The Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions (WRCMS) is a weeklong series of workshops, concerts, panels, reading sessions, and activities designed to promote and provide opportunities for emerging and early career Canadian and international performers, improvisers, and composers of contemporary music. The all-Canadian roster of acclaimed early career guest artists and ensembles will be performing in diverse venues all across the Waterloo region (a major hub of artistic activity in Ontario), and will also be providing mentorship, coaching, and workshops throughout the week to selected applicants chosen to participate in WRCMS 2017.
Last week I met with Ivana Jokic, Co-artistic Director and Co-organizer of WRCMS to talk about this exciting new festival.
1. How did the idea for this event come to be?
In August 2016, I met with my friend Andrzej Tereszkowski to drive to a concert of Gabriel Dharmoo’s Anthropologies Imaginaires in Toronto. During the drive to the concert, he told me about an idea he had been contemplating to host a contemporary music festival and workshop for emerging and early career artists in the Waterloo Region.
He had already brainstormed ideas and was so enthusiastic about it that I immediately showed interest to pursue this project. After that meeting, we started having weekly planning meetings, selected a roster of Guest Artists and Mentors, and shortly after, recruited two new members, Maria Kouznetsova (WRCMS Admin. Head) and Colin Labadie (WRCMS Co-Organizer)
2. How long has it taken to plan this event?
1 year – since August of 2016, we have been spending approximately 30 – 60 hours collectively per week between the four organizers to build WRCMS from the ground up.
3. Do you think that more of an effort has to be made to provide opportunities for emerging and early career artists, or is it up to the artists to create the opportunities like what been done here with WRCMS?
There are many competitions, and some similar workshop programs for emerging and early career artists in Montreal and Toronto – but a festival workshop whose mandate includes the promotion of these artists is unique in Canada.
Additionally, our focus was a ‘think global, act local’ initiative. For years, students in the Waterloo Region have been flocking to the major urban centers and arts academies in Canada and abroad to seek opportunities, often at high costs to study with well-established late career artists who faced different realities, challenges, and opportunities in their careers. We wanted to provide our participants and guest artists an alternative; an affordable, peer-mentorship model workshop that brings some of the most significant early career contemporary musicians in the Region and Canada together.
4. Your artistic statement mentions that WRCMS is committed to achieving balance within the gender spectrum in your programming as the community is currently predominantly cis males. Does having broader representation affect the music itself that is being made, the community, or both?
This broader representation does not affect the music specifically since the music composed and performed is unique to the individual creating it. Having a broader representation affects the community since it helps create a diverse and welcoming space for everyone in the community.
5. Can you expand a little more about the women's composers event on the 25th?
The women’s composer event on the 25th is a concert showcasing music written by those that identify as women. The performers that will be performing said works are also the Thin Edge New Music Collective, including Cheryl Duvall, piano, Ilana Waniuk, violin, and Dobrochna Zubek, cello. We requested that our guest artists take our mandate of gender parity into account in their program – but we join many initiatives who feel it is vitally important to promote the work of outstanding woman composers to contrast de facto all male programs. And of course, this event is not exclusive to women, it is open to all audiences.
6. What are you hoping that people will take away from this event?
We want everyone to feel welcome, heard, seen, understood, and to form lasting personal and professional relationships that cross municipal, provincial, and national borders. Additionally, we want our participants to walk away with confidence that a viable life in the arts is within their reach, and to understand the opportunities that they can explore and/or create.
7. The event is 8 days of great programming. Is there a particular event that you’re most excited about?
We are really excited about the participants’ concert because these are the participants that were selected to take part in the festival. We selected 10 composers and 19 performers who are coming from all over the map to participate in WRCMS. This was a difficult process, as we were blown away by the quality of our applicants, and their statements of interest in our program. Each composer was paired up with 2-4 performers and wrote a new creation for those performers to prepare and perform at WRCMS. We built this program for them, after all.
8. If someone's schedule only allows for them to attend a few of the concerts, which ones would you suggest that would give someone a good idea of the event overall?
Our program is a ‘pick your own adventure model’ – I’d say that interested patrons come to the events that they find of most interest. It is not possible to say ‘this’ or ‘this’ event deserves more attention than any other. We carefully selected our guest artists, and think they all deserve equal consideration.
9. Besides attending concerts, how else can people get involved?
People who live in the KW area can get involved by volunteering at the festival. This includes helping with ushering, selling tickets at the box office, transportation of equipment from point A to B, unloading equipment and also helping with any miscellaneous things that may come up.
Here is a link below to the volunteer form:
If you are not in KW but still want to contribute, WRCMS has a crowdfunding campaign which ends on August 27th through YouCaring. We have exciting perks for those that donate which includes concert tickets, a full subscription to the festival, a copy of our digital album, and dinner with one of the guest artists or hosts.
Here is the link below to our campaign:
10. What’s next for WRCMS?
We hope WRCMS become an annual event, so we are planning on running the program again next summer in 2018. We hope that year to year, the reputation of the program continues to grow, that each year our programming tackles topics relevant topics within our field, and that as each generation of emerging artists begins their path, that they will have a platform to take their first steps into the professional world.
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Interview by Glodeane Brown
Photos from the WRCMS website