A special induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame was presented to multi-award winning, GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Loreena McKennit at this year’s Women In Music Canada Honours hosted at The Opera House in Toronto.
Hosted by CBC Music’s Saroja Coelho, the event sought to recognize up to 10 women and gender-diverse industry members or artists who are in the early stages of their careers and who have shown success and growth in their work.
In her acceptance speech, McKennit paid homage to her upbringing in the prairies, to the broadcasters who played her music all over the world and to Celtic music for inspiring her writing. She also highlighted the travelling she did in Turkey and Morocco that she said inspired her songwriting throughout her life.
“As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but music captured me in the lovely town of Morden, Manitoba, where I grew up. My world was brimming with music, music festivals, operettas, church, music, variety, nights. It was a rich foundation,” Mckennit said. “And as I grew into the wider world of singer songwriters and discovered Celtic music and the legends of the Celts, I was inspired to take a journey that became my life.”
She later played a mesmerizing song accompanied by her harp, a violinist and guitarist.
“At times, the power of song is simply overwhelming. Music is often a force for good. Sure, at one level it’s lots of fun for each of us. It’s a soundtrack to our lives. It can make us better. It can fill our hearts and enrich our souls. That is music at its best,” she said.
Women In Music Canada also honoured Sandy Pandya of ArtHaus Music and Ryhna Thompson of Envision Management with the 2023 Trailblazer Award. Every year, the two Trailblazer awards are given to long-standing industry leaders who have committed their careers to making change.
“This year is the 28th anniversary of my company which I started two decades ago. I have never really recognized these milestones as they come along, but I think it’s important to take those moments to reflect on where you came from, how you’ve grown,” Thompson said.
“I am grateful to a lot of people in this room and beyond who really collaborated with me from their hearts, from their authentic celves, and were fearless to try something different, to try something new, to believe in themselves and to believe in others. We can make a better world if we do it together.”
The entrepreneur of the year award was given to Elise Roller, Misfit Music MGMT. Apart from giving thanks, she put out a call to action to all Canadian music funding agencies to prioritize diversity in their funding.
“To all of the heavily funded organizations who have a major influence over the climate of equity in our music industry, it is possible to focus on all marginalized demographics at the same time. Most of us are looking for the same thing. Not another panel, not another promise, but the actual removal of barriers that prevent us from having equal opportunity to grow our businesses,” said Roller.
“As an entrepreneur, I am constantly having to reinvent and evolve in order to create a sustainable living for myself. It only seems fair that the organizations making important decisions for the music professionals across Canada do the same.”
The event also featured performances from emerging artists such as rising country star, Sacha, producer, DJ and performer, Liliane Chlela; JUNO-nominated recording artist, songwriter and producer, Desiree Dawson; Cree and Salish singer, Tia Wood; singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Sofia Camara; and decorated, multi-platinum recording artist, Fefe Dobson.