Regional Music Spotlight: Northern Ontario

May 27, 2015

2015 NEW Music and Film in Motion_840px
Music Association Name: Music and Film in Motion (MFM)

Location: Sudbury

Who is Music and Film in Motion and why is there two music associations in Ontario?

Music and Film in Motion (MFM) has been around since 1999, and fully operational since 2001. We’ve actually been around longer than Music Ontario, which saw its birth a few years ago. We felt that we needed a body that could address the unique challenges of Northern Ontario—its artists and industry. We are geographically far from Southern Ontario, so it’s hard to share resources. There is a huge magnetism to Toronto and we help connect these smaller markets to industry.

Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION) is the new umbrella organization for Music and Film in Motion and LOL Sudbury Comedy Festival. We now also share an office and resources with Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival. The transition to this new organization gave us time to reevaluate our programs and services, and how we can best assist the Northern Ontario industry. Moving forward, our programs have become more focused and effective.

What were some of the musical highlights for Northern Ontario and MFM over the past year? 

The Ontario Music Fund (OMF), which provides $15 million per year in support, has helped out the music industry immensely. It has just been a huge push for music in Ontario. There’s a lot more activity from labels and companies, and that trickles down to artists. The industry is now able to better support artists, and we are going to see those effects for a long time.

We presented a showcase at the Folk Music Ontario conference last October, where we presented some of our best folk acts. Among the artists that showcased were Nick Sherman and The Greenbank Trio, who are both from Thunder Bay, along with Rose-Erin Stokes from North Bay, and Carden Cove from Sudbury. The talent in that room was unbelievable.

Carden CoveCarden Cove performing at The Townehouse Tavern, opening for The Wooden Sky during Cinefest 2014. Credit: Music and Film in Motion.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

The year 2015 will mark the return of the Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards (NOMFA), which happens May 28-30. From 2015 onwards, the NOMFAs will be held on a biennial basis, with the next event being held in May 2017. In 2008, MFM launched the NOMFA conference in conjunction with the awards programming to help facilitate growth in the music, film, and television industries in Northern Ontario.

While MFM has always been focused on both music and film, we have definitely unlocked some more opportunities to team up with Cinefest Sudbury now that we’re in the same office. One of the great things about being part of a small arts community is the organic way that we cooperate with each other. In smaller centres, everyone tends to know each other, which naturally leads to cool interdisciplinary projects. The NOMFA conference is a great meeting place and catalyst for these types of partnerships, too. We’ve seen music and film nominees meet one year, then be nominated for a joint project the next.


There are also a lot of excellent festivals in the region, such as the Northern Lights Festival Boréal, running July 3-5. It has been around for 43 years, and is the longest continuously running outdoor folk festival in the country. It is a staple in the festival scene in Sudbury.

River & Sky, happening July 17-19in Field, Ontario, between Sudbury and North Bay, is a really great camping festival. It’s fairly young, but has grown a lot in the past few years.

From August 7-9, there’s also Trout Forest Music Festival in Ear Falls, which is in Northwestern Ontario. That’s another one that’s seen some growth. The organization is based in Winnipeg, so attendees and performers tend to come from parts of Ontario and Manitoba.

Who are some of the Northern Ontario acts that should be on Canada’s radar?

There are a lot of NOMFA nominees that are doing great things. Kalle Mattson, who is originally from Sault Ste. Marie, was nominated for a number of awards at the NOMFAs, including Best Songwriter, Best Album by a Solo Artist, and Best Music Video by a Northern Ontario Artist. His album, Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold, was also nominated for a Polaris Music Prize in 2014.

Kalle Mattson’s “A Love Song to the City” is nominated for a NOMFA for Best Video. 

In the Best Songwriter category, there is a bluegrass band called Murder Murder. They sing exclusively murder ballads—someone dies in every song. They were actually the regional champions for CBC Searchlight. They didn’t move past the first national round, but they ran a great marketing campaign.

Rose-Erin Stokes, who showcased at Folk Music Ontario, is another standout. She has only released one EP, and she received two NOMFA nominations this year. She takes a lot of people by surprise. She showcased at the Folk Music Ontario conference. Her performances are captivating. This is just the beginning for her.

In addition to the nominees, there will be 16 acts from Northern Ontario showcasing during the NOMFAs, including singer-songwriter Mimi O’BonsawinCanucky Bluegrass Boys, piano pop songstress Lia, blues/jazz act Sunday Wilde, folk act Annie Sumi, and indie rockers The Almighty Rhombus, among others.

The Almighty Rhomus’ “Down South.

Aside from the NOMFA nominees and performers, punk mainstays Strange Attractor are an act that you should know if you don’t already. Theyve become pretty big nationally, and have toured Europe as well. They’re from Sudbury and are definitely one of the most popular punk bands to come out of the region.

What would you like the rest of Canada to know about the music scene in Northern Ontario?

Our population isn’t as dense as a lot of other provinces that have large centres, but there still seems to be a lot of diversity in genres that musicians play. There’s a lot of folk singer-songwriters and indie stuff, but then you’ve got bluegrass bands, some country, ska, punk, hardcore, jazz and classical.

There’s a lot of cool stuff that you might not expect to be coming out of these small centres.


—Compiled via interview by NMC’s Julijana Capone with Jen McKerral, Music Outreach Officer at Music and Film in Motion

For all of the latest updates from Music and Film in Motion, go to or follow them on Twitter @MFM_NorOnt.

About the Author

Julijana Capone

Originally from Winnipeg, Julijana is NMC’s senior publicist and the managing editor of Amplify. In addition to her role at NMC, she is the founder of Light of Day Publicity, a company she formed to promote the work of emerging Canadian artists.

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