by Ethan Paquet
In September, the Holland College School of Performing Arts (SoPA), in partnership with Berklee College of Music from Boston, hosted a Popular Music Performance Conference.
The event featured a panel discussion on successful showcasing for industry, a workshop about stage presence and professional performance advice, and a live music showcase.
High school students taking the Popular Music Performance (PMP) course were invited to the conference, where they met current SoPA students and learned about the curriculum and the college’s Berklee/SoPA degree pathway agreement.
“If a high school student is serious about studying popular music, we want to show them what is available here at Holland College,” says Liam Corcoran, Program Manager, SoPA. “A big part of our curriculum is about the business side of music, and this conference helps us show students that they can make a career out of music.”
Liam says the decision to invite high school students to attend came from the expansion of the PMP course, which started as a pilot two years ago and is now offered at all English-language Island high schools this year.
“We thought it was a great time to get their students and our SoPA students in the same building.”
About the Popular Music Performance course
Linda MacIsaac-Gallant, Arts Education Leader K–12 for the province, says the PMP course teaches students the skills they need to thrive in a wide variety of professional music scenes or styles.
“In Grade 10, there is a strong focus on essential musical skills and knowledge. This includes overall concepts, personalized skills and techniques, and professionalism. There is also a great emphasis on working through the creative process.
“As students progress through Grades 11 and 12, their depth of learning increases. Students advance their musical goals and broaden their skill set in other genres and performance situations.”
While the course focuses heavily on music, the material helps students develop in other vital areas as well, she says. “Students develop a sense of who they uniquely are and where they fit within their world, which is social-emotional learning. They also celebrate and explore different genres, styles, and forms of music through a variety of cultural contexts, which encourages them to be socially responsible citizens in a globalized world.”
When Liam suggested the conference was a way for students in the course to learn about the music industry and connect with SoPA students, the Department of Education and Early Years realized the value and potential impact the course would have on the students, Linda says.
“Connecting students with other like-minded musicians and mentors enables them to continue learning. With the incredible amount of knowledge presented at the conference, students got a better understanding of how their unique music-making is encouraged, and that higher-level learning, creating and performing is achievable.”
A panel featuring two live music delegates discussed ways to effectively perform at a showcase, which is a short concert designed to expose new or little-known performers to music industry professionals.
Doug Cox is the Artistic Director for Vancouver Island MusicFest. With over 40 years of experience in producing, touring, teaching, and recording, he has been on both sides of showcasing, which he says provides him with a unique perspective.
“Performing at a showcase is very different from performing at a regular gig. You have to get across the message of who you are and what you are doing in a very short span of time.”
The best way for musicians to succeed at a showcase is to treat it like a job interview, he says. “The moment you walk in the room, you’re being watched. If you are intoxicated, loud, or rude, somebody is noticing that, so you have to show that you are engaged and that you treat people respectfully.”
An average performance lasts 10 minutes, so it is important to be prepared before going on stage, he says. “You don’t have time to waste, so make sure that you and your gear are ready to perform before you get on stage.”
A common job search tool that can help musicians connect off-stage with industry representatives is an elevator pitch, he says. “Don’t just rhyme off all the things you do – that won’t work. Instead, find a way to say who you are and what you do in just one or two sentences. The better the pitch, the bigger the impact you will have on the person you are trying to impress.”
His advice for all musicians is to never lose sight of their long-term goals. “Don’t take it personally if you don’t get picked up immediately. Just be sincere and perform with intention. That alone will carry you a long way.”
Kerry Clarke is the Artistic and Marketing Director for the Calgary Folk Music Festival. Throughout her career, she has served on several arts juries and non-profit arts boards.
“At our festival, we showcase through collaborative sessions,” she says. “It’s really great to see how people improvise and work outside their comfort zones.”
The most important way to make a positive first impression is by remaining calm and respectful, she says. “It’s totally normal to want to approach us afterwards and ask what we thought of your performance, but don’t push yourself on us.”
She encourages musicians to take advantage of their short set by playing the songs that best suit their abilities and capture who they are. “See it as a sort of mini-concert. Choose your best song or songs, the ones you’ve tested that a regular audience responds well to. You don’t have to select a jazz song to appeal to jazz people, or a folk song to appeal to folk people.”
Showcasing is like any other job search, and candidates need to treat performances like a job interview, she says. “This is tough because you are expected to perform well even when there are hard things happening in your life. Do your best to keep the pressure down as much as possible and understand that more people want to be hired than we have spots available.”
One job search tool that helps candidates stand out is following up after the event. “Send an email to let us know that you enjoyed meeting us, express your interest in playing at our event, and make sure we have your contact information.”
Her advice for musicians who are not picked up at a showcase is to remain positive and professional toward the industry representative. “You never know when you’ll see them again in the future. Sometimes we see a musician and make a note that it’s someone we want to follow up with. Maybe not right away, but somewhere down the road we’ll think of them, so showcasing isn’t necessarily a one-and-done deal.”
Students offer their thoughts
Isabelle Mosher-Gallant is a Grade 11 student at Three Oaks Senior High. When she learned the school offered PMP, she knew it was a course she wanted to take, she says.
“I adore music. A lot of my R&B bandmates are also in the class, and I just love learning how to use music to express ourselves. PMP has taught me how to get myself out there, make music, perform, and be happy.”
Her favourite part of the course is getting the chance to develop her musical knowledge, she says. “We’ve been able to perform in public and in groups, so I really got to see other people’s perspectives on music, which has helped influence and expand my own perspectives.”
Her takeaway from the conference was seeing the different ways to turn a love of music into a career. “I really liked seeing all the different sides of music, because it is a career path I’d looked into in the past. This conference showed me the steps different musicians took to get to where they are now, and the possibilities that are available.”
Aiden Goeseels is a Grade 10 student at Three Oaks Senior High. When he took a music course at Summerside Intermediate School in Grade 9, he wanted to stay on that path, he says.
“Going into Grade 10, I asked if there were any courses I could take in high school that would be like the class I loved. My teacher told me about PMP, and it seemed like it would be really fun and right up my alley for what I liked doing.”
The best part of the course is that it is not like other classes, he says. “We’re doing new things every time we come into the classroom. We’ve had the chance to play music with different people and meet people with different skill levels, and that’s been really fun.”
His main takeaway from the conference is the valuable information and tips that were provided, he says. “I recorded the whole thing just because there was just so much valuable information. Being able to listen and learn from people with a lot of experience and being surrounded by a lot of musicians has been really great.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
about Holland College’s School of Performing Arts (SoPA), visit www.hollandcollege.com/about/campuses-and-centres/SOPA/
To learn more about the Popular Music Performance high school course, contact Linda MacIsaac-Gallant, Arts Education Leader K–12, at firstname.lastname@example.org