music city

She Said: Creating a Music City

Music City.

That’s what some people are hoping Moncton can become. The city, Music / Musique NB, and Music Canada are hosting a symposium here later this month to “identify key strategies and concrete recommendations that policy makers, political leaders and members of the music community can use in building a strong, more vibrant music community.”

A lofty goal for a one-day event, but a valuable strategy for our province.

There are pockets of success in the local music industry, but this symposium seeks to create a concentrated effort between municipal decision makers and musicians that could give a boost to the local economy. I’m also hoping those high level dreams are supported with some efforts to create a foundation of community engagement.

A ‘music city’ doesn’t just benefit musicians and bar owners. It creates a diverse economic impact that drives innovation in other sectors. It also helps solidify a place’s identity. I’d argue Moncton has done considerably well to create a cultural industry (Frye Festival, Capitol Theatre, etc.) that will make it easier for the message of music’s potential to make it from the green rooms to the council chambers, but we do have work ahead to create a ‘music city’.

We have many made-in-the-Maritimes examples of how a structured approach to all aspects of supporting a musical economy, including symposiums like this one and the other workshops hosted by Music / Musique NB, can benefit a community. One only has to look to Celtic Colours in Cape Breton or Harvest Jazz and Blues in Fredericton for inspiration.

The ‘music city’ moniker might not be enough, though. The City of Moncton has hired a consulting firm to help craft a “major event strategy” that includes the ‘big concert on the hill’ promotions as well as sporting events in our community. Again, a strategy that is worth the price tag, but only if we as citizens are willing to put in the effort, too.

If we want to be a ‘music city,’ we need to make sure we are making music accessible to each person in our community. We can’t wait for them to find it, we need to bring the music to the people.

Did you know that between Moncton, Riverview, and Dieppe there are as many as 80 free concerts each summer? I do, because I spent hours searching through various websites and social media pages to find the details and create a chronological list my family and others could use to introduce our children to live music. Free community concerts, whether it’s the Place 1604 lunch hour shows or Caseley Park Wednesday night performances or the major festivals at Riverfront Park, can be a key part of creating a community that appreciates the value of music.

Small actions create big changes.

To build community, we need the big conference and the big thinkers; but we also need to start from day one, bringing our children to community events, focusing on local history as much as national and international in our classrooms, and making sure people know just how accessible the whole world is from here at home. We can’t wait until someone graduates from high school and then try to start convincing them to choose New Brunswick. We need to show them all along why this is their place.

And that means showing them the small acts alongside the big acts. It means working to fill the audience at the free summer shows so that we can attract major touring talent. We can’t expect to keep the momentum needed to support major entertainment strategies if we can’t get our neighbours out to free concerts.

A version of this post appeared originally in the Times & Transcript. Click here for more She Said columns.

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