What is Canada’s National Music Centre?

JUNO Week 2016 offers a sneak peek. We introduce you to the NMC’s bold vision.

Published March 16, 2016 

With JUNO Week 2016 taking place in Calgary from March 28 to April 3, the nation will be tuned in to the host city. The Canadian music industry will be treated to two receptions offering a sneak peek at the greatly expanded National Music Centre. These will be the first major events held in the NMC’s stunning new home inside Studio Bell, which launches this summer.

The National Music Centre grew out of Calgary’s Cantos Music Museum, and has roots that date back to 1996. Construction began on its remarkable new building in 2013, with a programming vision to match. The new NMC will be a 160,000 square-foot hub for Canadian music culture. It will house themed exhibits and national collections - including more than 2,000 rare instruments and artifacts – as well as offer artist incubation, recording and performance opportunities, and educational programming. TD is pleased to support the NMC. 

TD Music spoke with Andrew Mosker, President and CEO, to learn more about the NMC and Calgary’s vibrant music community. 

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What is the fundamental role of the National Music Centre?
“To celebrate, champion and foster our national music story 365 days of the year. Celebrating music in Canada is telling stories about the accomplishments that we as a country have made musically, both nationally and around the world.”
How does the NMC do this?
“For us, this means telling stories about Canadian artists on a regular basis, through things like exhibitions. We have 21,000 square feet of permanent exhibitions in our new building, and in those 21 different gallery spaces, visitors can be inspired by a whole range of topics about music from this country. They’re stories of artists, stories about music and community, and stories of place. For example, we have an exhibition about live music venues that have had an impact on communities, whether it’s a soft seater like Places des Arts in Montréal, The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto or Calgary’s King Eddy Hotel, which between 1980 and its demise in 2004 was a well-known venue for live blues. That’s one of 21 stories we want to celebrate.”
How will the NMC itself act as a music venue?
“We will have two main stages [one is the King Eddy’s former stage, lovingly reconstructed], and will present musicians from this country, in all genres of music, on them. I felt it was very important to build a live music platform with a really diverse offering – from instrumental musicians to EDM artists, classical musicians, hip-hop, indie dance and everything else that’s out there in Canada. Five years from now, when people look at a calendar of what’s being presented at the NMC, I want jaws to drop.”
Is Calgary a particularly good home base?
“Calgary may not have the population of Toronto or the years of cultural influence that a city like Montréal has, but Calgary is thirsty for new ideas, especially at this time when its economic footprint and foundations are being significantly challenged. Albertans are entrepreneurs, they’re risk takers, and music is all about taking risks. Music is also a great way to attract people to a city, to build a city’s identity in a very meaningful way, and is a rallying cry on a national and international basis.”
How would you describe Calgary’s music scene?
“Calgary’s music community is very supportive and interdisciplinary. Calgary often gets labeled as a country music centre and, in my view, it’s anything but. You can see country music live any day of the week in Toronto, which is not the case in Calgary. I think our independent music scene, as exemplified by the Sled Island festival and its audience base, has really grown. Lots of people point to bands like Reuben and the Dark as a sign there’s something serious happening here, or Leslie Feist before that, and of course Chad VanGaalen is a Calgarian.”

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How will local music communities benefit from the NMC?
“Calgary artists are going to do a lot of the pioneering in all of our main programming spaces. I see, particularly in our early years, working very closely with our local music community to really pilot the new building, to test the recording studios and residency programs, to get our stages scratched and venues working properly. We will be a place that supports their development as artists.”
What does it mean for the NMC to have the 2016 JUNOS in Calgary?
“People who come to the JUNOS don’t just come for the Sunday evening broadcast; there are a lot of other things that happen during the week. The people who come in are involved in every aspect of the Canadian music community, and pretty much every genre of music. For us to have those people in Calgary is a way to clarify what it is the NMC will do to advance music in this country, be it through celebrating our history of achievement, offering a recording studio with access to the historic collection of instruments, putting on shows and, really, presenting artists in every form. My goal is to get people in the space so they can better understand what it is we’ve created, and then find some way to get involved with it.”