“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 bentriverrecords@macewan.ca 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.

Interview with our Provost, Dr. Craig Monk

The Bent River Records (BRR) team would like to acknowledge the generous and ongoing support of our Provost, Dr. Craig Monk. With his $50,000 donation pledged across the span of five years, Bent River is able to engage students across the design department in an album design competition. Dr. Monk’s donation also funds the production of vinyl recordings of our artists.

In his current administrative role as Provost, Dr. Monk serves as the principal academic officer for MacEwan and leads a talented and dedicated team of deans and academic associate vice-presidents in the shared pursuit of an exemplary undergraduate experience for students. 

Recently, Emily Roth (BRR intern and student in the Department of Music) was able to ask Dr. Monk a few questions about his gift, and about his role at MacEwan.

1. What is your favourite part of your job as Provost? Is there anything that you can share with us that you would rather not do?

I spent five years as Dean of Arts and Science at MacEwan, and I got to know a lot of people across the University and in the community beyond our campus. I have been able to make many more of those connections in my three years as Provost, as I now have responsibility for all of our academic functions. I got involved in administration out of the fear that I did not know enough about the things that go on in institutions like ours, and Provost has proven to be an ideal position from which to learn about every little corner of MacEwan.

Not surprisingly, a Provost has a lot of tasks that are similar to the tasks that are unpleasant in any job. I don’t like long meetings, difficult conversations about performance, or reducing budgets. But, personally, I never enjoy doing anything for the first time. By my second or third time meeting with a group, or visiting a venue, or working a technology, I am more comfortable. Happily, through my third academic cycle as Provost, I have some familiarity with most of the things I am asked to do.

2. As demonstrated by your continuous financial support of Bent River Records, you are a fan of music. Why do you believe music is important in our lives?

For the longest time, I have associated the happiest times in my life with music. I remember the cassette tapes I took to high school parties, the CDs I discovered with my university friends, and the concerts that stand out in my memory. I can even remember the song that was playing during the best day I ever had at any job I ever held. But I have come to realize that music was never simply the soundtrack to those happy experiences; music helped make those experiences happy. Music is the material that binds us all together.

3. Your annual donation goes towards the production of vinyl records at Bent River Records. How did your love of vinyl begin, and why did you decide to make vinyl production the focus of your donation?

I had a wonderful job in a record store while I was an undergraduate. This was in the late 1980s when North American record labels stopped producing vinyl. The music I associate with those great years can be scarce in original vinyl pressings, and so that makes collecting a fun challenge, and the re-release of those records has been an important part of the LP resurgence. I understand that Bent River could function without producing LPs, but if my support can help the label keep participating in the growth of vinyl, I am happy to try to keep that going.

4. Our mission at Bent River Records is to provide mentorship, educational, and research opportunities for MacEwan students and faculty, as well as recording artists. Is there anything you would like to say as to why you decided to support our mission?

I apologize if some people have heard this story before, but I was walking back to my office from Roundhouse one day, and I saw in Allard Hall a display of work done by students in designing album covers, sleeves, labels, and download cards. I joke that it turned out to be an expensive walk! It just struck me in the days that followed that vinyl is where my desire to support students, my boosting of Bent River, and my love of LPs could converge. I still believe that continuing to produce vinyl gives Bent River the most opportunities to engage students across campus because of the many ways that students can get involved.

Royalty Registration Guide for Canadians

This week we took a dive into the topic of Royalties. In order to make a living as a recording artist, it is necessary to understand the ecosystem of royalties generated by the performance, purchase, and broadcasting of your music. In order to receive royalties, you must sign up with numerous organizations whose job it is to track the broadcast or performance  of your music. If you are an independent artist, you are eligible to collect all the associated royalty streams — you are essentially your own label and publisher too. 

The world of royalties has two distinct components: the musical composition itself (the song and its lyrics) and the recording (the captured performance of a song). There are four groups of “rights holders”, who are entitled to certain royalties. This includes the:

  1. Performers on a recording: Such as the featured artist, band members, backup singers, and session musicians.
  2. Maker: The entity funding the project, such as a record label (or you, if you are independent of a label)
  3. Songwriter/Composer: The person who wrote the music and lyrics.
  4. Publisher: This entity co-owns or buys rights to a musical work from songwriters and uses their connections to exploit (in a good way) the songwriter’s works, getting the song maximum exposure.

A potential flaw within Canada’s copyright system is that Performers and Makers are not entitled to public performance royalties when their sound recordings are used in TV and film. In this case, only the Songwriters and Publishers are owed royalties. 

Now let’s dive into the organizations you (may) need to sign up with!

  1. SOCAN: Socan royalties are for songwriters, composers, and publishers. 
  2. MROC or ACTRA/RACS: These organizations collect royalties for the musicians who played on the recording. This includes solo artists, band members, and session musicians.
  3. CONNECT or SOPROQ: The Canadian neighbouring rights organization for owners (aka. labels or makers). Connect also issues ISRC (International Standard Recording Codes), which are embedded in a song’s metadata during the mastering stage of a song’s production, and track songs throughout the digital world. Sound Exchange: The US neighbouring rights for owners and performers.

Despite the challenges of navigating the confusing and ever-changing music industry, there are many resources and supports along the way. If you have questions, you may reach out to these organizations directly, or connect with your local music association (Alberta Music, if you’re in Alberta!)