Major gift to the university’s record label paves the way for new student-engaged projects

February 24, 2020 | Arts & Culture


Dr. Craig Monk shares a few of his best-loved and hard-to-find vinyl albums.

Whenever Dr. Craig Monk visits another city, he pays a visit to a used record store. He’s always on the hunt for the next rare album to add to his collection.

The best job he ever had — besides, of course, his current role as MacEwan University’s provost & vice-president, Academic — was working in a record store in the late 1980s. But it was a dark time for vinyl. Labels had stopped mass producing vinyl records for new releases in North America. Music stores were often selling only cassettes and CDs.

“In that impressionable time when I was really getting into music, sometimes you could buy an album on vinyl and sometimes you couldn’t,” he says.

But Dr. Monk’s love for vinyl records never waned, and after seeing the student-designed album covers for a Bent River Records release, he was inspired. “I hadn’t realized Bent River produced vinyl, and it got me interested in the ways that album production could involve different program areas across campus,” he says.

From there, he decided to make a gift to Bent River Records. Although the label has recorded and produced many recordings since its inception five years ago, its first vinyl record was produced in 2019, with two more vinyl projects in the works for release this year.

Listening to vinyl is a very physical experience… It’s about actively participating in your music experience.
—Dr. Craig Monk

“Part of the reason the label came about is because the industry is changing so fast and we don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Paul Johnston, co-founder of Bent River Records, assistant professor in the Department of Music and section head of recording. He explains that the label allows for ongoing research into the rapidly changing music industry and that it helps prepare graduates for their futures in the field.



University's record label a win-win for artists and students

“Seeing all the elements – from the business side to planning and recording to post-production and design – come together is the most rewarding part of working with the label.”

The label also serves as an interdisciplinary lab for students to do research, take part in experiential learning and collaborate with artists and faculty members to develop skills and knowledge by working on real-world projects.

“Coming from the provost, the investment into this activity will help to elevate the idea of this type of interdisciplinary collaborative project,” says Rose Ginther, co-founder of Bent River, associate dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Communications, and associate professor in the Arts and Cultural Management program. “We feel so honoured that Dr. Monk has put his faith in the label and in the interdisciplinary collaborations and learning that the label has fostered.”

The $50,000 gift will fund Bent River Records’ vinyl and special projects and encourages student engagement in any and all facets of producing a vinyl project.

“I would like to make it easier for Bent River to be able to choose to produce vinyl where it makes sense,” says Dr. Monk.

“As MacEwan prepares for its 50th anniversary fundraising campaign, we see Dr. Monk’s gift as an important lead gift and a powerful example of how senior leaders can support the campaign and student success at MacEwan,” says Kevin Fitzgerald, associate vice-president, Alumni and Development.

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Through this gift, students from across the university will continue to have opportunities to benefit from the learning lab component. Since its inception, Bent River has integrated students directly into its management team as research assistants, staff members and interns, working with artists, managing the label’s online presence, handling licensing and distribution, and designing album cover art.

We feel so honoured that Dr. Monk has put his faith in the label and in the interdisciplinary collaborations and learning that the label has fostered.
—Rose Ginther

“Vinyl has become a really big deal as more and more artists have been requesting it,” says Paul, who adds that vinyl has been outselling CDs. “There are a lot of reasons why vinyl is having a resurgence right now and nostalgia is a big one.”

In this digital age, a vinyl record makes listening to music a tangible experience — the listener is making a commitment to listen and engage with the music.

“Listening to vinyl is a very physical experience — choosing a record, taking out the sleeve, putting the vinyl on a good turntable if you’re fortunate to have one, listening to a side — rather than being a passive consumer of music,” says Dr. Monk. “It’s about actively participating in your music experience.”

 50 tracks for vinyl listening

These are the songs (and their albums) Dr. Monk recommends listening to on vinyl if you can, but collected for you in this handy Spotify playlist. 


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