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.”

Fresh Cuts from MacEwan Music – Interview with Bill Richards

Last week we had a chance to catch up with MacEwan University’s Head of the Music Department, Bill Richards, and chat about the upcoming Music Department CD! Bill is the co-producer of the CD alongside Paul Johnston and has been with MacEwan University since 1992.

This new Music Department CD has been in the works since 2019 and is the latest CD from the Music Department since 2009. Previously, MacEwan has released department CDs that featured both staff and student works on the album, but this installment is entirely student-led, focused, and produced! When asking Bill why this CD has more of an emphasis on student work, he said: “It’s an excellent experience for students to view and partake in all aspects of music production and see all that goes into creating an album. It also allows these students the opportunity to work alongside their peers and faculty members to create a collaborative piece of art that creates a timestamp in their careers!” Students are the driving charge of this CD and are working hands-on in every part of this project, from writing and recording to mixing and mastering. Even the artwork was student-designed in a MacEwan fine arts competition!

Artwork by Chris Twin (Cover not final)

Bill also mentioned that this project is a great example of what a student focus project should look like. Integrating students and faculty from the Music Program and all over MacEwan gives individuals from all different academic/creative backgrounds the opportunity to co-create one wonderful, cohesive project. 

When asking Bill what the reasoning behind doing another Music Department CD was, he responded: “Hearing some of the student’s music made me ask myself, ‘Does anyone else get to hear this? Do other people know that people are doing this in third or fourth year?’” Bill shared how incredible MacEwan’s Music Department students are and that he hopes many people will be able to hear their work. This CD also helps create a milestone in everyone involved’s careers, as well as captures where these students and the program are at this exact point in time. With the CD being peer-reviewed, some of these students are able to use this CD for their personal grant applications, among many other things!

This particular Music Department CD, Fresh Cuts from MacEwan Music Vol. 1, started off as a competition in which MacEwan students (individuals/groups) were to submit an original piece to one of five categories to be selected to be on the album! With many submissions spanning a wide variety of genres, creating a track order took some creative thinking to create a cohesive album. The CD was chosen to be arranged thematically to take the listener through a wide variety of genres. The 16 tracks on the album include a unique arrangement of big band pieces, contemporary pieces, neo-soul/funk pieces, electronica pieces, acapella ensemble, and much more! The album is split up into “chapters,” with both big band pieces opening and closing the album as prologues and epilogues.

Songwriting Competition Winner!

The Bent River Records Songwriting Competition has come to a close and the winner has been selected!

Congratulations to the winner Cynthia Hamar, who won first place with their song, “Where Your Love Lives”

2nd place to Kael Sauerborn for “Whatever Comes”

Honourable Mention to Mari Alice Conrad for “Coyotes”

Thank you to everyone who submitted their original music! There were such high-quality submissions that were a pleasure to listen to!

Also, a thank you to our jurors, Emilie LeBel, Jacob Toop, Kent Sangster, Jaycee Meneen, and Olivia Street for dedicating their time to decide upon a winner!

Note: The adjudication process was done anonymously; judges were not made aware of the identity of the composers they were evaluating.

Celebrating Western Canadian Music

For the next month, the Western Canadian Music Alliance is accepting applications for their WCMA awards. The Western Canadian Music Alliance is a group formed from the Music Industry Associations of Western Canada which includes British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, The Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory. This organization sets out to promote and celebrate music from Western Canadian Artists and is integral component to the Canadian music industry as a whole. The awards are divided into three main categories being: Artistic awards which offers different awards for each genre Artists of the Year, Specialty Awards which offers awards such as Classical Composer of the Year, Producer of the Year and Global Artist of the Year among others, and Industry Awards which offers awards in Music Marketing, and Live Music and the like. The winners are announced at the four-day music conference/festival called Breakout West which is held this year in Winnipeg Manitoba from October 13 – 17, 2021.

Catching Up with Kate Blechinger

Kate Blechinger is a talented, award-winning Edmonton based vocalist, arranger and composer. Blechinger released her debut album, Under a Dancing Sky, on Bent River Records In November 2018. Since then, she has been finding a unique place in Western Canada’s music scene with her innovative fusion of Jazz and folk and commandingly smooth vocal deliveries. Today we reached out to Kate for an update and had insightful conversations about her musical background, inspirations and living life as an artist during Covid-19.

Nowadays, between her job teaching music to toddlers and babies, Kate finds herself back in the learning environment herself studying developmental psychology through online courses. She says, “It’s really fascinating actually, and It’s been in the back of my mind for a while now.” As she adapts to the difficulties of teaching young children online, she imagines a surplus of psychological research to come out of these times.

Although Kate is best known as a vocal performer, she is also familiar with many instruments. Her early childhood experiences with classical piano became one of her biggest strengths as an artist today. She is more often than not conceptualizing her detailed musical compositions on the piano stool. She finds inspiration in acts such as Esperanza Spalding and Kristin Korb’s to continue her passion for the upright bass to this day after taking lessons at 13 to join a community Big Band. She speaks on some of the unique advantages and insights of multi-instrumentalism: “Even if I tend to write a little beyond my ability, familiarity with instruments does help with arranging and conceptualizing different ideas.” Nowadays, Kate finds herself to be a musical chameleon playing a range of different styles.

Kate has a very personal style of writing reminiscent of the confessional styles of folk music. Talking about her music brought back some of her early influences and opinions on Canada and Edmonton’s musical identity.  Earlier in life, she felt empowered by Canadian acts such as Broken Social Scene, Feist and Metric. “The collaborative nature of the early 2000 era Canadian indie acts started to really make me want to be a musician”.  These early influences moved her to get involved in folk festivals and more local concerts, which only fueled her fascination and love for all music and opened her eyes to what’s possible in life.

“I’ve always been drawn, no matter the genre, to the music that moves me, sometimes regardless of technicality.”

Album Design Competition Winner selected for ROYA’s Breath and Being: Congratulations Jay Berg!

The three sections of Constanza Pacher’s Typography II classes were split into two groups to create concepts for the cover and album packaging design for upcoming Bent River Records releases: Breath and Being by ROYA, and Going Down Slow by Kevin Dean. Each artist then made the difficult decision of picking a winner to receive an honorarium and work with Bent River to have their designs sent to press.

This is always an exciting collaboration with very impressive work from the second-year Design students, made possible by the generous support of our Provost, Dr. Craig Monk.

We are very pleased to announce the second of this year’s two winners:

Winner: Jay Berg

ROYA – Breath and Being
Winner: Jay Berg
Runner-Up: Alejandra Hernandez
Third Place: August Schaffler
Honourable Mentions (in order)
Dana Kozak
Cézanne Trodden
Grace Zimmel
Rochelle Kriewaldt
Sachin Aheer
Ashley Le
Carolina Odashima

Congratulations to Jay, and to all the students who participated in this year’s album design competition!

Album Design Competition Winner selected for Kevin Dean’s ‘Going Down Slow’: Congratulations Sohee Kim!

Each year, Design students from Constanza Pacher’s Typography II classes pitch their concepts for the cover and album packaging design for upcoming Bent River Records releases. This year’s projects were Breath & Being by ROYA, and Going Down Slow by Kevin Dean.

It is always amazing to see the variety and originality of concepts that the students come up with, and it is no easy task for the artists to choose the respective winners who will each receive an honorarium and work with Bent River to have their designs sent to press. We are very pleased to announce the first of this year’s two winners:

Winner: Sohee Kim

Kevin Dean – Going Down Slow
Winner: Sohee Kim
Runner-Up: Kiera Elkins
Third Place: Vik Chu
Honourable Mentions
Anthea Pou
Xenab Azam

Congratulations to Sohee, and to all the students who participated in this year’s album design competition! Thank you also to our Provost, Dr. Craig Monk, whose generosity and support makes it possible for this project to continue!

We’ll be announcing the winning design for ROYA’s album very soon!

Songwriting Competition for MacEwan Students in the Music Department

Bent River Records is pleased to announce the first edition of our Songwriting Competition, open to all students in the Department of Music at MacEwan University. The contest was conceived as a way 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. The call for entries is now open!

DEADLINE for Submissions: 4:00 PM MST on January 31, 2021

ABOUT THE COMPETITION: This contest is open to all current students in the Department of Music at MacEwan. The task is to compose a song based on a set of parameters that will be shared once the candidates have contacted us to express interest in participating in the contest. 

Email us at with “Songwriting Competition 2021” as the subject line, to express interest and receive the secret guidelines.

PRIZE: The winning composer will receive $750, and the song may be recorded for inclusion on the upcoming 2021 music department CD. 

Please see the attached document below for more information and entry details.