Grant MacEwan Music Program

By Bill Uren

When we moved to Edmonton in 1976, I knew very little about the city other than it had a CFL team called the Eskimos and a franchise in the then brand new World Hockey Association; I wasn't sure of their name, but I knew there was a hockey team here. In elementary school, I'd learned Edmonton was the capital city of Alberta, and that was pretty well it.

Very shortly, I fell in love with the beautiful big-city-with-a-little-town feeling, and was resentful of the prejudices I felt the rest of Canada felt for my new home. The rest of our families lived for the most part in B.C., and couldn't imagine why we were happy here. Surely, when our children finished high school, we'd move back so they could attend post-secondary training. After all, they had UBC and Simon Fraser; we only had the University of Alberta; they had BCIT—we only had NAIT. I smoldered over such arrogant remarks for almost 20 years until I discovered the Grant MacEwan Summer Guitar Workshop.

Many times over the past 10 years, I've told people how I wish there had been such an opportunity for me. Growing up in the B.C. Interior, my only hope of studying music was to enroll in one of the university music programs...and guitar was definitely NOT going to be an acceptable instrument. But at Grant MacEwan, not only was guitar studied, it was considered a vital part of the course design! I fell in love with Grant MacEwan as hard as I had fallen for Edmonton, years before.

I was afraid my lack of book learnin’ in music would be a huge detriment; I'd played in lots of groups through high school and beyond, but it was all self-taught...and all by ear. Instead, I found myself being admired by some of the younger, faster, more modern players because I had experience in front of live audiences...and most of them had little or none! Suddenly, I felt a rush of gratitude that I had found a place full of fellow musicians that accepted me for who I was—not who they thought I should be.

My experience with the summer workshops has been astounding! The facilities are wonderful, and the staff who organize the event are genuinely friendly and helpful. The instructors are world-class players and terrific people too. They are always accessible to the participants because that's what the workshops are about—musicians talking, playing and just hanging out with other musicians. I have learned more than I would have thought I ever could—and I only spend one week a year there!

There is nothing I have found on the other side of the Rockies that comes within a prairie mile of this. I truly believe Grant MacEwan’s music programs, whether summer workshops, or their 2-year diploma, to be one of the best kept secrets in Edmonton. I hope that when I retire in 30 years (I'm currently on the Freedom 95 plan...) I have the chance to enroll, and study music as I have wanted to do since my early teens. I sincerely hope everyone with a similar dream finds their way to Grant MacEwan. Maybe we'll be classmates.

I love Edmonton dearly—I was born and raised somewhere else, but this is my home! There is nothing I need that I cannot get here, and there are many things I love, like Grant MacEwan’s music program, that can only be found here. Why would I leave?

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