MusicNL gets down to business

Tara Bradbury
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Weekend conference, awards a big gig behind the scenes, too

You can bet there will be more than one person pulling an all-nighter during the MusicNL conference in Gander this weekend.

MusicNL’s communications and programs officer and executive assistant Jen Winsor works the registration desk at the association’s annual conference in Gander Friday. — Photo by Tara Bradbury/The Telegram

Not all of them, though, will be performing or partying.

Hundreds of musicians and music industry professionals are in the town for the annual event, which will see workshops, panel discussions, one-on-one meetings and shows lasting well into the wee hours.

Organizing those different facts of the conference is no small job, and one that will see Jen Winsor having very little downtime this weekend — much as it has done for the past two months or so.

As MusicNL’s communications and programs officer and executive assistant, Winsor is the one who oversees the planning of every tiny detail of MusicNL week, from the showcase lineups and participating sponsors, to the printing of programs and tickets.

The nitty-gritty work begins in the summer, she said.

“That’s when we start talking about our workshops and our panels, who we’re going to invite in. We start researching the albums that have been released in that fiscal year and we put out our call for eligible releases,” she explained.

Winsor is also a panellist this year, taking part in a “Where to Get the Money” discussion along with members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and FACTOR.

To MusicNL members, she’s known for her dedication, and they’ll often respond to her late-night emails with “Get to bed!”

“It’s a labour of love,” Winsor said. “I think at the end of the day, the reason why I do work so hard has to do with it being a bit of a pride thing, too. I don’t want the event to not go as well as I know it can.”

Tony Murray, often referred to as the man behind the curtain, is a local show producer.

He has been in charge of major events for organizations like the arts council, Festival 500 and the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as smaller bar gigs, and for the past 10 or 11 years, has produced MusicNL’s gala awards show.

This year’s show will happen at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre Sunday night. It’s a bigger deal than many realize, involving the organization of equipment, lighting, audio and visual aspects, and many more subtle details, all timed down to the precise minute.

“I have about 40 pieces to the show on Sunday. I put them all on index cards and I sit at a huge table and lay them out and start assembling them,” Murray explained.

“There’s a lot to the logistics; for instance, I make sure no one has to perform before or after they might win or lose an award. I don’t want them to be embarrassed, or I don’t want it to seem to contrived.

“They all have to give me their stage plot, input list, introduction and songs — because what happens if everyone who shows up does a ballad?

“You have to put yourself in the audience’s shoes.”

Going either 15 minutes over or under the allotted show time is considered good in this business, Murray said, and between now and Sunday, he’ll be up day and night, fine-tuning and polishing, and drinking lots of tea.

Check for updates from this year’s MusicNL conference, including photos and videos.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Gander Arts

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