The relatively quiet town of Sackville is about to get a little bit louder starting Wednesday. The ninth annual Stereophonic Music Festival, featuring some of the best independent music from the Maritimes and beyond will be taking over various venues throughout Sackville. A total of 28 acts including Baby Eagle, The North Lakes, Adam Mowery, Corey Isenor and more will be performing in six different venues throughout Sackville.
While Stereophonic is arguably all about music, the festival actually serves as a fundraising effort for Mount Allison University radio station CHMA. The station first went on air in 1974, driven by a mandate to provide listeners with diverse, innovative and original programming.
“For this year’s Stereophonic Festival, we have got 28 bands spread over four nights at six different venues in Sackville,” Stereophonic co- organizer Jessica Palmer tells The Times & Transcript. “Stereophonic is a celebration of bands from throughout the Maritimes. A lot of bands are excited to share in the experience and are glad to be a part of it. Stereophonic has a very welcoming atmosphere and boasts a real sense of community.”
Community plays an important part in the ongoing success of CHMA. Boasting a full-time staff of only two people, approximately a dozen volunteers help keep things moving otherwise. Where the station is a non-commercial radio station however, they rely upon volunteers, government grants and events such as Stereophonic to keep the station functional throughout the year. Events like Stereophonic help the station pay the necessary fees to stay on the air while also helping pay rent to the university for the space they occupy in addition to keeping the station’s equipment functional.
“CHMA occasionally has sponsors for specific events but it is mot in the spirit of PBS than anything else,” Stereophonic co-organizer Kevin Braiser notes. “An event like Stereophonic has some ‘in kind’ donations, where some of our sponsors are contributing by helping feed musicians and we in turn publicly thank them although we do not promote their products.”
Stereophonic performer Corey Isenor says the role that stations such as CHMA play in helping further a musician’s career while supporting the communities they serve can be immeasurable.
“I believe that all campus and community radio stations are an important piece of the towns and cities they inhabit,” Isenor begins. “They provide an opportunity to both students and community members to learn about the many facets of broadcasting and have helped to build some well known Canadian media personalities including CBC’s Ian Hanomansing who actually started at CHMA.
“More so though, they also give new and local bands the exposure they need to begin their careers; I probably wouldn’t be where I am today or know as many people in the Canadian independent music scene if it wasn’t for CHMA. I’m sure Pat LePoidevin, Shotgun Jimmie, Frederick Squire and Julie Doiron would say the same.”
Asked about why playing av event like Stereophonic is important to him, Adam Mowery has a laundry list of reasons on why it matters:
“Year after year, the festival manages to wrangle in the region’s most eclectic and exciting acts in the nastiest part of the winter,” Mowery starts. “And it’s all in the name of community radio, and the idea that people should be able to play whatever they want on the airwaves, regardless of marketability and ‘quality of sound’.”
“But really, the reason I love playing in Sackville is because I find the audience more responsive to my performances than probably anywhere else. I feel the performers can tell too; there is a definite connection between the audience and the performers that you don’t feel in most towns. It ends up resulting in really honest and often magnetic performances at a festival like Stereophonic,” he continues.
Though many might question the role of “traditional” radio stations in a world of all things digital, Mowery says the importance of community radio stations such as CHMA should not be underestimated.
“I think the role of all terrestrial radio in all markets, be it community or commercial stations, has been a diminished one for a number of years,” he says. “With podcasts, satellite radio, and essentially a never-ending fountain of content provided by digital technologies, traditional radio, in all forms, definitely has much competition these days.
“But in a town like Sackville, I feel that community radio can still really work. You can hear your friend play a cool band on their radio show and then perhaps see that band play at George’s Roadhouse on the weekend. The radio station is an honest reflection of what’s going on in the town at any given time. The radio model is very direct and works in a town the size of Sackville. I think it is a big reason why you see such interesting talent drawn to the festival.”