“If all you do is sit at home and expect to play Carnegie Hall, you’re not being realistic,” says Ann Vriend, an alumna of MacEwan University’s Music diploma program.
While she hasn’t—yet—performed at Carnegie Hall, Ann’s music career has taken her all over the world, while writing, recording, and performing. In July, she won the “She’s the One” Emerging Female Artist Competition at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa. The nation-wide contest has been running since 2011 and is an opportunity for female artists to showcase their talent and reach new audiences.
She credits her success to her ambition—never stopping the search for her next gig and managing both her business and creative sides to be a professional musician.
“To be a really great musician is a lifelong project,” says Ann. “You have to be willing to push yourself musically and you always have to be out there job hunting.”
Before beginning her studies at MacEwan in 1998, Ann had been in a few bands and found that none of her band mates were as serious as she was about making music. At a gig during the Blues on Whyte music festival, she noticed that the members of one of the winning bands came from MacEwan’s Music diploma program.
After watching them perform and seeing their passion for music, she decided, “I have to go to this school.”
She was already studying classical music and English at the University of Alberta and King's University College when she auditioned for MacEwan’s two-year program. She thought that if she could get in, then it was meant to be and she would change paths.
She was accepted and began the intensive program that September. The diploma program condensed four years of music education into two, and faculty members advised students against working part-time. After her first few months, Ann realized they weren’t exaggerating.
“A big part of that is working on projects with other people while at school,” she says. Students write, rehearse and perform with and for each other every day. “You need that experience to prepare for what it’s really like.”
She graduated in 2000 and kick-started her career, which, she admits, has seen its share of highs and lows. She has met producers, shopped around for record labels, recorded demos and toured. She got record deals and lost others. And there were times when she wouldn’t get paid for a gig.
“The business is very insecure,” she says. “It takes a rolling-with-the-punches attitude.”
In 2003, she recorded her first album, and has since released three more. She’s currently working on her next one.
“The program prepared me well,” she says. “It gave me the tools to continue to prepare myself.