An Award and a Thank You Speech

November 14, 2006

in REFLECTIONS AND RANTS

In October, at the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals annual event held in Ottawa, this time, I was honored to receive the Estelle Klein Award.  It doesn’t say, on the elegant award itself, what it’s actually for, but it’s given for “lifetime achievement”.  So, taken from my notes, and slightly edited, here’s what I said to the 500-odd people in the room:

“I thank the OCFF for this honor, and I am particularly proud of the fact that I am the first non-musician to have been graced with this Award – except Estelle herself. When she passed away, the award was renamed in her honor.

“I am proud that I knew Estelle, and that she was a mentor for me. She was passionate about music, but not always easy to love (anyone who received her 10-page letters reprimanding them for lapses in judgment or taste will agree).  She was a woman with extraordinary energy and her final achievement, in establishing the ArtsCan Foundation, is part of her rich legacy.

“It was her request to me to attend the 1965 Mariposa Folk Festival that changed my life. At that event, this committed blues and jazz fan became a committed folkie. I heard, and met, Ian & Sylvia, Phil Ochs, Gord Lightfoot, Pop Staples, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte-Marie and so many others.

“In the years following, Estelle taught me and so many other people about organizing events, about programming, and about dealing with artists and other creative people.

“Obviously, there are many people I would like to thank. My family: my wife Donna and my children Jill and Sarah, who put up with me and support me and let me run around and listen to music most nights of the week. My clients: Downchild for 36 years, Stony Plain Records for close to 30, Loreena McKennitt since the days she busked outside the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. I am equally proud of the relatively new artists I am privileged to work with: Serena Ryder, Roxanne Potvin, Justin Rutledge and Paul Reddick among them.

“I’d also like to thank SOCAN, for whom I worked for 24 years; this organization allowed me to meet and write about literally hundreds of composers, lyricists, songwriters and musicians.

“Thanks, too, to the people who have worked with me over the years, and in particular to Samantha Carter, who’s here tonight, who is moving on to complete her educations. I hope that Sarah French, who will step into your shoes, Sam, will be as helpful and encouraging as you have been.

“I would also like to thank the newspaper writers and the music programmers at community radio, and more importantly at the CBC, for supporting our music. I trust the promised revamp of Radio 2 will be speedy, and effective.  And, since we are in Ottawa, let us all put the present government on notice that we’re going to come calling if it even thinks of cutting arts support.

“Finally, a note to all the musicians in this community: Hone your craft, practice your instrument, train your voice, study your songs, and handle rejection with the grace with which you handle your successes.

“To everyone else, please remember, as I have tried to do for almost 40 years, that if you can’t make music, you have a duty, a solemn obligation, to help make music happen.”

A Personal Addition

At this event, I was deeply honored by the audience who gave me a standing ovation when I was called to the stage and another one when I completed my speech.  How COOL is that?  I now know, first hand, the ultimate reward that so many performers get, and earn, night after night. What a damned shame that I didn’t learn music and become a performer!