Music, with words in mind

Providing local artists with the tools and connections needed to excel

In Winnipeg’s growing art scene, artists must distinguish themselves from the status quo to excel in the music industry. The Winnipeg Music Project (WMP) radio show provides artists with the help and connections needed to achieve greater musical success.

WMP host Ashley Bieniarz says she created the radio show to support musical talent in Winnipeg.

“I just wanted to create more opportunities to make artists undeniable,” she says. “This is a safe space where everyone has the opportunity to improve and be engaged in community.”

WMP has partnered with the Songwriters Association of Canada to make the Winnipeg Music Project Songwriter's Group 2019-20, a 10-session songwriters circle that provides local artists with lyrical and musical guidance from accomplished artists and their peers.

The Winnipeg Music Project Songwriter's Group gives musicians a place to develop their lyrical craft. // Supplied

This program has a different approach than other professional development programs, as it focuses on lyrical development.

“There are a lot of programs in Winnipeg that help you become ‘expert ready,’” Bieniarz says. “They help you to prepare for touring and performances, but I feel that there would be stronger artists if (those of us with musical programs) work together on the creative side and not only the financial and performative aspect.”

To help with this, the songwriters group had Juno-nominated artist Jaylene Johnson, whose music was featured on Pretty Little Liars and Degrassi: The Next Generation, as its most recent mentor.

“My hope is (that) when I write a song, it connects with other people’s lives, and that they will engage with it on a heart level,” Johnson says.

Johnson points out that as most of what she has learned in songwriting has been from mentors, the songwriters group presents a unique opportunity for artists to learn more and grow their craft.

“This is a safe place for people to share their work and receive encouragement and critiques,” she says.

Johnson and Bieniarz both feel that one of the biggest obstacles songwriters face is being their own worst enemy.

“There is always an inner editor that makes us hard on ourselves,” Johnson says. “Also, in a world where there is so much content, to find ways for your content to stand out and find its audience is challenging.”

Bieniarz agrees and says this can lead to “imposter syndrome.”

“Getting over the initial hump of believing that you cannot do this and that you are fooling everyone is a difficult task,” she says.

“Though it can be hard for artists to be confident when they have not had many recording or performing opportunities, you must first believe in yourself and then get others to believe in you. That is what gets your music out there.”

The next session takes place on Oct. 28 and features children’s music performer Fred Penner. The songwriters group has a drop-in style format, or pre-registration can be done at The sessions take place at Forth Café Gallery at 171 McDermot Ave.

Published in Volume 74, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 10, 2019)

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