Open Stage For The Underage

Open Stage For The Underage

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Capitalizing on the void for young performers in Western NL, Paul Heppleston has carved out a foothold in the music scene with his Open Stage for the Underage

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The island of Newfoundland and Labrador is brimming with talent. That’s about as factual a statement as one could make without bringing in diagrams and pie charts.

An Artist’s Start 

We cultivate a whopping crop of artists and musicians for our relatively small population. The fruits of those labours can be seen in the current modern day travelling Newfoundland artists like Fortunate Ones, The Once, BRDGS and others. But how do some of these potential hit-makers get their start? 

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On the West Coast, educator turned promoter Paul Heppleston has largely been credited with reviving the music scene for our youth. Known as Mr. H in the business, Heppleston saw a growing need for avenues for young performers in Western Newfoundland. 

“My very first Mr. H Presents event was sort of born out of a reaction to something one of my kids said on a radio interview,” Heppleston tells The Herald. “The year the Junos were in St. John’s, one of my kids from Deer Lake was being interviewed and was asked what’s happening for young people in Western Newfoundland making music?  He said nothing, nobody is doing anything for young people making music out there”

 Make Some Noise 

Taking advantage of the obvious void, Heppleston launched his first concert in June of 2010, which quickly morphed into a series of open mic events in Pasadena and Corner Brook. Today, the Mr. H Presents events are garnering attention province-wide, leading to the launch of the very successful Make Music Happen songwriting conference in May, and a Janeway fundraiser around Christmas. 

On April 21 and 22, Open Stage for the Underage will take to the Arts and Culture Centres in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor, a partnership between the ACC brass and Heppleston to offer a venue for young performers ages 12-18 to explore, develop and showcase their skills in a supportive environment. 

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“This is sort of a step away from the formality,” Heppleston explains. “There’s risk on an open stage. You don’t have to worry about adjudication or being judged in that same way, but they’re a little bit more out there on their own. 

“I just encourage people to be vocal in their support of these young people,” he adds. “Get up and take your pictures and shoot a bit of video to post online. Make some noise about the effort that these young people are making in expressing themselves musically.”

For more info on Open Stage for the Underage visit artsandculturecentre.com or visit Mr. H Presents on Facebook. 

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Dillon Collins is a writer based out of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Multi-time MusicNL nominee for Media Person of the Year. Lover of heavy metal, hoppy beverages and the loveable canine.

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