MEET NORTHERN ONTARIO’S NEW MUSIC SECTOR DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
MELANIE ST-PIERRE HELMS CION PROGRAMMING AIMED AT DEVELOPING NORTHERN ONTARIO’S MUSIC INDUSTRY AND EMPOWERING MUSICIANS.
Melanie St-Pierre at her band's latest release party. Photo credit: Alex Carre
Melanie St-Pierre is CION’s new Music Sector Development Officer and a native of Sudbury. She’s also a founding member of the critically-acclaimed rock group Casper Skulls. In other words, she’s an active musician living in the north of Ontario, just like the folks she’s been hired to help.
As CION’s Music Sector Development Officer, Melanie will be focused on providing artistic development consultations with musicians (more details below), facilitating artist and industry development workshops and events, and planning showcase opportunities for regional musicians.
Like many, St-Pierre was exposed to music by an older sibling. “When I was in seventh grade, I started getting exposed to punk and alternative stuff,” she says. “My sister would keep a folder of music on our shared computer that I would steal all the time. Eventually, I discovered Radiohead and it changed my life forever.”
Eventually, inspired by her love of bands like Pavement and Sonic Youth, St-Pierre became a musician. She relocated to Oakville to study Arts and Design at Sheridan College, and after her partner Neil Bednis moved down to join her, the two formed Casper Skulls.
“It was frightening to be a young girl wanting to pursue music,’ she recalls. “This is when scenes were very male-dominated. It wasn't until Neil and I started working on music together and he became that support system for me. He really made me feel comfortable to open up and be creative with music. I now feel like I have this duty to help people and be that support system for them.”
"I now feel like I have this duty to help people and be that support system for them."
The Perfect Job, at the Perfect Time
Little did she know what the future had in store. Near the beginning of the pandemic, St-Pierre and Bednis returned to Sudbury. They continued to work together in Casper Skulls, even releasing a new album, Knows No Kindness, in late 2021. Touring, thanks to COVID, was temporarily off the table. In the meantime, CION posted what could be described as a perfect position for someone so inspired to help fellow musicians. St-Pierre began as Development Officer in late 2021.
As Casper Skulls were formed in southern Ontario, it meant that St-Pierre had a different experience from many of her northern associates. It also meant that she gained valuable experience and knowledge that can be more difficult to find in the north.
“Navigating Toronto is a lot different from navigating northern Ontario, just because a lot of the industry is [in Toronto],” St-Pierre says. “You never know who will be at your show, and then those people talk to one another. You can travel more easily, too. In northern Ontario there are more obstacles that you have to face.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re in Kirkland Lake or Castlegar, BC – if you’re in a smaller centre, there are fewer music industry veterans to show you the ropes. St-Pierre’s role at CION will be to provide musicians with the information they need to move their art and careers forward.
Showcases, Grant Applications, Funding Opportunities, Workshops, and More
“We’ll be doing a lot of information sessions for funding for artists,” she says, noting some have already been done since she came on board. “I talked about how FACTOR works, things like that. Applying for grants, too. A lot of people don’t realize this, but living in northern Ontario, we have a better shot at getting some of the grants, especially the ones related to artist development. There’s also workshops that are music-related.”
CION has been known for mounting successful showcases at events such as CMW and M for Montreal. Clearly, with live music on hold, those showcases have been temporarily shelved or shifted. For a spell, CION presented The Lounge. “It was basically a live streaming version of the showcasing,” she says, “but I think people had a lot of that sort of thing in 2020 and 2021. We’re trying to see what changes can we bring to it in 2022, how we can revamp it.”
Launching ON Stage—the Online Portal for Northern Artists
Another upcoming digital project from CION, about which St-Pierre is enthusiastic, is ON Stage. ON Stage is a music-related online portal that will launch in the coming months.
“It’s kind of like a forum for Northern Ontario artists and industry to connect,” she explains. “You can have a profile, bio, upload links to your social media and streaming platforms, everything like that. It will be a way to meet one another. If someone’s looking to collaborate, for example, this will be a really good platform.”
The portal will help northern artists connect to other artists, venues, and other professionals in the music business in the north and far beyond.
“Somebody who was in Sudbury, for example, and wanted to book a tour,” says St-Pierre. “Anybody could do it, but you need to get so much information. You’d have to look up the venues; look up the bands you like to see what venues they’re playing. So that’s why this portal will be great, because it’ll list things like that, like places to play. If you need somebody to play a show, you can reach out to them. Instead of having to go do all this crazy goose-chasing, it’ll all be in one place.”
"It will be a way to meet one another. If someone’s looking to collaborate, for example, this will be a really good platform."
Melanie St.-Pierre on Onstage
St-Pierre didn’t start her music career with Casper Skulls until she had moved south, but she spent plenty of time in Sudbury venues and understands the need for more easily understood, easily-accessed assistance for northern musicians. Once upon a time, people from all around the province – even the country – would flock to Toronto because that was the centre of the industry. Today, thanks in part to a growing base of artists and music industry organizations including CION, things are slightly different.
“Playing Toronto once in a while is good to do, the way a Toronto artist playing new York every once in a while is good to do,” says St-Pierre. “The more that you can be in these places the more it will benefit you, but you don’t necessarily have to uproot your life and move there. Toronto is extremely expensive and a lot of people don’t want to do that. That’s where we come in and try to help out by filling in some of those gaps.”
Music Consultations Available Now
For all interested artists, requests for music consultations are available. From topics including funding, touring (regional, national and international), promotions, marketing, and more, CION is available to provide feedback and connect musicians with the resources they need to succeed. Interested musicians can request a consultation using the form below.