Edmonton Music Awards: A Step in the Right Direction

by Sibel Yesilkaya

It’s no secret that the Edmonton community proudly supports local art and culture. The Fringe, Taste of Edmonton, Folk Fest, Heritage Days – whichever events you frequent over our short, event-packed prairie summer, you’re sure to feel the creative energy that permeates through the veins of our city.

When Edmontonians gathered at the prestigious Winspear Centre on Thursday, June 29th to honour our local musical talent, I looked at the diversity of the crowd and the artists nominated and felt a sense of community stronger than any I had felt at any single event.

I arrived before the doors opened at 6pm and had the opportunity to socialize before finding my seat.  While I knew Edmonton had a strong creative community, learning about a formal Edmonton-centered awards gala was a welcome surprise. I had attended shows and events before, but this was something different and an opportunity to experience something new.

I found myself constantly surprised at the amount of artists working in Edmonton and how much this event meant to them. It was like being exposed to another world that exists within our city.  The Winspear was the perfect venue for the event, and the atmosphere felt sophisticated yet intimate.

While the night had numerous high points, such as the finale performance and speech by Mayor Don Iveson, my favourite performer was Jay Gilday. His voice is breathtaking and I was happy to see he won the award for Singer/Songwriter of the year. In addition, the two big winners of the night were rock band Scenic Route to Alaska (Album of the Year, Group of the Year) and performer Neula Charles (Single of the Year, Female Artist of the Year).

The Edmonton Music Awards made me realize how much the artists who breathe life into our city rely on the community for support.  For instance, Marlon Wilson, the winner of the Rap/Hip Hop recording of the year,  explains:


“This event acts as a .yearly reminder that we have more than enough reasons to be proud to say that the City of Champions inspires the art we create.  As we look around it becomes evident that we are building an industry of talented and resourceful individuals whose talents can rival what would be found in New York or LA.  We just need to realize that and collectively work at bringing it to fruition.”

While I considered the event a success, it did run a little long. As a first time guest, I was not prepared for the commitment and I noticed numerous others trickling out before the event concluded. Additionally, I feel the event would benefit from increased marketing initiatives. During the socializing period, I spoke with numerous guests who, like me, didn’t know about the Edmonton Music Awards before being invited. Most of the attendees were friends and family of the nominated artists, and I felt the event might find even more success through reaching out to the rest of the Edmonton community.

In addition, the music selection was generally folk and indie focused, as has been the custom in Edmonton. With hip hop and RnB becoming more popular, I look forward to future years when they add more performances in this genre.

Photography courtesy of Crystal Puim Photography.

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