The Press

Adopt-a-Family provides Christmas joy to those in need

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Nov. 21, 2014 – The Kinette Club of Calgary will help more than 170 families in need celebrate Christmas with their 2014 Adopt-a-Family program.

The program, once run by the City of Calgary and offered to the Calgary Kinettes in 2005, provides holiday hampers for families who find themselves unable to provide for basic needs at Christmas.

“We take referrals from agencies and counsellors for families that match our criteria,” said Adopt-a-Family co-chair Rhonda Ronaldson.

“They must meet our low-income requirement, their wish list should include necessities and demonstrate need, and they must be a family, meaning that there are children.”

Families are also not eligible if they have received a hamper within the previous three years.

Sara Doruch, middle school family connector with Calgary Family Services, has referred 20 to 30 families to the program each Christmas for the past three years.

Doruch applies to the program on behalf of families with students who attend one of the three middle schools she oversees.

“I love that anyone can access the program, not like some of the other organization-specific Adopt-a-Families [in Calgary],” said Doruch.

“The Kinette program is so well-run, and I love that they’re really focused on practical things, like providing grocery and clothing support.

“I think it’s an amazing program, and I’m always happy when my families’ applications have been approved.”

If an application meets the requirements and is accepted by the Adopt-a-Family committee, then the family is matched with a program donor.

“We have a lot of generous donors who take on families,” said Ronaldson.

Program donors shop for the family they have been assigned based on each family’s specific list of needs, and deliver their gifts to the Calgary Kinettes during the ‘hamper weekend,’ which takes place at the beginning of December.

This year’s Adopt-a-Family weekend will take place on Dec. 6 and 7 at the Stampede grounds.

“Donors will drop off everything on Saturday, and then families can pick up their hampers on Sunday,” said Dani Savell, past Adopt-a-Family chair.

“A number of our Kin family join us to work that weekend. We rely heavily on our volunteers.”

Members of Kinsmen and Kinette clubs from the area help to wrap gifts, identify incomplete hampers, and assemble packages for families to pick up.

As many of the families in need of help cannot drive to collect their goods, the Kinette Club of Calgary offers assistance with transportation.

“We can’t physically deliver all of the hampers, because it would be too much,” said Ronaldson.

“But if a family can get to us, whether by bus or the C-train, then we will pay for them to go home in a cab with their hamper.”

The Adopt-a-Family committee also shops for families, providing hampers for any applicants who have not been matched with a donor.

“Our club probably helps between 15 or 20 every year ourselves,” said Savell.

“The committee will shop from our inventory first, and then supplement the hampers with anything that is missing.”

The Adopt-a-Family inventory is housed in a storage locker, and includes a number of items ranging from linens and clothing of various sizes to toys and games that have been purchased at bargain prices throughout the year.

“We have been fortunate to make some great partnerships along the way,” said committee member Darlene Morris.

“We get our storage locker at a reduced rate, we get great deals at stores, and we get money donated from other clubs.”

The Adopt-a-Family program has witnessed a number of situations its committee members can only describe as “heartbreaking.”

“It opens your eyes to what people are living through every single day,” said Ronaldson.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that people’s situations can change very quickly, and there will always be the need for a program like this one,” Savell said.

With the continued generosity of private and corporate donors, and the help of a strong volunteer base, the Kinette Club of Calgary looks forward to providing Christmas joy to Calgarian families in need for generations to come.

“The feeling of that hamper weekend is like nothing else,” said Morris.

“There’s nothing under your own Christmas tree that can compare.”

Afghanistan war stories come to life in Okotoks art exhibit

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Feb. 7, 2015 – The latest display at the Okotoks Art Gallery, Light Horse Tales of an Afghan War, is an exhibit by Edmonton-based artist Al Henderson featuring stories of war veterans.

Light Horse Tales runs until Feb. 28, and includes sculpture in various mediums – bronze, marble, copper, and metal – as well as a number of tablet drawings depicting soldiers’ tales.

Henderson, who attended ACAD from 1981 to 1983 as a print major before turning to sculpture, decided to create the exhibit when friends and colleagues began going to Afghanistan, and returning with both heartwarming and harrowing stories.

“These pieces represent very moment-to-moment things,” Henderson explained in an interview.

“The prints hang right to left, to represent the way they read in that part of the world, because the format of the drawings is meant to relate to the pamphlets the soldiers used to hand out to locals, to connect the two different cultures.”

A four-panel series of five-foot by two-foot lightjet prints on aluminum is entitled ‘Rob’s Story,’ and offers an account of one particularly memorable day for one of Henderson’s best friends, who narrowly escaped death when a rocket struck the vehicle he had been riding in just moments earlier.

The day resulted in the deaths of many civilians and military personnel, and the bloodshed and terror are depicted in Henderson’s prints.

Stories of three other soldiers are also presented in the form of single prints on tablet and aluminum, and include more general experiences in the Afghan wars, and interactions with local culture.

Henderson’s collection drew the attention of many attendees at the exhibit opening and artist’s reception on Jan. 16.

Taliban heads, weapons, and local children carrying treads or operating turrets are brought to life in bronze.

“Bronze sculpture has an assumption of tribute to it,” Henderson said.

“And marble has a connection to things very old.

“I enjoy working with different mediums to help tell the story and add a detail to the depth of my art.”

One of the most interesting sculpture mediums included in the exhibit is copper-jacketed lead, to symbolize the bullets and shells that scattered across the Afghan landscape.

This medium is used to cast images of innocent civilian children.

“Kids would go behind the shooting targets in the hills and collect bullets between shots or after a day of shooting practice, and carry them for miles to sell as raw materials,” Henderson said.

“So their stories became copper-jacketed lead sculptures.”

Guests at the artist’s reception were captivated by the exhibit, and many asked Henderson to tell them the stories that accompanied each individual piece.

Allan Boss, culture and heritage manager for the Town of Okotoks, was pleased with the positive reception for Henderson’s work in the gallery, though he never doubted the impact it would have on visitors.

Henderson’s exhibition was chosen by a jury from more than 75 artist applications.

“We can only accommodate 10 or 12 shows in a year,” Boss said.

“Al submitted to us, and right from the first jury selection there was no question we would be including his Light Horse Tales in our calendar for 2015.”

Mary-Beth Laviolette, a Canmore-based artist and curator, admired Henderson’s works with tears in her eyes.

“There is something very raw and masculine and emotional about how the Afghan conflict has been portrayed here,” said Laviolette.

“He handles it in a completely elegant and sensitive manner.

“It’s never been done like this before.”

Street Soccer restoring hope and rebuilding lives

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Oct. 3, 2014 – Alex Auger has been playing with Calgary Street Soccer for two years, and will be joining team Canada to play in the Homeless World Cup in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 19 – 26, 2014.

Calgary Street Soccer is a volunteer-run program that spans worldwide, with 52 countries represented at the Homeless World Cup, which is hosted in a different country each fall.

The program is designed to help people get their lives back on track through the lessons learned and challenges faced while playing sports.

“The idea behind it is to give someone an avenue essentially to exercise and to rehabilitate their lives through sport,” said Peter Zorbas, president of Calgary Street Soccer.

“In our case, it’s soccer.”

Calgary’s homeless are invited to join volunteer coaches every Sunday at 2 p.m. from May to October at a school field in Bridgeland, which is just a ten-minute walk from the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre.

After the two-hour practices, the players are treated to a barbecue dinner.

Calgary Street Soccer encourages those who come out to the field to return every week to not only play soccer, but also to socialize, another major component of the program.

“I love the guys,” Auger said. “I love playing soccer with them and seeing everyone on the field.”

As incentive to come out on Sundays, the program is structured to provide a player with a pair of cleats at his or her third practice.

Kevin Scullion, who founded Calgary Street Soccer eight years ago, has witnessed the positive effects that soccer has on those who take the initiative to come out and play.

“We’re trying to teach and mentor life skills, and the guys love it and keep coming back,” Scullion said.

“Maybe it’s because of the ball, or maybe it’s because we treat them as equals.”

According to Zorbas, some players return because they see the advantages the program has to offer, while some may come back just to have fun. Either way, he sees a small victory in every practice.

“Even if they come out just once, that’s a success for us,” Zorbas said.

Players are expected to arrive on time, and to remain clean and sober while they are on the field, a program policy.

Interacting with teammates and coaches, adhering to disciplinary expectations, and following the street soccer rules all help to rehabilitate the players who come out on a regular basis.

“Promoting consistency and having a good attitude, and learning from sport. That’s the essence of the program,” said Zorbas.

“It’s all about learning, growing.

“We’re not giving people a handout, we’re trying to give them a hand up.”

Auger, who played soccer recreationally as a young boy, has recognized the positive effect of returning to the game through the street soccer program.

“It’s helped me grow. It’s helped me gain my confidence and rebuild my life,” Auger said.

In fact, Auger has been physically off the streets and rebuilding his life for almost one year, something that he attributes, in part, to his participation in the street soccer program.

Auger has missed only one practice in two years, and as a result of his dedication he is traveling with coach Scullion to Chile in October.

Calgary Street Soccer sends its most committed and enthusiastic player to the Homeless World Cup each year with Team Canada.

“I’m excited. It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do,” said Auger.

“I never thought I’d ever have an experience like this in my life.”

Philip Messinger, one of Auger’s soccer mates, journeyed to Poznan, Poland for the 2013 Homeless World Cup, and still comes out to the field as often as possible.

Messinger has found great inspiration from the program in cleaning up his life.

“I quit smoking cigarettes, I quit smoking marijuana, and I kicked a crack cocaine problem that I had before I came here,” Messinger said.

“It’s really inspired me to get clean and help myself.

“It’s taken the hopelessness out of homelessness.”

Scullion hopes that Auger and Messinger, and other players who pass through the program, will return as mentors to help coach practices and sustain enthusiasm in street soccer, a task that Auger says he will definitely undertake.

The program has actually inspired Auger to develop a dream for his future, a dream that he hopes will help others.

“I’m planning on getting my business running, and then I’ll have construction jobs for these guys, to get them out of this situation that I used to be in myself,” Auger said.

Zorbas hopes the program will help rehabilitate Calgary’s homeless for years to come with continued support from the community.

Calgary Street Soccer currently receives aide from the Calgary United Soccer Association (CUSA), in addition to other donations of money or equipment like used cleats.

With an increase in funding the program will be able to extend to more shelters in the city, and possibly provide transportation to indoor facilities through the winter, to operate year-round.

Determined to realize these goals, Zorbas works to increase awareness of the program.

“I know it works,” Zorbas said.

“I just have to grow it.”

 

http://saitjournalism.ca/thepress/2014/10/03/street-soccer-restoring-hope-and-rebuilding-lives/

Closing weekend makes history at Heritage Park

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Oct. 29, 2014 – Heritage Park, the city’s history place, reached some historic milestones of its own during the closing weekend of its 50th anniversary year, Oct. 11 to 13.

More than 8,000 guests explored the park during the Thanksgiving weekend, which marked the close of the summer 2014 season.

The attendance marked a 16-per-cent increase over previous years.

“It was just such a beautiful long weekend weather-wise,” said Communications Specialist Barb Munro.

“It wasn’t too surprising to see that much of an increase.”

The closing weekend usually features free amusement rides for visitors. However, for 2014, Heritage Park included all rides with the price of admission to celebrate its golden anniversary.

“The free rides will now be ongoing, as something that started in our 50th year,” Munro said.

On Monday, Oct. 13, the park was humming with families taking one last opportunity to visit the historical village for the season.

In the Conklin Amusements section of the park, visitors stood in line for up to 20 minutes to catch a ride on the Whip, the Caterpillar, or the Ferris wheel.

The candy store and ice cream shop were brimming with guests looking for a little something sweet as they wandered through the historical village.

“This is our favourite part,” Carey Gervais said as she and her three children enjoyed ice cream cones from the Vulcan Ice Cream Parlour.

“It feels like we’re in the old times, sitting in here with our ice cream.”

In honour of the Thanksgiving holiday, three homes in the village offered demonstrations for cooking pumpkin in different ways – in pies, soups, or as a vegetable side dish.

“We always offer the pumpkin demos at Thanksgiving,” said Munro.

“A lot of people don’t tend to think beyond the pumpkin pie, and so we offer lessons that might just change the way they use pumpkin at home.”

Throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, guests also had the opportunity to experience a full three-course turkey dinner in the village’s Wainwright Hotel.

Just down the road, next to the Weedon schoolhouse building, the Burns Barn offered barn dancing for all park guests.

“We’ve been doing the dance on the holiday Monday the last few years,” Munro said.

“We find that people enjoy it because it’s something they wouldn’t normally do, but if it’s right there as part of the day’s festivities, they try it out.”

Guests young and old took to the dance floor in the old barn, dancing to the calls of the dance leader and a live string band.

“This was just an amazing experience,” said Francis Dodd, after learning and performing one of several barn dances taught to visitors during the afternoon.

“I’ve never thought of doing that, and now I can cross something off my bucket list that I didn’t know was there in the first place.”

On the Glenmore Reservoir, the S.S. Moyie reached an incredible milestone on Monday afternoon, as it surpassed a total of 100,000 passengers for the 2014 season.

The captain of the steamboat called up to the administrative offices as he embarked on one of his reservoir tours, and informed them that “he thought they’d hit the 100,000 mark” when the next group of passengers boarded.

“He stopped this one family from boarding, congratulated them for marking 100,000 passengers for us, then walked them to the boat and saluted them and gave them a certificate,” said Munro.

The captain, who has run the S.S. Moyie for 15 years, reported that the ship had never carried so many passengers in one season throughout its 45 years of service.

With history being made, Heritage Park closed its gates after a successful 2014 summer season.

“We had decent weather, and the park just looks beautiful at this time of year,” said Munro.

“It’s no wonder so many people came out.

“Everyone, including staff, enjoyed it.”

Heritage Park will reopen its historical village and amusement park in May, 2015, but has many special events planned throughout the winter.

 

http://saitjournalism.ca/thepress/2014/10/29/closing-weekend-makes-history-at-heritage-park/

Smashing pumpkins a big hit with city families

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Nov. 1, 2014 – More than 4,600 people passed through the gates at the Calgary Corn Maze Oct.11 in search of fall fun at the annual Autumn Pumpkin Festival.

Hundreds of eager youngsters scrambled through the pumpkin patch in search of the perfect miniature gourd to decorate at the festival, and ideal candidates to take home for a night of jack-o-lantern carving.

The most entertaining aspect of the afternoon was, not surprisingly, the pumpkin destruction zone, where events such as the pumpkin launch, pumpkin-pie-eating contest, and pumpkin explosion took place.

While hundreds of people watched, corn maze employee Nick O’Brien loaded his handcrafted trebuchet with the largest, roundest pumpkins he could find, launching them 200 metres across the field toward a bull’s-eye-embossed hay bale.

Should either of his pumpkins have hit the target, the Calgary Corn Maze would have donated $500 to its charity of the year, Inn from the Cold.

Unfortunately, both launches were unsuccessful and ended with pumpkins careening to the ground, exploding on impact – much to the delight of the audience members, who cheered as shell and pulp flew through the air.

“We were close today, though, I think,” O’Brien grinned.

The trebuchet was a new addition to pumpkin fest events this year, and was built primarily by O’Brien, with help from a few Calgary Corn Maze employees.

“I would say there’s probably 50 man hours in there, which we put in just in the last three weekends before the festival started,” said O’Brien, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Mary’s School in Okotoks who commits his spare time to the corn maze.

“It was a lot of fun to build, and it’s even more fun to launch and see this vision come to life every weekend.”

While each launch took only seconds from start to finish, setting up the trebuchet for a new pumpkin and resetting the hay bale was a 10-minute job.

To entertain the enthusiastic crowd during the lulls, Calgary Corn Maze owner Mark Muchka hosted a pumpkin-pie-eating contest with 10 couples taken from the audience.

Partners faced one another, and one person ate his or her slice of pie out of the hands of the other – with a lot of mess and some gagging along the way – much to the pleasure of the hundreds of people looking on.

Children watched and pointed with glee as pie-eaters emerged from bites with custard and whipped cream on their faces, while adults laughed and cringed simultaneously.

The winner was declared after only two minutes, and the couples dispersed.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to look at pumpkin pie the same again,” laughed contest runner-up Kelsey Palmer, who ran a close second as she devoured her slice of pie out of partner Ryan Mont’s hands.

“I think I gagged every time I swallowed. It was nasty,” said Palmer.

“I definitely won’t be having any with my Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.”

After the last trebuchet launch, Muchka moved the crowd back several feet outside the perimeter of the destruction zone.

“This is the best part, folks,” Muchka called into his mic, pointing to the top of two hay bales in the middle of the field.

“Watch that pumpkin up there, and when you see it explode – and only when you see it explode – feel free to run out and get your candy.”

With those words of warning, Muchka climbed to the top bale, set a charge, and, once he was safely on the ground and out of danger, he detonated a candy-filled pumpkin.

The gourd burst in a fraction of a second – in fact, it was easy to miss the actual explosion in the blink of an eye – and children swarmed the grassy field in search of the promised treats just as quickly.

Muchka waited behind the bales with bags of treats, giving handfuls to kids who had not found any in the grass.

Almost all of the 1,000 pumpkins the corn maze brought in for its long-weekend Saturday event had been purchased and taken home by visitors.

The carving pumpkins were delivered from farms around Taber, Alta., which is just far enough south to successfully grow the gourds.

“We used to try to grow them ourselves, but our nights are just too cold here in Calgary,” said Muchka.

“I’d love to have a pumpkin patch. I would.

“But the reality is, we’d have to do the harvest in August before the first frost, and at that time of year they’re just not ready.”

After spending over four hours in the park, the children walked with satisfied smiles back toward the parking lot with large pumpkins cradled in their arms to take home.

They couldn’t wait to return next fall, and see what lies in store for the unsuspecting pumpkins in the destruction zone.

“That’s what we want,” said Muchka.

“Hopefully this can become a family tradition, and we can be a part of creating memories for people.”

The Calgary Corn Maze operates from the end of July until the end of October each year.

 

http://saitjournalism.ca/thepress/2014/11/01/smashing-pumpkins-a-big-hit-with-city-families/

Dinosaurs in Motion combines art and science to make ‘wows’ happen

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Feb. 19, 2015 – Telus Spark is teeming with life-sized dinosaurs designed to inform, engage, and entertain guests of all ages.

Dinosaurs in Motion, a travelling display by Imagine Exhibitions, opened at the Calgary science centre on Sunday, Feb. 1, and features awe-inspiring kinetic sculptures of dinosaurs constructed of recycled steel and mesh by American artist John Payne.

Dinosaurs in Motion will be displayed at Telus Spark until June 28.

Payne, who devoted his life to creating dinosaurs after receiving an education as a metalsmith, recognized an opportunity to educate by combining metal sculpture with pulley systems of various kinds, and allowing museum audiences to interact with his works.

“[Dinosaurs in Motion] really is a collision between science and art,” said Alison White, program assistant at Telus Spark.

“People are drawn in by the promise of seeing big dinosaurs, which everyone thinks are intrinsically cool, but there’s such a dynamic art element to it, too.”

With everything from a 43-foot tyrannosaurus rex to full-scale sculptures of plesiosaurs and parasaurolophuses, the exhibit draws wonder and excitement from science centre visitors.

Each sculpture has a system of pulleys, varying from simple mechanics like pull-levers to more complex designs, which are operated by video game controllers.

Crowds of eager onlookers gather in front of each dinosaur, children and adults alike waiting for their chance to operate the pulleys and bring Payne’s sculptures to life.

“It’s so interactive, it’s just great for the kids,” said Chelsea Olsen, as her three-year-old daughter, Keelin, took the helm to operate the diplodocus.

While some gazed in wonder at the majestic sculptures, others were more intrigued by the scientific information that accompanied each display.

Avreet Jagdev walked through the exhibit, notebook in-hand, recording interesting facts that she learned about each species.

“I just like dinosuars, so I thought I’d take some notes,” said 13-year-old Jagdev.

“They were so cool, and I like reading about them.”

According to White, the fascination with the big lizards is common in Calgary.

“We all have that connection to dinosaurs in Alberta,” she said.

“There is a strong connection between Albertans and the badlands and the Royal Tyrrell Museum, so it’s natural for people in our city to be drawn to the exhibit.”

The travelling exhibit, designed to make an impact on its viewers, combines muted overhead lighting with specifically-coloured spotlights that reflect off the metal sculptures, creating a colourful glow around each dinosaur.

In the darkened room, the effect is captivating and adds to the artistic element of the show.

“It’s meant to really leave an impression on everyone who walks through the exhibit,” said White.

“You walk in, and it’s dark, and when you turn the corner there’s this life-size 43-foot T-rex standing in front of you, lit by bright colours, and he’s moving.

“It’s meant to make ‘wows’ happen.”

 

http://saitjournalism.ca/thepress/2015/02/19/dinosaurs-in-motion-combines-art-and-science-to-make-wows-happen/

Making music: turning Calgary into a hub for artists

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March 4, 2015 – From large-scale music halls to intimate venues and museum displays to recording studios, Calgary caters to musicians and is gaining notoriety for its multifaceted and expansive involvement in music.

On Stephen Ave., the iconic Jack Singer Concert Hall has been the proud home of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) since 1985. As the cornerstone of the newly-renamed Arts Commons (formerly Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts), the hall is acclaimed for being one of North America’s best acoustic venues.

“It’s one of my favourite places to play,” says Calgary-based singer-songwriter and former Canadian Idol contestant Jenn Beaupré.

“It’s got a great sound, a great atmosphere.”

The Jack Singer stage has hosted some of the world’s most famous musicians, Grammy and Juno nominees and winners, and Broadway stars as guests of the CPO. It brings a touch of renowned, celebrated classical and contemporary music to the culture of Calgary.

While its 60-year impact on the music scene in Calgary is to be commended, the CPO and Jack Singer Hall make up only one aspect of music in the city, and are among a host of institutions and venues that are beginning to impact the status of music in Calgary and Alberta as a whole.

Mount Royal University (MRU) has witnessed the growing popularity of live music in Calgary, and as such the conservatory at the school launched a project that has taken nearly two decades to complete: the Bella Concert Hall.

“We began conceiving of the new conservatory back in the late 1990s,” says Director of the Conservatory Paul Dornian.

“The Bella [Concert Hall] was always intended to be the centrepiece, and it is surrounded by private studios, classrooms, and a learning arts centre.”

The Bella Concert Hall will open during the summer of 2015, and will feature 773 seats. The mid-sized theatre is meant to fill a gap in Calgary’s selection of musical venues.

“There are lots of venues around 350 seats, like Ironwood and smaller theatres,” explains Dornian.

“The Jack Singer can seat about 1,700, and the Jubilee is around 2,200. So we decided to build something in the mid-range, and we are proud of the result.”

Featuring state-of-the-art acoustic paneling and design, the Bella Concert Hall will host both MRU and community events on its stage, and offer new possibilities to local musicians and smaller orchestral groups.

“It’s really going to fill a niche,” boasts Dornian.

“It will definitely have a big impact on the community as a whole.”

Smaller venues like Ironwood Stage and Grill and Wine-Ohs also contribute to the music scene of Calgary by encouraging and promoting local up-and-coming artists to engage with audiences in public performance and make themselves known in the city.

Calum Graham, a 23-year-old guitarist and composer who hails from High River, got his start on the Grandstand Stage at the Calgary Stampede, winning the Youth Talent Search in 2009.

“The Stampede is a great venue for young people to perform. It’s stressful, and fun, and exciting – just like every other performance I’ve done since,” Graham laughs.

Graham played several smaller stages around Calgary before moving to Toronto to attend school in 2010.

“As for my favourite [venue], I would have to say Wine-Ohs,” says Graham.

“They have a great sound and there’s always a great vibe in the room.”

A number of restaurants and lounges in the city offer live music on a regular basis, providing local musicians with the chance to share their craft with appreciative audiences. For many, it can be a foot in the door for greater opportunities.

“I was singing in the Oak Room at the Palliser every Friday night, and one weekend this guy approached me after my set, and told me he enjoyed my music,” recalls Ellen Doty, a Calgary-based singer-songwriter.

The man was David Mancini, a New York jazz musician who happened to be staying at the Palliser. He invited her to travel to New York and work with him.

With Mancini’s help, Doty produced her first album, “Live at the Station.”

“It was an amazing experience, and I took what I learned and brought it back to Calgary with me, and I’ve produced two more albums since,” says Doty.

However, recording studios and production opportunities are what some artists have found to be lacking in Calgary.

To fulfill this need, the National Music Centre (NMC) is proudly including production facilities in its new building, set to open in spring 2016.

The facility will be located at 9 Ave. S.E. and 4 St. S.E., the site of the old King Edward Hotel (the King Eddy).

The NMC is home to an impressive collection of historical keyed instruments that take visitors through their evolution, from an original Hammer Dulcimer to hundreds of pianos and organs, and to modern synthesizers.

The collection also boasts the white upright piano on which Elton John composed his first 100 songs, and The Original New Timbal Orchestra (TONTO), the largest synthesizer capable of producing many tones with different voices simultaneously.

TONTO was used by Stevie Wonder to create his album, “Surperstition,” and the artifact has found its new home in Calgary, where the NMC has displayed it in working condition for artists to experiment and record albums.

“It was originally offered to the Smithsonian, but it came here instead. The owner and co-creator wanted it to be working,” explains Mike Mattson, collections and digital content coordinator at NMC.

“At the Smithsonian, it would have been in a basement somewhere. But we’re about bringing the technology to the public.”

The new NMC will boast two conjoined buildings called “blocks.” The east block will consist of the collection—which will be open to public self-guided tours, rather than operating with private tours only, as the Centre does now—and a 300-seat performance theatre. The west block will house recording studios, classrooms, and the new CKUA office.

“There will be a strong artist-in-residence program there too,” says Mattson.

“Calgary has so many musicians that can use those recording facilities and work with our collection to create what their imaginations perceive.

“It’s also going to be huge for culture and cultural tourism. I can guarantee that people from around the world will come to see TONTO, and to have the chance to work with it.”

Artists like Beaupré, Doty, and Graham are excited about the opportunities that NMC will offer local and other budding Canadian musicians. The three artists are interested in the possibility of producing quality albums in their home town.

“I do think it will be a great draw. I would definitely consider using the facilities, though it’s all about the people who staff it,” admits Beaupré.

Graham, who has recorded three albums—two solo and one with guitar legend Don Ross—in Toronto, is intrigued by the prospect of recording at NMC.

“It’s a great centre, and musicians and non-musicians alike can both walk away from the tour and take something memorable away from it. I would definitely not be opposed to seeing what it can offer,” he says.

Mattson is proud to be a part of NMC, and expects that the development of their new facility will attract more artists to Calgary’s already-blossoming musical landscape.

“We’re pushing boundaries,” says Mattson.

“I think Calgary is really well-positioned for the arts, and there tends to be support of the arts, sometimes financial, sometimes institutional.

“We’re creating something that encourages people to learn and explore and travel down new avenues.”

As for artists like Doty, the music centre and local theatres and stages are developing a stronger artistic presence in the city and helping musicians to build singing careers and realize dreams.

“Calgary’s music scene is certainly not as prominent as some others in Canada, but it is really growing,” says Doty.

“I’ve noticed a lot of changes in the past couple of years.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of it.”