All photos by Terry Steeves
Sunlight streamed in through the stained glass windows of Bank Street’s Trinity United Church on Saturday afternoon, which illuminated the large crowd seated in the pews. Across the front, a row of chairs stood awaiting the local female performers who would each take their turn sharing their music in a songwriting circle format.
Canadian Women’s Songbook: Women In The JUNOs was conceived and organized by Ottawa’s Muse Collective, a community group formed by Sarah Howard and Chrissy Steinbock, dedicated to creating safe(r) spaces for female musicians in Ottawa. With support from the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition and the JUNO Host Committee, the idea was to stage a series of local female songwriters, who would get a chance to showcase their own material, as well as their own take of a JUNO Award winning female artists’ song.
To kick things off, Canadian JUNO Award winning artist Lynn Miles gave an opening talk on multiple topics related to women in (or seeking to enter) the music industry. She spoke of the importance of writing from the heart, being yourself, delivering meaningful messages, living simply, and to always carry a notebook:
“If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Be analog… write things down. If Trump ends up blowing up the world, you’re gonna have to resort to pen and paper anyways.”
She spoke about some of the perilous hurdles that women artists face like sexism, and age: “It’s harder for women to age in music than men. I’m 58 and I’m still investigating, discovering, learning, and challenging myself. My next mission is to learn to play drums. Never stop looking. Be as curious as possible and take artistic trips in all art forms. Read bios of other artists to learn of their experiences. Sexism, we need to get rid of it. If you dress like a stripper, are you helping the world?”
She spoke about finding other ways around roadblocks, and how failure often leading to greater things. By the end, a lady in the crowd got up to comment on how everything Miles had touched on seemed to apply to life in general. One needn’t have been a musician to feel the inspirational impact of the words she spoke.
Following the speech, each of the performers proceeded to take their turn playing one song each. The first round consisted of a cover selection by a female JUNO award winners, and the second featured original compositions. It was a diverse array of musical styles that ranged from folk, roots, country, pop, hip hop, reggae, and electronic dance. I congratulate the Muse Collective, for putting together an empowering, entertaining, enlightening, and educational look at women in music, on both the grand and local scale.