Play your Part series: NMC’s part in Folk Fest Boot Camp

From left to right: Brian & Donna Grantis, Brian & Sam Baker, Brian & Cory Harris

As the spring concert and theatre season winds down I find myself looking more and more forward to what lies ahead in the summer months in a musical vein.
There are at least 40 summertime folk festivals across Canada and Calgary has a really great one!
I generally buy tickets for the Calgary Folk Fest at the “Special Christmas Sale” in December with no idea at all of the artist line up. That way I can start to look forward to some great summer music while still shivering in the dark cold winter months. I know that whatever acts are booked, there will be great new personal musical discoveries to make and some very memorable experiences to be had, not to mention the chances of some much better weather to come!
For me, another exciting aspect of the Calgary Folk Fest is the annual “Boot Camp” which gives aspiring singers, songwriters and musicians some stellar opportunities to spend quality time sharpening some of their skills with the help of a selection of the gifted artists who are booked to perform each year at the Festival. I’ll be returning for my sixth year of Boot Camp this year (guitar lessons with Albert Lee – WOW!).
Boot camp is made even more special because it has been held each year at the National Music Centre. There, groups of “campers” and their instructors are scattered around the gallery space and salon areas and allowed to work on their craft for three days. Talk about an inspiring place to learn and have some musical fun! Imagine practicing some new blues licks beside Elton John’s white piano or belting out some tunes in close proximity to k.d. lang’s famous wedding dress!
The annual Boot Camp opening reception is held in the NMC’s salon stage each summer and is a big Festival highlight for those lucky enough to participate. Boot-campers can mingle with NMC staff, Folk Festival directors and the amazing artists who will be teaching at Boot Camp. Attendees are even treated to some very intimate musical performances at the hands of the Boot Camp instructors — a taste of what’s to come at the Festival.
The unique relationship that has developed between the National Music Centre and The Calgary Folk Festival is just one aspect of the special place the NMC is carving out for itself in the community. It is one of several reasons why I have become a regular donor to the NMC.
I really appreciate the space that has been created by the NMC; one that will only grow more significant when the new building is completed in 2015. Through both my Boot Camp participation and personal volunteering at the NMC, I’ve witnessed but a small sampling of the magic that regularly occurs because of the blend of facilities and staff at the National Music Centre. Inspiring musical encounters are had by everyone from groups of school kids right through the visiting artists in residence fortunate enough to access the instrument collection.

The NMC collections, staff and facilities are a true and growing national treasure. Most of Canada (and indeed much of Calgary) has yet to discover the true nature and both social and cultural value of this institution. I’m very excited by what lies ahead and hope that many more like-minded folks will step up to the plate by supporting the National Music Centre with donations of their own time, historical musical instruments and memorabilia and particularly with financial contributions to support both programing and capital funding.

– Brian Mills

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