HOW TO FUND YOUR WAY TO THE TOP
Canada Council grants help aspiring performers with artistic and personal development that includes composition, recording and touring. “The Canada Council supports professional musicians, which means they have already completed specialized training, or in many cases, post-secondary education. University or college students pursuing an undergraduate degree are not yet eligible for Canada Council funding,” states Heather McAfee, public relations officer for Canada Council, “We are an independent arms-length agency funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage.”
In order to meet the criteria for Canada Council funding, a professional musician has to have specialized training in his or her field, be recognized as a professional by their community and be committed to enhancing their musical career. The artist must have a demo or songs to present to Canada Council in a professional fashion.
“Apart from meeting these criteria, there are no specific qualities which Canada Council looks for in a suitable candidate. A committee of musicians and individuals in related fields makes all of the decisions,” says McAfee, “Artists that apply for funding at the Canada Council are already a part of a music community.”
Capilano university’s own Neelamjit Dhillon, a graduate of the Jazz Studies program, is one example of someone who has benefited from Canada Council funding. “Receiving support from the Canada Council has been instrumental in many aspects of not only my personal artistic life, but also for ensembles that I have been a part of and also projects that I have been able to participate in,” he says, “Grants have helped me to study in India, with recording albums and professional development. I’m currently in the process of finishing my doctorate degree at the California Arts Institute in Los Angeles. Many projects I have been a part of have also received support at festivals and various organizations.”
Musicians often need to expand their horizons in order to get their name out there and experience different markets. “Increasing travel costs related to performing and touring is often a barrier for musicians,” says McAfee, “Obtaining media coverage and centralized programming of broadcast radio can also be a challenge. The Council tries to keep abreast of the barriers that exist and provide programs that help respond to these challenges such as our Travel and Touring programs.”
Though Dhillon may run into obstacles, he continues to push himself as a musician and do whatever he can to diligently move forward in his career. “I’m continuing to find ways to navigate around the juggling act of a musician in the present artistic climate,” he says, “Not very many musicians make a living from just one thing anymore. We are teachers, students, band members as well as bandleaders. We manage ourselves, take care of the business side of things, which involves booking shows, tour planning and documentation such as recording.”
As cheesy as the saying may be, never losing sight of why something is being done can help carry dreams all the way through. Dhillon says that he would advise musicians to think of themselves as artist-entrepreneurs working towards both perfecting their craft, and finding or creating opportunities to showcase their talents. “You can’t just practice all day and expect the phone to magically ring with performance opportunities,” he says, “On the same token, booking lots of shows won’t be fulfilling if you have nothing to offer artistically.”
There are many different ways for an individual to launch their musical career and earn a living. Most careers are developed through professional education, practice and collaboration with other artists. Musicians who apply for funding from Canada Council are able to apply openly without the representation of an agent or recording label.
“It’s difficult to have a living in the arts without the occasional help from Canada Council,” says John Korsrud, a professional composer, director and musician, “It allows artists to think in large, exciting terms without having to water down in the content of the art to appeal to too large a population. This keeps the artistic standards high.
“In the past 24 years, I have received about 10 grants,” he continues, “Some to study, some to record music, some for subsistence to live while I compose and some to support commissioned music by other ensembles. My first grant in 1995 changed my life. It allowed me to study with one of the most famous composers in The Netherlands — it was a very important point in my career.”
Canada Council supports various arts fields such as visual arts, dance, theatre, music, publishing and art management. “In music alone, they support organizations such as professional orchestras, choirs and [many] types of ensembles. They also deal with the commissioning of original compositions, tutoring, money to study with a Masters Degree in his or her field of choice, and a recording contract,” adds Korsrud.
Funding is a big factor that can either straddle a musician down and hold them back or catapult them forwards in helping to jumpstart their career. Korsrud believes that all artists who meet the qualifications of the Canada Council should apply because it is vital to the development of a professional artist. “[It] can help him or her realize the vision of creating large scale artistic work,” he says, “The Canada Council helps keep the quality of the arts at a very high level.”
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