AMP Camp 2007: The Week in Review

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AMP Camp is a one-week professional and artistic development project that gives emerging to mid-career Aboriginal recording artists a chance to develop their understanding of the music industry along with their ability to succeed in it. The project is made possible by a working partnership between MARIA's Aboriginal Music Program and the Music Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The week started off with the group meeting for the first time on Sunday afternoon. Participants from across the country joined their Manitoban counterparts and a number of the instructors at the MARIA office in Winnipeg before boarding a charter bus to the Misty Lake Lodge (one hour north of the city). The schedule for the evening was light with formal introductions, an orientation session and time to get settled. With no karaoke to kick things off in the lounge this year, the group gravitated towards one of the cabins, later dubbing it “Alberta House,” since, for some odd reason; all the participants from Alberta had been assigned rooms in the furthest reaches of the resort.

On Monday morning, the workshops began and everyone was required to evaluate their own business skills and artistic ability in the “Do I Need Professional Help?” session before discussing their career goals and learning how each of the instructors fought their way through the music business. After lunch, the participants broke into three groups and worked on songwriting with Heather Bishop and Kinnie Starr in the first group, Sherryl Sewepagaham, Sam Baardman and Ray St. Germain in the second, and Art Napoleon, Doug Cox and Marty Ballentyne in the third. From 4:00 pm-5:30 pm the group was able to choose between Guitar Lessons with Doug Cox, Vocal Coaching with Heather Bishop or Sherryl Sewepagaham and Mind/Body Mechanics with Kinnie Starr. After supper, the first round of Performance Skills began with eight participants on deck and constructive criticism coming from Errol Ranville, Vince Fontaine, Heather Bishop, Art Napoleon and Sherryl Sewepagaham. With the PA system set up and the day’s agenda complete, some of the boys later set up shop on stage and tore into some covers tunes before hitting the hay around 10:00 pm.

Tuesday’s theme was “Hitting the Road” and the morning session focused on touring basics. The group discussed the financial realities of tours (ie. how much money they can expect to lose the first couple of times out), how to negotiate with talent buyers, how to avoid partying with fans at each stop, and resources available for recording artists who are interested in touring. The afternoon offered two options for the participants with a workshop about image and marketing materials lead by Joel Martin (a Mohawk graphic designer, with past clients such as Universal Music and SOCAN) and “Traditional Elements in Contemporary Music” lead by Art Napoleon and Sherryl Sewepagaham. From 4:00 pm-5:30 pm, Doug Cox and Kinnie Starr were joined by Dominic Lloyd from the West End Cultural Centre to discuss the inner workings of the festival circuit including where to find artistic directors, how artistic directors prefer to be approached by artists, and what artistic directors expect from artists once they’ve been booked. Brandon Friesen (Arbor Records, C12 Records, 441 Studios) then joined Dominic Lloyd, Kinnie Starr and Marty Ballentyne on the panel for the second round of Performance Skills critiques in the evening. Later that evening Doug Cox brought out his dobro, inspiring others to get their guitars, resulting in a cozy little jam session in the Misty Lake Lodge lounge.

The workshops on Wednesday focused on recording. “How do I Make Better Recordings?” was the first topic and the group discussed the pros and cons of working with producers, the benefits of pre-production before hitting the studio, the difference between studio musicians and the folks you perform with and the importance of having a great recording for your first release. World-renowned percussionist and music educator Sal Ferreras joined the group after lunch to lead two “Production Labs,” which re-examined the content of songs by a number of the participants for range, texture, lyrics, choruses and form. The participants were also asked to try new approaches by Sal Ferreras with additional suggestions made by their peers. After supper, Billy Joe Green and Curtis Jonnie joined Sal Ferreras, Kinnie Starr and Doug Cox for the third and final round of Performance Skills critiques. With the workshops out of the way, Curtis and Billy Joe hit the stage with the participants to give them a taste of how the legends get it done. The jam this evening went a little too long and apologies went out to the great management and staff at the Misty Lake Lodge.

Thursday was the last day of workshops before the project wrap-up and evaluations on Friday. The morning session was entitled “How do I Make More Money in the Music Industry,” a question that a number of the instructors jokingly suggested should be rephrased to ask “how do I make any money in the music industry,” or “how do I not lose so much money in the music industry.” The discussion topics include music publishing, registering with SOCAN and the value of submitting performance reports, placing music in film and television, and the importance of handling the business side of things on your own before hiring someone else to do it for you. After lunch, Heather Bishop led the group through an in-depth workshop on business. Her presentation included a 40-page booklet, which included an explanation of business structures, an example of a comprehensive performance agreement, information on contributing to a pension through the American Federation of Musicians and valuable templates for tracking expenses related to releasing a CD and operating as a performing artist. This workshop was followed by “Sound Checking Strategies.” Doug Cox used this opportunity to explain the finer points of how sound technicians get the best sound out of their gear for the rooms they word and what artists can do to make the whole process easier. This explanation was followed by individual performances by Heather Bishop, Kinnie Starr, Marty Ballentyne, Doug Cox, Sherryl Sewepagaham and Billy Joe Green, who also explained how they communicate with techs to get the best sound at their shows. After supper the group prepared for the grand finale. Each participant was assigned a time and asked to bring their best performance to the group. The concert started with a great audience participation piece by Patrick Tointigh, moved into an outstanding collaboration between DJ Madeskimo (Geronimo Inutiq) and Madeleine Allakariallak and ended with a jaw-dropping performance by Jared Sowan. After the concert, Jesse Green (PA, backline and tech supplier) decided to stick around and a couple of amps, microphones and other instruments made their way to the lounge. The jam was fantastic and Murray Sylvester played with Billy Joe Green, Skeena Reece sang with Doug Cox and DJ Madeskimo tried his hand on bass.

Friday was spent picking the brains of the participants for insight into how to make AMP Camp better. With final goodbyes taken care of the night before, the group later boarded the charter bus back to Winnipeg, catching flights home or rides back to their families.

The Aboriginal Music Program would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Manitoba Culture, Heritage & Tourism, Manitoba Film and Sound, the Manitoba Arts Council and a contribution by MARIA through the Manitoba Music and Motion Pictures Development Project.

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