If the JUNO broadcast on Sunday is for the fans, as the media kits state, then the JUNO Awards Galas is for the musicians and the music business personnel to enjoy. People are seated at round banquet tables and the conversations are lively and informal, though I imagine many discussions that begin tonight end in deals of one type or another in the days that follow.
An introductory video with musical clips focusing on musicians in the act of creation and performance starts the official event. The video’s high production values illustrate that the Canadian music industry has grown up-gone are the days of the grass roots efforts where high quality meant a sell-out of ideals and honesty. Canadians can be proud of what has been accomplished over the past decades, but with that comes the need to realize that growing up brings its own share of problems and concerns; fame and fortune alone are not enough if the seeds aren’t sown for the coming generation of artists and visionaries.
Allan Reid, President and CEO of CARAS, The JUNO Awards, and MusiCounts, notes this concern in his introductory remarks, summarizing the industry’s successes over the past year, including the money raised for MusiCounts and its role in shaping a love of music for younger generations. He welcomes the dignitaries in attendance, who include the Premier Notley of Alberta, and Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who garnered the strongest ‘rock star’ response. He reiterates what he has said a number of times over the past week, that the energy of the city and the incredible support of everyone from the mayor’s office down to the volunteers has made the 2016 JUNOs an incredible experience for him.
Reid is followed by Jessi Cruikshank, the night’s emcee, whose opening comments border on the dangerous and awkward with references to that infamous trial in Toronto from a few weeks ago and her questionable credibility as an emcee. Pointing out the social media conversation that the JUNOs are too male, she noted that if 80% of the nominees are male, then “80% of the losers will be male.” The joke gets a lackluster response. Perhaps the argument has validity, but since the international success musical success stories this year belonged to males and the top tier female artists were not as active, the issue may have more to do with public interests than with the Junos, since they reflect the industry and are based on sales and not critical response.
The show continues from award to award with typical Canadian stylings: gratitude mixed with humility and a certain level of shyness and doubt. (For a full list of winners go to https://junoawards.ca/2016-juno-gala-dinner-awards-winners/.) A few musical performances are scattered throughout the evening from Afiara Quartet with Scratch Bastid to the Jazz All-Stars; each enjoyable, but most likely providing considered breaks for the audience to refill glasses and move around the room.
The most thoughtful musings for this writer came from Bob Ezrin in the media room after winning the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year award. After acknowledging Richardson for providing his entry into the business, he stated that the country has built a workshop environment, providing support for the creative core: the artists, thinkers and creators. “Our teachers are the people who are second to our parents,” in developing our creative talent, adding that awards like the Junos can galvanize the country and provide a strong incentive to other artists to work harder, telling themselves that ‘I can do that.’
But with all the international success and the fostering of new talent, he pondered the lack of social motivators. Having grown up in the 60s where music played such a large role in social change, he mused that the world needed to change and hoped that music could once again focus that change. He is correct on all counts.
By Brian Stanko