The East Coast Music Association’s annual conference, which begins today and runs through Monday (2/27) in Charlottetown, PEI, is Eastern Canada’s annual celebration of the music and the artists of Atlantic Canada. In its 17th year, the ECMA Awards show is the culmination of the event, with awards handed out in more than 35 categories. The Thursday-Sunday music industry conference includes a variety of seminars, workshops, showcases and concert performances, and is designed to foster the sort of networking among music industry professionals that is the hallmark of this sort of event in any niche market.
This year, bluegrass music will be formally represented for the first time when the Eastern Canadian Bluegrass Stage debuts on Saturday, February 25. The stage will feature performances and jamming on both Saturday and Sunday evening, held at St. Paul”s Anglican Church in Charlottetown. This is an ECMA partnered stage event, meaning that the bluegrass stage is considered to be part of the official ECMA schedule.
Serge Bernard with Diamond Productions explains how this came to be.
“The East Coast Music Association implemented a positive new policy wherein individuals or organizations can submit a proposal to produce a unique stage event representative of East Coast Music. It must follow their standards in all aspects as if it was a genuine ECMA stage (e.g.., that a jury panel was required to select the performers that would appear). The show then is ‘included’ alongside, and on virtually equal footing, with other ECMA events.”
The venture is jointly sponsored by the PEI Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival,Red Clay Bluegrass Festival, Evangeline Bluegrass and Traditional Music Festival, and other regional events, individuals and societies, and produced by Diamond Productions PEI. Eight Maritime bluegrass bands will be performing, mixed between established and up-and-coming acts, and with a few making their first ECMA appearance. They include past ECMA award recipients Birchmountain Bluegrass Band, along with Grassfire from Nova Scotia; The Douthwrights, Dan Cunningham, Windy Creek, Rising Tide Band and True Blue from New Brunswick; Wayne Brown & Friends from PEI, along with ECMA nominees Janet McGarry and Bluestreak, also from PEI.
“Bluegrass didn’t always have a presence at the ECMA’s (or its rightful prominence, I should say) for a variety of reasons not all associated with the ECMA, and it was never a sure thing from year to year. The years that Bluegrass was represented, the stages were very successful, but it was difficult to find volunteers to dedicate to it. This way, the ECMA provides the standards, and the show is put on by people who know how the music should be presented. The stage will ensure that the following cycle continues…Bluegrassers will get valuable exposure to the Music Industry right alongside other east coast musicians….hone their craft…continue to produce great recordings…submit them to the ECMA’s for a nomination, and compete with their peers in bluegrass for an appearance on a prominent stage of their ‘genre’…and industry folk will get exposure to the best of the best.”
Serge has promised to report back next week on how the Eastern Canadian Bluegrass Stage was received by the ECMA attendees, and to send along some pictures as well. He also promises that live segments will be offered on his Bluegrass Island radio program on CFCY 630 next Wednesday evening at 8:00 p.m. No webcasting from CFCY, unfortunately.