I wanted to be involved with, from the very first song I learned on the guitar, I knew I wanted to do this for a living.

I play in a few Edmonton-based bands such as Electric Religious, King of Foxes, Mercy Funk, and The High Powers. I have two albums released under my own project, Electric Religious, which is one of my main focuses. I also teach music lessons in St. Paul, AB, I work as the Alberta and B.C. Producer for Curbside Concerts Canada, a live music delivery service founded in Calgary in 2020, and on top of all that, I have a little 6-year old munchkin at home that keeps me busy with his Transformers and Spider Man toys. My partner and I operate a label services business called Crystal Baby Music and it’s this experience of working with artists and helping them to operate their careers at a higher level that I bring to the table at BRR. As a former music student at MacEwan University, I understand the drive and passion the students bring to their studies, and subsequently their efforts at BRR. I look forward to working with the team this year!

A few things I love to do in my spare time are to bake bread–intense kitchen projects are my favourite, though. Hello kimchi! I love to learn (and enjoy) about wine from all over the world, read books from Indigenous authors, and go for family dog walks.

My favourite part of the music industry are the people. From what I’ve seen, this community of artists and professionals is very close. Everyone wants to help everyone else succeed. Everyone keeps everyone else accountable and opens doors for those that put in the work, and commit to their art. I’m super grateful to all my mentors who expected true effort and never made anything easy for me in my formative years, it has shaped who I am today. I still can’t wrap my head around social media, but I hope that when my son is a teenager that he can help me out.

Wishing everyone a happy fall term, and a wonderful 2021-2022 school year.


Art-Song Writing Competition Now Open to All MacEwan Students!

With the success of last year’s song writing competition, we’ve decided to do it again! Bent River Records is happy to announce that we will be accepting submissions for the second edition of our art-song writing competition! The contest was conceived to honour the generous and ongoing support of one of the label’s major donors, Dr. Craig Monk, the Provost & Vice-President, Academic at MacEwan. This year’s competition is open to all MacEwan University students regardless of musical background. We want to hear from you!

We want to showcase your lyric writing abilities. If your lyrics are chosen, they will be written into an original composition created by students within the Department of Music and performed by a singer and a string quartet. Stay tuned for more on the composition competition soon.

Not only do you get to have your lyrics performed, composed, and recorded – there is also an honorarium prize of $750.00!

How cool is that!?

We encourage all contestants to submit their entries by October 30, 2021, and no later than 4:00PM MST. Please click the link below for submission details.

The call for entries is now closed.

Congratulations to Esther Forseth! Stay tuned for updates on her winning art-song lyrics, “Preacher’s Daughter.”

BRR Art-Song Writing Competition

Meet our new team of student interns!

Our fall 2021 team of student interns have been hard at work getting ready to make some big announcements — stay tuned for more on that soon. Here’s a little bit about the new team!

Alexa Cable
Alexa is a fourth year composition major with a special focus in recording and production. This passion for recording has led her to an internship with Bent River Records in her final year at MacEwan. She spent the summer recording several singles for her solo artist career as “Lexene” which will be released this fall and in early 2022. She also spent the summer working with the YouTube channel ‘Learn Audio Engineering,’ producing an interview series focused around “how the recording industry is changing.” Before coming to MacEwan, Alexa studied film at Langara College, and did voice-over work in several commercials. Alexa is excited to build her audience online through Behind-the-Scenes YouTube videos about her recording process. 

Carolina Odashima
Carolina is the new social media and promotions intern at Bent River Records. She has been collaborating with musicians for several years, creating posters, communications, and album covers. She is also a bookworm with a Bachelor of Visual Arts and a Bachelor of Education with a major in Arts, and is currently a second-year student at MacEwan’s Graphic Design Diploma program. A fun fact about her: Carolina has a very peculiar accent, and that is because she is Brazilian, and her first language is Brazilian Portuguese. You can find her work @chiodashima on Instagram.

Dylan Cave
Dylan is an interdisciplinary technician in the Canadian live entertainment Industry and a student in the department of Music at MacEwan University majoring in Sound recording and Production. He has worked all across Canada including working tours with companies such as Cirque Du Soleil, and the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA TOUR). Dylan has worked as an audio engineer for many local and international artists such as: Rex Brown (Pantera), Vinnie Appice (DIO, Black Sabbath), RUSH, John Fogherty and The Wailers to name just a few. He likes working with passionate artists in high energy fast paced work environments that push boundaries and encourage growth in his own technical development. Currently Dylan is working as a producer and co-host for MacEwan University’s new knowledge mobilization podcast Research Recast(ed). In addition to his roles with the podcast Dylan is the Production coordinator for the TD Edmonton International Jazz Festival and he also works as a swing technician at the Starlite Room in YEG doing video, sound, and lighting.

Gladwyn Badger
Gladwyn is a 4th year Bachelor of Music student at MacEwan University.

“I am so excited to join the BRR team for this semester! I am looking to actively engage with artists and musicians of all types during my time here, as well as to further develop my skills for the professional world!”

Valentina Osorio
Valentina is currently a 4th year student in the East Asian Studies Department at the University of Alberta, and this is her second year doing concurrent studies in the Arts and Cultural Management program at MacEwan University. As a person that has always been greatly intrigued by the entertainment industry and wished to know more about the ins and outs of the music industry, she feels excited and extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Bent River Records team. She hopes to use the knowledge she gains from this invaluable experience towards future endeavours internationally, wherever her degree may take her.

Interview with Fine Art Competition Winner Gwynne McMaster

Gwynne McMaster was recently named the winner of the Bent River Records Fine Art Competition. Her artwork (to be revealed soon!) was selected as the cover image to accompany the winning songs from our Song Writing Competition, “Where Your Love Lives” by Cynthia Hamar, and “Whatever Comes” by Kael Sauerborn. The contests were conceived to honour Dr. Craig Monk, the Provost & Vice-President, Academic at MacEwan, and his generous and ongoing support of the record label. Gwynne wishes to express her thanks and appreciation to Craig Monk: “His support for fine arts has created many amazing opportunities for students and their work! Thank You!”

Gwynne is a multidisciplinary artist whose current practice involves motion, memories, and mundane moments. She is also heavily inspired by the Canadian environment that surrounds her. Using mediums of traditional animation, painting, illustration, and film, Gwynne aims to connect with her audience through visual storytelling. In 2017, Gwynne won the Fort Saskatchewan Art in Public Places Award (Youth Category) for her Painting, Old Barn. This year, Gwynne has had her art exhibited in MacEwan’s Digital Gray Gallery as well as MacEwan’s Fine Art Grad Show. Most recently, Gwynne has completed her Fine Arts diploma at MacEwan University and will be attending Vancouver Film School for their Classical Animation Program this following September.

Can you tell us about the artwork you submitted and how it was created?
My cover art is composed of still images from an animation project I have recently created also relating to themes of home. When considering home, I think of a barn that used to be on the side of the highway leading to my hometown, Fort Saskatchewan. For me, seeing this landmark always signified that I was on my way home. Within the past year, this barn has been torn down. While the barn is no longer there, it continues to be a ghostly figure in my mind that represents how home is not necessarily a physical place, but more of a feeling. I decided to represent this within my animation where I have white animated drawing of a barn falling apart and piecing back together behind a photographed background. When determining how to show this work as a single image for the cover, I decided to create a triptych using three still images from the animation itself to demonstrate the progression of change. I decided to use white space to separate each still image, which ended up working as a perfect space to include the text for the record cover!

How do you feel your piece relates to the winning songs from our Songwriting Competition?
I felt that my artwork especially connected to both of the winning songs and their lyrics, each reflecting how home can be a feeling rather than a place. Listening to Cynthia’s song, “Where Your Love Lives,” I really felt a sense of haunting memories that matched the nostalgic tone of my work. I also felt my work connected to Kael’s song “Whatever Comes,” in how the foundation of home strongly impacts someone as they continue to move forward in their life.

What does “home” mean to you?
To me, home is the foundation of love, whether that be from family, friends, or oneself. Home embraces welcoming feelings of comfort, warmth, and authenticity. Home provides me with memories and experiences that help me to continue grow into my own individual self while learning to appreciate the little things that surround me daily. 🙂


Did you miss our 2021 Artist Spotlight Series on CJSR 88.5? Fret not! You can now listen to the episodes on Soundcloud. Thank you to Mark Rodgers, host of Soul of the City, and to the Bent River Records interns who co-hosted the shows.

Listen Now:

Bent River Records ran our annual Spotlight Event again this year, albeit in a slightly different format! Normally the Spotlight event is an in-person event celebrating the new album releases of the artists on the Bent River Records label.

Last year’s event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 2021 Spotlight took place as a two-part radio event on CJSR 88.5FM.

Bent River Records interns are guest hosts on the two episodes (in 4 parts on this playlist).

Aired April 15th & 20th on CJSR 88.5
Soul of the City, hosted by Mark Rodgers
Guest hosts: Nick Adkisson, William Conway, and Jacob Toop

“Where Your Love Lives” Recording Session with Cynthia Hamar

We caught up with Bent River Records Songwriting Competition winner Cynthia Hamar at Macewan University Recording Studio, a conversation in which we discussed some of her personal story, inspirations and experiences with MacEwan and Bent River Records. Cynthia Hamar is a Métis singer-songwriter, guitarist, and pianist, whose work greatly impressed the jurors and won her the Bent River Records Song Writing Competition with her bluesy folk song, “Where Your Love Lives.” The contest was conceived to honour the generous and ongoing support of one of the label’s significant donors, Dr. Craig Monk, the Provost & Vice-President, Academic at MacEwan. “Having a leader like Craig Monk who shows so much interest and invests in supporting creative students and projects is deeply inspiring and has encouraged me immensely in my journey as a songwriter and student.”

Born in Drayton Valley, Alberta, Cynthia grew up in a musical family and has had a passion for music since an early age. Now Cynthia has recorded three studio albums and is looking forward to making more. “I’ve been writing and playing by ear, at home, in church. I even wrote little songs when I was a kid and stored them in my tape recorder,” Hamar says about the beginnings of her musical journey.  Hamar decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Music at Grant MacEwan and has been hoping to use this opportunity to explore her possibilities as an artist further. “It’s just fun to be around creative people, and all the opportunities are great!”

“I always say I’m folk, although there are lots of different vibes going on.” Cynthia’s inspirations are multifaceted, from folky singer-songwriters such as Brandi Carlile and Gregory Alan Isakov to more eccentric acts such as Tom Waits and Radiohead. Cynthia herself has difficulty describing her style as her ears are always open for new inspiration! 

 “Where Your Love Lives” is such an intimate and personal song, and Cynthia’s writing abilities are strong and on display. Cynthia finds so much value and love in the concept of home, and with her kids now being adults, this song is a chance for her to express her feelings of where love is and how it stays consistent as concepts of home and family change through time. “The songs that I make that are worth recording or performing are the ones that touch me and make me feel something.”