AMP Camp wraps up its fifth year

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The fifth installment of the Aboriginal Music Performers Camp (AMP Camp) went off without a hitch! It ran March 21-26 at the Misty Lake Lodge, located one hour north of Winnipeg in Manitoba’s Interlake region. All told, 19 artists accessed 52 hours of information and feedback from a faculty with 157 years of combined music industry experience.

Manitoba Music members Leonard Sumner (Lorenzo), Meghan Meisters (isKwe), Trisha North (Sadie), Dustin Harder (The Dusty Roads Band), Rodney Contois, Sonia Eidse, and Evan Reeve were joined by Jasmine Netsena, Cris Derksen, Janet Rogers, Brandy McCallum, Ron Harris (Ostwelve), Kristi Lane Sinclair, Becky Thomas, Teresa Bear, John J Cook, Cathleen Lesperance, Tyler Bear (Crown P), and Bonnie Couchie for the week long residency.

The workshops were led by a faculty of established artists and industry professionals. The participants benefited from the experience and expertise of music maven Kinnie Starr, JUNO Award winning songwriter Leela Gilday, dobro master Doug Cox, percussionist and music educator Sal Ferreras, industry trail blazer Heather Bishop, marketing consultant Andres Mendoza, hip hop booking agent Chris McKee, radio executive Dave McLeod, sound technician Matt Mayor, and AMP Camp alumni Marie-Josee Dandeneau, Tracy Bone, and Don Amero.

Each morning gave the group a chance to discuss business topics. Concurrent sessions on business and creative development ran each afternoon and the evenings were dedicated to performance coaching.

The business workshops were supplemented by one-on-one consultations, giving the participants a chance to work on more details with some of the instructors on hand. Bishop offered eight 30-minute consultations on business development, bookkeeping and career planning, Mendoza offered 12 30-minute consultations on marketing, and McKee was available for four individual consultations on hip hop tours and career planning.

Participants were assigned times for the Song Editing workshops with Starr, Working with Sound Techs workshops with Mayor, and the Song Labs with Ferreras, Cox, and Dandeneau. The Song Labs gave each participant the chance to explore new compositions with the support of a professional percussionist, bass player, and lead guitar or dobro. These sessions were both creative and impactful for many of the participants.

“This was our fifth time programming the workshops and organizing the whole experience,” says AMP Camp project manager Alan Greyeyes. “Everything we did this year was built on the lessons learned from previous years, so it all ran pretty smoothly.”

Monday morning kicked off with a workshop on marketing and publicity led by marketing guru Mendoza. Practical tools like Google Ads, Facebook Fan Pages, and were discussed, along with the basics of marketing plans and the role of publicists.

Monday afternoon gave the participants their first chance to break-off into smaller groups as McLeod led an Aboriginal Radio workshop, Cox offered guitar lessons to individuals, McKee spoke about the ins and outs of booking hip hop tours in Canada, and Mendoza talked about how the music industry works, during the 1pm-3pm block. A one hour break followed these sessions, which would be the norm for the rest of the week.

Song Editing with Starr, the first Song Lab with Ferreras, Cox, and Dandeneau, a workshop about sound checking and communicating with sound technicians, one-on-one consultations on marketing with Mendoza, and hip hop touring consultations with McKee ran in Monday’s 4pm-6pm block.

The first group of participants took the stage on Monday night for performance coaching from a panel of instructors. This group included Eidse, Contois, Thomas, Lorenzo, Lesperance, Sinclair, and Derksen.

Tuesday began with a business workshop entitled The Musicians Home Office. All 19 participants took in a lifetime of information from Bishop, including registering a business, in-kind contributions for funding applications, the benefits of joining the American Federation of Musicians union, negotiating and writing performance contracts, and basic bookkeeping. The group also left with a 22 page booklet that gave them budget examples, performance contract examples, and other templates they could use in their own careers.

The first set of afternoon workshops on Tuesday gave the participants a chance to receive vocal coaching from Gilday, one-on-one feedback on marketing plans from Mendoza, song editing instruction from Starr, and advice on musical compositions from Ferreras, Cox, and Dandeneau.

After the break, Gilday led a songwriting workshop, Mayor wrapped up his second and final workshop on sound checking and communicating with sound technicians, Bishop offered one-on-one business consultations, Mendoza offered more marketing consultations, and Ferreras, Cox, and Dandeneau ran a third round of their producers lab.

After supper, McCallum, Cook, Couchie, Crown P, Rogers, and Reeve hit the stage for feedback on their delivery, stage presence, and ability to engage audiences.

Wednesday morning started with a panel discussion about career planning. The panel included Gilday, Mendoza, Starr, Bone, Dandeneau, and Amero. Topics included the role of industry professionals, things to consider when self-managing, funding available to Aboriginal artists in Canada, and the role of music industry associations.

After lunch, the participants went in four directions, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn how the music industry works with Mendoza, get song editing support from Starr, work on their music with Ferreras, Cox, and Dandeneau, or get business planning advice from Bishop.

The second block of workshops on Wednesday afternoon included Vocal Coaching with Gilday, Record Planning and Budgeting with Cox, Percussion Patterns with Ferreras, and Performance Skills with Bishop, Amero, and Bone.

Later that evening Ostwelve, Bear, isKwe, Sadie, Netsena, and Dustin Harder took the stage for performance coaching from the instructors.

“Touring in Both Worlds” was the title of Thursday morning’s business workshop. Gilday, Starr, Cox, Amero, Bone, and Dandeneau shared their touring experience, included tour routing, negotiating fees, working with publicists, and accessing funding. The differences between gigs inside and out of the Aboriginal community were also discussed along with the group’s feelings about using the “Aboriginal music” brand when marketing their performances.

Only one workshop block was scheduled for Thursday afternoon so that the participants could have a couple hours to rehearse and prepare for the Closing Night Concert later that evening. Workshops on funding, Aboriginal radio, and performance skills were offered, along with four 30-minute individual guitar lessons with Cox.

The Closing Night Concert gave the group a chance to collaborate and perform one last song for their new found friends. Each participant did really well. Instructors Cox (dobro), Ferreras (percussion), and Dandeneau (bass) backed up a most of the acts, while hip hop emcee Lorenzo and cellist Derksen made guest appearances on a number of others.

Friday morning was spent reflecting on the week and evaluating the effectiveness of each of the workshops. Improvements for future participants were discussed along with the successes of the previous five days.

Here’s a bit of what the AMP Camp 2010 participants and instructors had to say about their experience:

“The best part is the insight and information that is shared; no one has to share anything, they just do. We also get to play music with some of the top musicians in Canada and they willingly share their experiences. It seems too good and too fun to be true. I am inspired and I now have loads of new friends and future collaborators.” 
-Jasmine Netsena (participant), Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

“I applied for AMP Camp because I really wanted to focus on the release of my first full length album. With the help of industry professionals Heather Bishop and Andres Mendoza, I was able to figure out what needed to be done from a business, marketing and publicity stand point. Also, the funding workshop with Jason Smith, Tracy Longbottom, Cathleen Enns, and Gerri Trimble really shed some light on all the support available out there for a musician like me.”
-Evan Reeve (participant), Churchill, Manitoba

“I had an amazing experience at AMP Camp. Rarely do artists get that type of personal mentoring & advice on their careers in such an intimate setting. I wish that we had similar programs available across Canada for all levels of musicians. Regardless if you are an up & coming singer or a JUNO winning artist, I think the experiences learned at AMP Camp will no doubt further your career as there was something available to help all levels of artists advance their career path.”
-Chris McKee of The McKee Agency (instructor), Toronto, Ontario

Manitoba Music and the Canada Council for the Arts produce AMP Camp. Manitoba Music also receives support for the project from the Manitoba Arts Council. Manitoba Music’s Aboriginal Music Program is supported by Manitoba Film & Music and Manitoba Culture, Heritage, & Tourism.

For more information about AMP Camp, please visit

For more information about Manitoba Music, please visit

For more information about the Canada Council for the Arts, please visit

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