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The Telegram: Newfoundland musicians step up to political stage

September 17, 2017

For years, they’ve wowed audiences with their talent and connected with people through their music.




Now, at least four candidates running for municipal politics in the St. John’s metro area are hoping to strike a chord with voters.



St. John's



Darrell Power and Maggie Burton, both in St. John’s, Glen Carew in Paradise and Stephen Pretty in Conception Bay South are all musicians running for council this year.



“It’s great to see so many musicians stepping up,” said Power, a former member of the iconic and world-renowned folk rock group Great Big Sea. He is running for St. John’s councillor at large.



“There’s a ground swell happening in municipal politics — a cultural shift. It’s really no longer the domain of the successful woman or man or the retired business person.



“Artists have been leading social change in this community. They’ve been at the forefront and they’ve got a lot to give. They, without a doubt, want a better community. They have a voice. They’re not wallflowers. They’re an important part of society.”



The 49-year-old Outer Cove native retired from the group in 2003 to spend more time with his family, but he still had his finger in the industry, running a recording studio from 2009 to 2015.



So what makes a talented musician want to run for politics?



Power — who performs these days with the bands Timber and Crush — explained that having a music background helps develop certain skills that are valuable in politics.



 Artists, he said, are survivors and know how to work hard for what they get.



“It’s not a coincidence different artists are stepping up and be at the table,” he said. “We chase work and see opportunities. We’re survivors.”



Artists, he said, are also creative, are often good listeners, good communicators, open-minded and approachable.


Maggie Burton is running for councillor at large in St. John's.


Burton — who is also vying for a councillor at large position in the capital city — agrees communication is key in both music and politics.

“Musicians know how to captivate people,” she said. “Musicians are naturally good orators and have a way to get the attention and keep the attention of audience.”

Burton, who grew up in Brigus and moved to St. John’s in 2009, is a music teacher who instructs young students in violin using the Suzuki method. She’s co-founder of the St. John’s new Music Collective and the Avalonia Duo and also plays in the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra — the largest employer of musicians in the province — and in other groups with other local musicians.

The 26-year-old is also an award-winning poet, with both national and local publications.

“I certainly believe (artists) can better foster tourism and a creative economy,” said Burton, who also plays in a pop duo, Door Lock, which has released three albums.



“The arts community has a great vision in what the city should look like and can come to together to foster culture and heritage … but you need strong leadership and someone involved to do that.”








Glen Carew, known for his band Bic and the Ballpoints, is running in Paradise.


Meanwhile, Paradise councillor candidate Carew — better known as “Bic” — fronts a popular cover band Bic and the Ballpoints, a group that has performed at countless events across the province since the mid-1990s.

Moving to the political stage is not such a stretch, he said, as it’s important to connect with people and be able to interact with groups.

But music was always been just a fun outlet for him. He said he’s always had a keen interest in municipal issues, especially after his family struggled with challenges in the town  —such as obtaining water and sewer, and school busing — as a child.

“Having seen all the stress and pain my Dad went through, I knew I wanted to get involved in helping the people of Paradise,” said the 46-year-old operations manager at a local recreation equipment store.

“I’m a longtime resident and I truly understand the wants and needs of the whole community, not just one in particular.”

The town has grown and improvements have been made, but he still sees areas that need improvement.

“There are still 18 streets in Paradise that have no water and sewer,” said Carew, whose slogan is “Tick for Bic.” “And now, in the higher density areas, they need more services for their kids.



“But it takes more than a musical background (to be a good municipal representative for residents). I’m in it to help the people of Paradise.”



Conception Bay South


Stephen Pretty is running for a municipal seat in Conception Bay South.

Submitted photo


Conception Bay South councilor at large candidate Pretty agrees there are many parallels in music and politics.

“As a musician, you’re a people person, for sure. You’re constantly responding to people’s needs,” said the 40-year-old, who plays in the Phantom 4 cover band, whose members also make up the Dimaggios, a vocally charged, cajon/guitar-playing threesome.

“You’re really putting yourself out there on stage, bearing everything when you’re performing.”

He said it’s made him comfortable in public,” which plays wells in the political environment … You’ve got to have guts.”

Pretty has wanted to become involved in municipal politics since he was a child, when he first noticed problems, like road safety.



Through his experience in music, Pretty, who’s originally from Clarenville, has met countless people and has participated in various community events and fundraisers.



“When it comes to community events and stepping up to help out, very few groups are so quick to step to the plate than musicians,” said Pretty, a senior policy analyst with Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.



Music has helped him appreciate the importance of arts and culture in the community.



“I think our town is missing opportunities to have arts and culture become a part of our daily lives,” said Pretty, who said popular destinations such as Topsail Beach and the T’railway should be utilized to have weekly events and concerts. “It’s a big opportunity for economic development….

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