Photo of Devon Cooper, Busker series at NMC
Devon Cooper, Busker series at the National Music Centre | Photo provided by NMC

National Music Centre

By Meghan Power

“For any community to be vibrant, music is essential, in my opinion,” says Adam Fox, director of programs at the National Music Centre. “It’s a universal language.”

For NMC, being located on Music Mile, the musical heart of Calgary, it’s only fitting that you should turn a corner and discover music that might be outside of the genre that you normally listen to, or the type of concert, or music event you might choose to attend. It opens the door to discovery and ultimately expands people’s musical tastes.”


Unfortunately, at the height of the pandemic, NMC was forced to lay off approximately 70% of its team, and scale back their programs, performances, and exhibitions due to Covid restrictions. Along with all live music venues being shut down in 2020, many of Calgary’s and Alberta’s musicians who relied on live shows and making their living in a gig economy, struggled to support themselves during the pandemic.


Fortunately, for the NMC, they were able to apply for funding through CADA’s Rise Up grant, specifically designated for pop-up style performances. This allowed NMC to not only help musicians continue to perform and get paid, but it also helped NMC keep its doors partially open during a very difficult time and help to bring vibrancy to the city during a time when the general morale was low. And made performances accessible and free to those who, in the past, may not have been able to afford or access NMC. Rise up funding helped to cover overhead (venue) costs and collaborate with cultural presenters that NMC had not partnered with before, like Calgary Pride and Casa de Mexico.


“The funding we received for these programs allowed us to connect with the local music scene on a deeper level,” says Adam. “As a nationally mandated organization, it is important for us to remain committed to our hometown and the fact that we also serve the communities of Treaty 7. Our ability to keep our doors open to the local community, in turn, helps to keep the community engaged and supporting local artists.”


According to Fox, NMC and many other arts organizations were drastically diminished by Covid. Financial losses and the inability for live community engagement made it difficult for NMC to present live music and offer a variety of programs for artists, which affected how some musicians sustain their craft: “We can’t quite talk about growth (in the music and cultural sectors) yet. But funding like this has been a triage—and will be important in helping new growth take hold and flourish. But for now, this is about re-establishing connections and engagement.


“Looking forward, it’s good to see how traditional arts funding bodies have started to understand and see the specific and changing needs of music organizations and music venues, in comparison to some of the more traditional performance venues,” says Adam. “And that, in my opinion, is very encouraging for the future of music in Calgary and Alberta.”