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Arts

A permanent quest to find a better sounding, better playing guitar – meet Jason McGillivray, player and luthier

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At Todayville, some of us have a guitar addiction.  And so, when we can profile an Alberta guitar maker, we’re very happy to do so.  Oh, we also like video and filmmaking, so this video by ilia Photo and Cinema of Calgary’s Jason McGillivray building a beautiful McGillivray “Parlour Guitar” is an added bonus.  Learn about Jason’s journey from player and enthusiast to luthier.

“…Having played guitar since the early 80’s, I was on a permanent quest, as most musicians are, to find a better sounding, better playing, instrument than the one I had…”

By Jason McGillivray:

I am often asked “how did you get into guitar building?” For me, the appeal lies in the way lutherie combines art and science, drawing upon and exercising the left and right sides of the brain. Satisfaction is gained as the process unfolds and I combine and work down natural materials such as spruce or rosewood. The culmination is an heirloom-quality instrument that enhances the human experience of both player and listener and, as the instrument is passed on, for future generations.

Having played guitar since the early 80’s, I was on a permanent quest, as most musicians are, to find a better sounding, better playing, instrument than the one I had. Frequenting guitar shops whenever I could, I discovered factory offerings could only attain a certain level, and still maintain desired prices and production targets. I began to research guitar building, thinking in the future it would be something I’d like to pursue.

I spent ten years studying the craft, collecting tone wood, and acquiring tools, before actually building my first guitar. I learned that factory guitars and handmade guitars have fundamental differences. In the factory setting, guitar parts are mass produced in batches with speed and efficiency driving construction methods and design decisions. As the guitar moves down the line, the next piece is pulled from the bin and added to the assembly. All the components in the pile are of uniform dimensions; however wood is not a uniform material, even from the same tree. Each piece of wood needs to be evaluated and then worked to its optimum dimensions, based on its stiffness and density.

In the factory, randomly selecting components from the bin occasionally results in a combination of excellent parts, producing an exceptional guitar. This is why you can play ten factory guitars of the same model, made at the same time, and a few will excel, a few will underperform, and the rest will be average. A good hand builder, in a one-person shop, takes the mystery out of how the final product will perform. He or she has invested years collecting superb tone woods, studying the properties of wood and adhesives, and incorporating the successes, and knowledge gained from failures, of luthiers, past and present. Only the best wood is selected, and then worked to its fullest potential as it is combined with other woods, bone, and steel, to work synergistically as a unit.

While I was doing my research and collecting tone wood, I ordered an expensive, handmade guitar with an inheritance from my grandfather. This, I reasoned, would give me a benchmark to study and compare my own building progress against in the future, plus I would get that handmade tone and playability I’d been searching for. The guitar arrived six months later, and although it was nice, it just didn’t have the tone that my ear was searching for. This was the nudge I needed to kick-start my building career. Perhaps it would take many tries, but redirecting my energy from searching for my perfect guitar, to creating it, sat well with me, and so it began.

I learned from a tutor who is an experienced builder, and by self-study and experimentation.  While completing my BSc in Forest Science I had the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge on the structural properties of wood, at a cellular level; this has served me well in understanding how to select and optimize tone wood.  Twenty years in the sawmilling and forest products industry, as a professional forester, further tempered my understanding of wood, the growing conditions required for premium tone wood, and how to break down a tree for the highest quality yield.  Attending the American School of Lutherie, in Portland Oregon, and studying the methods and approach of Charles Fox, gave me a strong foundation and I have continued to refine my sound and style.

Initially based in British Columbia, McGillivray Guitars now operates out of Calgary, Alberta, producing several commissioned instruments per year, with occasional speculative builds, the progress of which can be viewed on the website, in “On the Bench”.

Commissioned instruments are fully customizable in all aspects, including model, size, shape, scale length, string spacing, neck profile, body depth, and wood selection. If desired, an individual’s playing style, hand size, and physical conditions will be evaluated to select and guide the player to their optimum personalized instrument design.

Click to learn more about McGillivray Guitars including a full price list.

 

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Lieutenant Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Board Member Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) Musician, Photographer, Former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Alberta

Lieutenant Governor of Alberta celebrates ten emerging artists for 2020

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Lieutenant Governor of Alberta celebrates ten emerging artists for 2020

Alberta’s 2020 Emerging Artists named

Edmonton (June 4, 2020)

The Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation today announced awards totaling $100,000 to the 10 recipients of its 2020 Emerging Artist Award.  More than 60 invited guests joined the Zoom awards show, which is now public, and available on the Youtube link above.

“We are pleased to be able to invest in advancing the careers of these outstanding artists at the early stages of their professional development” says Foundation Chair, Arlene Strom. “When economic times are tough, our artists are particularly vulnerable. And in the midst of societal change and upheaval, ensuring our artist voices and perspectives are heard is critical.”

Here are this year’s awardees:

  • Kablusiak, visual, multidisciplinary artist, Calgary
  • Amy LeBlanc, writer, Calgary
  • Luc Tellier, theatre, Edmonton
  • Carlos Foggin, music, classical, Calgary
  • Lauren Crazybull, visual, Edmonton
  • Evan Pearce, multi-media, music, new technology, Edmonton
  • Molly Wreakes, music, French Horn, Edmonton
  • Bruce Cinnamon, writer, Edmonton
  • Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal, visual, multimedia, Calgary
  • Griffin Cork, theatre and film, Calgary

Her Honour, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, CM, AOE, LLD, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta congratulated the awardees on a Zoom meeting June 4, 2020. Each awardee receives a $10,000 cash award, a handcrafted medal and 2020 Emerging Artist certificate.

The 10 recipients were selected from 160 applications in a two-tiered adjudication process overseen by The Banff Centre. The adjudication panel included: Denise Clarke, associate artist, One Yellow Rabbit, 2007 Distinguished Artist awardee;  Adam Fox, Director of Programs, National Music Centre; Lindsey Sharman, curator, Art Gallery of Alberta; Alice Major; writer, poet, 2017 Distinguished Artist awardee.

Here is some background the each of the artists:

Kablusiak (they/them) is an Inuvialuk artist based in Mohkinstsis/Calgary and holds a BFA in Drawing from the Alberta University of the Arts.  Recognition for Kablusiak includes the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Prize (2017) and the Primary Colours Emerging Artist Award (2018), and short-list nominee for the Sobey Art Awards (2019).  A multi-disciplinary artist, they imbue a variety of mediums with their trademark ironic humour to address cultural displacement. 

Amy LeBlanc is the author of three books: her debut poetry collection, I know something you don’t know, was published with Gordon Hill Press

in March 2020.  Her novella, Unlocking, will be published by the UCalgary Press in 2021. Pedlar Press will publish her short story collection, Homebodies, in 2022. Her very timely master’s thesis is a work of fiction examining pandemics and chronic illness.

Luc Tellier is a theatre actor, director, and educator from Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, colonially known as Edmonton. He’s been seen in over twenty-five professional productions since graduating from MacEwan University’s Theatre Arts Program in 2014. As an arts educator and through his own freelance workshops, he mentors hundreds of students every year – sharing his belief that the arts are for everyone!

Carlos Foggin is driven by his passion to share live orchestral music with as many Albertans as possible! In 2016, he founded the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra which has since performed to more than 30,000 Albertans in over 50 concerts in small southern communities. He is a celebrated pianist, organist and improviser and has performed internationally on some of the world’s greatest organs.

Lauren Crazybull is a Blackfoot Dene artist living in Edmonton.  In 2019, Lauren was selected as Alberta’s inaugural artist in residence and was long listed for the Kingston Portrait Prize. Through her art, Lauren is asking poignant questions about how Indigenous identities can be represented, experienced, celebrated and understood through portraiture.

Evan Pearce began his career by editing music videos using found footage for local bands, but he’s now on the leading edge of two new emerging technology art forms: VJ-ing and New Media – working at the intersection of music, video, and leading-edge technology. Evan is fascinated with incorporating XR (Extended Reality) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in a live performance setting while VJing – and beyond.

Molly Wreakes is a classical french horn player originally from Edmonton, who has performed internationally as both a chamber and orchestral musician.  Molly served as the academist with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra In 2018/19 – performing with the orchestra and training with their horn section and orchestra members. Molly is also an avid chamber musician who is inspired to explore community outreach opportunities through music and musical creativity.

Bruce Cinnamon is a writer whose creative work thrives in the radiant sunshine of the gigantic Alberta sky, twisting and bending the familiar prairie landscape into carnivalesque fantasies.  Bruce won the 2015 Alberta Views short story contest; his first novel, The Melting Queen, was published by NeWest Press in 2019. He is currently working on his second novel, a fantasy story about a small Alberta town which suddenly vanishes when it is torn into a parallel universe by a predatory City.

Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal is a multi-media artist, community activist, and perpetual learner. She is a recipient of the National BMO 1st Art! Competition Award, and of the 2017 Alberta Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Award. Cardinal has been an active member in the urban Indigenous community in Treaty 7 Territory. Her work reflects the teachings she receives along her journey – and invites  others to become a part of the process, to partake in its making.

Griffin Cork is a Calgary-born actor and producer in the film and theatre industries. He is co-founder and Artistic Producer of Hoodlum Theatre, a small collective dedicated to creating disruptive and unabashed work. His company Numera Films took home an AMPIA Rosie Award for Best Web Series – Fiction in 2019 for Abracadaver. Griffin is committed to telling engaging, Albertan stories and strives to merge the mediums of film and theatre.

Backgrounder: About the awards

The late Fil Fraser, the late Tommy Banks, the late John Poole and Jenny Belzberg (Calgary) established the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation in 2003 to celebrate and promote excellence in the arts. The endowments they established were created with philanthropic dollars and gifts from the Province of Alberta and Government of Canada.

Since its inception in 2003, the Foundation has awarded $1,230,000 to 20 Distinguished Artists and 63 Emerging Artists, all Alberta affiliated.

The Foundation administers two awards programs:

  • The Emerging Artist Awardsprogram, established in 2008, gives up to 10 awards of $10,000 each to support and encourage promising artists early in their professional careers. Emerging Artist Awards are given out in even years.
  • The Distinguished Artist Awardsprogram, begun in 2005, gives up to three awards of $30,000 each in recognition of outstanding achievement in, or contribution to, the arts in Alberta. Distinguished Artist Awards are given in odd years. The 2019 Distinguished Artist Awards celebration will be in Maskwacis, Battle River region in September 21, 2019.

Todayville’s President Lloyd Lewis is a Board Director of the Foundation and was the Master of Ceremonies for this year’s online awards show.

Read more on Todayville.

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Alberta

This is how a Local Musician is giving back to her Community

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Kate Stevens is a local Calgarian and Bishop Carroll High School Alumni making a splash in the Canadian music industry with her original music and community investment initiatives. A talented singer-songwriter, she plays the ukulele, piano and guitar and writes all of her own music. 

Growing up in a musical household, Kate’s passion for music began at an early age and stayed with her all through her school years, eventually landing her in the music program at Bishop Carroll High School in Southwest Calgary. The education structure at BCHS allowed Kate to focus strongly on her love of music and develop as a young artist, impressively recording an entire studio album during her senior year. She also sang in choir and vocal jazz groups, building lasting connections within her high school and across the Calgary music community. 

Just 20 years old, Kate graduated from BCHS in 2017, the same year she released her debut EP, Handmade Rumors. Since graduation, things have been crazy for Kate. From bringing home YYC Music Awards Female Artist of the Year in 2018 to 4 nominations at the 2019 YYC Music Awards, releasing another single and launching the Youth Musicians of Music Mile Alliance (YOMOMMA) to help nurture young musicians in Calgary, busy is an understatement. However, despite her exciting rise and packed schedule, Kate remains deeply invested in her community, and recently launched a new initiative to give back to the BCHS program that helped her get her own start. Using funds from a recent licensing agreement for one of her songs, she has elected to sponsor an annual scholarship for a BCHS vocal student in their final year. 

“I was lucky to attend Bishop Carroll High School, “says Kate, “the incredible music program there helped me to develop as an artist, and I would like to give financial support to future musicians.” At $250 dollars a year, the scholarship will be awarded by the BCHS Choir Director to a student who shows exemplary leadership skills and wants to pursue music after graduation. Having been on the receiving end of scholarships throughout her own high school career, Kate is aware of the positive impact these types of grants can have on the lives of developing youth, and wanted to be a part of the process that helps young musicians chase their dreams. “If I can support someone in this industry and really encourage the idea that music is important, then I’ve done my job.” 

Currently, all of Kate’s upcoming performances have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19. Although she misses interacting with crowds and performing on stage, she remains optimistic and excited for the future. To hear her music and read more about her story, visit https://www.katestevensmusic.com.

Check out WeMaple video in partnership with Calgary Arts Development featuring Kate Stevens here.

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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june, 2020

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