Getting New Brunswick’s music industry back up and running.

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Incoming president Eva George and Executive Director Jean Surette share Music NB’s plans for the year ahead. 

Matt Carter
Eva George photo by Andy Tree.

Eva George has been named the new president of Music NB’s Board of Directors. New Brunswick’s music industry association made the announcement on July 21. 

George replaces outgoing president Penelope Stevens and says she is looking forward to continuing the work established by the previous board. 

 “I want to pick up and continue on the work Penny had led the board towards,” said George. “Penny had done a lot in her term as president. The board is more diverse in terms of its membership now so I think my goal would be to continue that work but also know that it’s not about ticking boxes. It’s not just about achieving gender parity and saying, ‘now the work is done.’ It’s about engaging communities that have traditionally been underserved and underrepresented. We have a lot of work to do on many levels around engaging communities and building relationships and trust. It’s about making the membership more representative of what’s happening around the province’s music communities.

“I feel there’s a lot of underrepresentation among Indigenous artists and newcomers for example. We have more work to do,” she said.

More and more community and arts-based groups are taking steps to place diversity, equity and equality at the forefront of their organizations. George says she’s excited by this challenge and the need for Music NB to plot its own course in continuing this work. 

“There’s no manual or roadmap. I think a lot of this work should be centred on relationship building,” she said. “Trust takes a long time to be built. This work has to be done in a manner that’s safe where people don’t feel their time is being exploited. But it’s also just a lack of communication in knowing that there are opportunities for people to be part of. But in order to have these conversations you have to first build the relationships.”

Another area George would like to see addressed has to deal with creating an effective COVID recovery strategy. As the industry slowly moves into a post-pandemic world, musicians as well as the festivals and venues that serve to support them need a great deal of support to get back on their feet. 

“Our industry was decimated,” said George. “Through reaching out to our membership and through casual conversations with folks, we learned how a lot of musicians really don’t take comfort in the instruments anymore.  And then there are those musicians who missed a whole album release cycle due to COVID. They put something out just before COVID happened and now that work is dated or they’re just feeling a lack of enthusiasm for it. Whatever the case may be, this is an area that needs our attention.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Music NB have been in ongoing talks with the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture to explore different stimulus strategies to help get the industry functioning once again. 

Music NB Executive Director Jean Surette says the Province has been willing to assist but admits the amount of work required takes time. 

One of the areas of focus that we suggested was support for smaller venues who don’t typically receive government support,” said Surette. “These are the small venues, bars, cafés and restaurants that program live music and are staples for emerging artists to cut their teeth as well as providing touring bands a place to play when they come through NB.”

Surette cites the recent closures of Taco Pica, Thunder and Lightning and Bistro Coeur D’artishow as three reasons to back the need for support in this area.  

“This is our argument. We need to avoid any other closures,” he said. 

Surette hopes to see a program launched this fall to help venues get more artists back on their stages. 

“We already have a Live Performance component for artists with the Music Industry Development Program so with a venue-centered program to fill that gap, we hope it will encourage venues to book artists and people to come to shows.”

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