OK, I’ll admit it! I have a serious dependency issue!
My relationship with NMC (previously Cantos Music Foundation) has been an evolving story. It started out innocently enough but as time has gone by, well the cravings have just gotten stronger!
I think I first became aware of Cantos in 2005 when my trumpet-playing son, Daniel, gave a short recital in a corner of the gallery space when he was still in in high school and enrolled in the Mount Royal Brass Academy program. I wasn’t able to attend as I was away from Calgary on business at the time, but I certainly heard about his interest in Cantos and was somewhat intrigued by his reports. However I never seriously thought about any kind of personal involvement at the time.
It seems that a very successful and productive relationship has been forged between NMC and the Calgary Folk Music Festival; one of my favourite music events each year. In July 2007, the second year of hosting the Folk Fest Boot Camp at the NMC building, I somewhat nervously signed up for three mornings of slide guitar lessons with the immensely talented Steve Dawson. During the opening night reception for Boot Camp I had my first gallery tour (and by-the-way thanks again Ingrid!). The Boot Camp and my exposure to NMC were fantastic experiences! I really have to admit that the “hook was firmly set at that point!” I’ve participated in the Festival Boot Camp each year since then and have really learned to appreciate much of what the NMC organization offered.
Now I’ve never been a piano or a keyboard player but the NMC gallery which features so many amazing instruments and electronic wizardry started me wondering if other instruments or musical equipment might be included too, especially if items could help tell the Canadian music story?
For several years I had been avidly collecting and restoring vintage tube guitar amplifiers made by Garnet (that’s another really bad habit). Garnet was a small but influential company once located in Winnipeg, which designed and made guitar amplifiers and P.A. systems for many of the local bands and musicians in Winnipeg at the time including members of Guess Who and B.T.O..
At that point in time came the happy coincidence. Plans were unveiled to build an exciting and innovative new home for NMC at the very same time my wife Susan and I were starting to look at doing some serious personal downsizing. That caused me to inquire as to whether a donation of my Garnet Amp collection might somehow benefit the NMC at the same time as solving an upcoming personal space dilemma. When the answer came, it was an enthusiastic “yes,” so my collection found a deserving new home.
Not content to simply make a donation in kind, I also wanted to help at least in a small way to further the National Music Centre goals of building a new home and in providing programs which benefit our entire community. Therefore I’ve very happily been able to become a periodic financial supporter of NMC.
But my interest in NMC was only deepening. What else could I do? “Well, there’s always the volunteer route” I assured myself. Maybe then I could spend more time around the collection and with the rabidly enthusiastic, knowledgeable, not to mention very talented NMC staff.
So volunteer I did! I helped out with small projects involving Facebook Groups, and a Stampede Music Trivia game, and now as an instructor/mentor at the weekly NMC Guitar Club. “Why this is starting to get serious,” you might suggest. Perhaps it is! Where might this lead to and most importantly when might it stop? Well my honest answer is that I don’t really want it to stop!
Watching the Guitar Club participants bounce off the ceiling with excitement at Gig Night, witnessing the delight of the young school kids as they head down the stairs after a learning session in the Discovery Room, and listening to the likes of Amos Garrett, Luke Doucet and Donna Grantis perform at the NMC on Blue Mondays or during the Folk Fest Boot Camp using some of my old gear; why it’s just all so thrilling and rewarding!
Then there’s the keen anticipation of the redevelopment and reopening of the King Eddy, not to mention the local and national excitement that will be created at and by the new NMC when it opens in the East Village in just a few years' time.
Perhaps now you can start to understand my problem!
Guest Blogger, Brian Mills