ECMA striving for fairer awards process

Tara Bradbury
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Province takes home three trophies

The East Coast Music Association (ECMA) has long-disputed the argument that its awards process is not fair to Newfoundlanders — and it may be stressing the point again today.

2014 East Coast Music Week wrapped up in Charlottetown, P.E.I., Sunday night with a gala awards show, after a weekend-long conference that saw hundreds of delegates from across the Atlantic provinces — and international music industry reps — participate in meetings, discussions, workshops networking events and showcases.

Newfoundland and Labrador went in to the conference with 15 nominations out of the roughly 200 given, and came out with three pewter treble clef trophies.

Guitarists Duane Andrews and Craig Young won the award for Traditional Instrumental Recording of the Year for their record, “Charlie’s Boogie,” while Clark Winslow Ross was awarded Classical Composition of the Year (not the Classical Recording of the Year, as ECMA had originally stated) for “Lamentations.”

“It was thrilling to win, and even more thrilling to read all the nice, congratulatory comments I got on Facebook. I even heard from people I haven’t seen or talked to in over 30 years, which was amazing,” Ross, a Memorial University music professor who earned a 2011 Juno nomination for his piano composition, “Last Dance,” told The Telegram.

“The whole thing was completely unexpected. I was confident that I wasn’t going to win, and I was OK with that!”

Local choral director Kellie Walsh was presented with a Stompin’ Tom Award at the ECMA industry brunch Saturday morning. The award is given to those who have made a longtime contribution to the Atlantic Canadian music industry, and the other recipients were Bob Mersereau, Flo Sampson and Susan Hunter.

Walsh is the founder and artistic director of Lady Cove Women’s Choir, co-founder and artistic director of Newman Sound Men’s Choir, and artistic director of Shallaway: Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus.

When it comes to the awards show, St. John’s singer-songwriter Amelia Curran had been a local favourite to win, having been nominated for five awards, but no Newfoundland and Labrador musicians had a turn at the podium.

Erin Best, a St. John’s musician, lawyer and second vice-chair of the ECMA board of directors, told The Telegram Friday the association has never favoured artists from the Maritimes over Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, whom she said have less industry support than their Maritime counterparts. The association has actually started stepping in a direction to change the awards process to make it seem more fair, she said.

Some of the categories this year, including the jazz and hip-hop recordings of the year, were fully juried, instead of open to member vote.

“In the past, it has been known that some of the awards have been like a popularity contest, which we figured was not fair to the regions, because some regions are bigger than others,” Best explained. “We felt more comfortable with people winning on their merits, so the process is changing.”

The Eastlink East Coast Music Awards Gala, hosted by Seamus O’Regan at the P.E.I. Convention Centre, saw performances by Newfoundlanders Curran and Tonya Kennedy, along with David Myles, Paper Lions and others.

Nova Scotia’s Old Man Luedecke, Dave Gunning and The Town Heroes were among the multiple ECMA winners this year, while other winners included Thom Swift, Meaghan Blanchard, Classified, Mo Kenney and Jenn Grant.

Cape Breton performer Rita MacNeil, who died last April, was given the Directors’ Special Achievement Award posthumously. Nova Scotia guitarist Jay Smith, who died in Edmonton in March 2013, while on tour with Matt Mays and his band, was awarded the Musician’s Achievement Award. A surprise tribute to Smith took placed during the gala’s “In Memoriam” segment, with Carmen Townsend, Carleton Stone, Steven MacDougall and members of Rock Ranger.

“Again this year, we have seen that Atlantic Canada is home to an incredible amount of world-class talent, premiere industry leaders, and an incredibly supportive music community,” said ECMA chairwoman Heather Gibson in a written statement.

The 2015 East Coast Music Awards are set to be held in St. John’s. With a higher number of local records scheduled to be released this year than last, Best and the other Newfoundlanders on the ECMA board — Peter Newman and Dean Stairs — are hoping more musicians will submit to be nominated.

“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Even getting your name on the nomination list is good publicity,” Best said. “If they don’t (submit), we’re just going to do it for them.”



Organizations: The Telegram, P.E.I. Convention Centre, ECMA board

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Charlottetown, Maritime Chorus.When Nova Scotia Edmonton Atlantic Canada

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