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Arts & Culture(Archives)


A New Recording Studio and a Newcomer to Fort McMurray

Steph Seidel
BY Steph Seidel
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Five years ago, 91.1 The Bridge moved into the Fort McMurray Composite High School in an amazing partnership with the Fort McMurray Public School District.  When the radio station (then KAOS 91.1) was settled in, Superintendent Doug Nichols asked Rick Kirschner, Executive Director of King’s Kids Promotions (the charity that owns the radio station), “What’s next? What else do you want to do to help kids in the school district?”

Rick replied, “You know, it’s always been a dream to have a recording studio to record Fort McMurray’s exceptional musicians.” And thus began the planning for a brand new project to help the students of Fort McMurray reach their full potential.

Fast forward to 2018 and we’re about to open the new District Recording Studio.  This studio has state of the art equipment, and construction.  From the initial conversations with stakeholders through an extremely large amount of research and advice from the top studios in Canada, Fort McMurray’s premier studio is ready and waiting to help you put your music out into the world!

Thanks to funding from the Anglican Church, King’s Kids discovered a university graduate, musician and producer with a love for working with high school students in Sherwood Park and hired him immediately.  Willi Whiston is a newcomer to Fort McMurray who is making a splash with students across the city every day. Willi is classically trained in the trombone and has achieved Grade 9 from Royal Conservatory of Music. He plays guitar, and other stringed instruments and sings with a low soothing voice.  Now that the studio is up and running, Willi will be instructing recording arts for students in an afterschool program, a monthly youth performance showcase and, in partnership with Some Other Solutions, a summer youth program which will feature performing arts.

 In the fall of 2016, the District Studio teamed up with Youth Voices WB and asked students aged 12 to 24 to answer this question in song ‘How would you make your community better?’  Eight youth submitted ideas, and through the excellent coaching of Willi, Chris Wells: a co-founder of the studio, and other local musicians the songs were recorded on old, used equipment and released each week surrounding the 2017 municipal election. Students sung that they wanted more green space and trees, cafes, and safe spaces, a community that loves well, and that listens. Many of the youth feel that they have stories that are worth being told and that their experiences are valuable to this community.

We asked Willi Whitson what he was most excited about for the new recording studio. “I am really excited to be able to inspire young people to be creative and realize their potential in music.  A lot of people don’t realize that creativity is a shared human experience and we can cultivate it in each one of us.  We all create, whether it’s in music, community artwork, friendship or something else; we all have the capacity to make something to better our city.”

Since Willi’s only been here a few months, we wanted to know what he thought of our beloved community. “Fort McMurray is awesome. I was amazed by how tight of a community it is. My wife Genoveve and I are so glad to be apart of it!  And I want to add that if you are a youth who is interested in music I’d love to meet with you and give you a tour of our new space!”

Stay tuned for the open house, which we anticipate will happen in conjunction with the Fort McMurray Public School District in the spring of 2018. See you then!