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Fostering a Music Hub in the North

Slowly Becoming | Interview with Kurt Furstenwerth | Fairview, AB

(L to R): Jeremy McCracken, Rylan Crawford, Terry Cameron, Norah Eve, Jill Luka and Kurt Furstenwerth // Photography by Bert Reynolds

Music lovers and performers in the Fairview area have a good reason to tap their toes. There are new music events popping up, and there’s even a new record label. One of the key common denominators is a man named Kurt Furstenwerth.

Furstenwerth can usually be found on stage or behind the scenes organizing events for what is becoming a hot music scene in the heart of the Peace.

“There is so much talent here in the North. It’s often hidden away in living rooms, but as more opportunities to play for audiences arise, we get to see that talent emerge,” said Furstenwerth.

Most nights Furstenwerth and his wife, Jill Luka, are at a music event they organized or practicing with one of the bands they are part of. One such example is local, up-and-coming indie band Slowly Becoming. Currently, they stand tall on charts in Vancouver and Calgary.

“I am proud of all the bands I play with, but there is something really unique about what we are doing with Slowly Becoming,” said Furstenwerth. “I think it is pretty rare to have this kind of diversity in age and influence in one band.”

For those who have listened to Slowly Becoming’s second album, Before the World Ends, it is clear the group is a creative powerhouse.

Spanning five decades in age, they are needled together by a desire to create edgy sounds and threaded with the whisper-y soft and ethereal voice of their lead singer, Norah Eve.

“Norah joined us when she was just 16 and has blown us all away with her talent and song-writing skills ever since,” said Furstenwerth. “She won the Bear Creek songwriters contest [in Grande Prairie] when she was just 15 years old, and it seems like everything she touches with her creative energy turns to magic.”

Furstenwerth says that Norah’s talent and others talents, like fellow band member and producer Rylan Crawford for example, inspire him to keep working toward building a solid music scene in Fairview.

Providing a trusting space for homegrown talent to flourish is what inspired Slowly Becoming to launch their own record label, Long Story Records, which has signed five artists so far.

“We aren’t looking to sign just anyone on. We want to build a trust with listeners, so they can rely on Long Story Records to provide solid music while at the same time bringing legitimacy and mentorship to musicians,” said Furstenwerth.

The opportunity to perform is part of building a healthy music community. With the support of the Town of Fairview, the local economic development board and others, new platforms exist allowing local artists to emerge and bring their voices to local venues.

This past summer brought the patio series throughout Fairview, which provided a boost to local businesses who hosted the various stages. The community came out in support.

Inspired by the North Country Fair and how it’s been run over the years, Furstenwerth took planning the patio series very seriously.

“I have been heavily influenced by the way the North Country Fair is curated in terms of the artists and their schedules. For the patio series, I tried to mimic that in the way I paired our local and inbound artists as well as with the venue placements,” said Furstenwerth.

This inspiration also helped Furstenwerth when planning the first ever Bluesky Music Festival, which was held this past August. Slowly Becoming band member Terry Cameron and his longtime friend Ray Hamel had a dream, prior to Hamel’s passing in 2021, to see Bluesfest resurrected—an event they originally founded in 2000.

When funding for the Bluesky Community Stage became a concern, Long Story Records teamed up with the Bluesky Community Association to ensure the stage could be maintained for the future. This year they were able to raise enough to maintain the insurance on the stage.

“Our hope is to start an annual fundraiser event for the Bluesky Community Association, so they can maintain and grow their venue site and guarantee the insurance is paid for,” said Furstenwerth.

For Furstenwerth, building a music scene isn’t just about providing venues and events, mentorship and learning are also important. He is helping to bring back SongRise, a defunct music conference and workshop, for September of 2024. Partnering with Community Futures, this event brings world class musicians to help local talent with songwriting.

“I want Fairview to be the hub of music in the North,” said Furstenwerth. “There is so much potential to make great music here, and opportunities like SongRise are part of pushing that forward in a bigger way.”

With a vision for the future, Furstenwerth is helping to blaze the trail.

“I believe if we build a strong, local music community, we can support our local talent and draw in outside artists as well,” said Furstenwerth.

Stream Slowly Becoming on your favourite streaming platform, support them on Bandcamp, and support your local music scene whenever you can.

By Kelly Pippin | Photography by Bert Reynolds and submitted

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