Published Aug 01, 2005Innovative Vancouver-based musician Veda Hille has received numerous grants from both the Canada Council and FACTOR since the '90s. Her success made her a prime candidate to serve as a peer on juries assessing music applications for both agencies, though she's primarily worked with the Council in recent years. Hille's latest solo album is Return of the Kildeer and she is also a member of Mint Records band, Duplex.
What have you assessed for the Canada Council?
One year I was there for touring grants and another I was there for folk and roots and I also sat on the "super jury," which assesses everything. That was wild because I work in the art-song tradition and I was quite nervous assessing new music and jazz, which I'm familiar with but it's certainly not my field. I found that I could recognise the music that deserved the grant and that responding to music is a universal thing; good music transcends its genre.
How do juries assess applications?
In terms of process, there are a bunch of musicians in the room and everyone has familiarised themselves with the applications on paper, but the main thing is listening to the music. We'd listen to something from one application, discuss its merits, and then grade it between one and ten. At that point, we'd go back and verify that the paper work is realistic and narrow things down. The music with high averages got funded and I think it's excellent that the music came first.
Have your fellow jurors also been musicians?
Every Council jury I've sat on has consisted of all musicians. With the FACTOR juries, there were people from radio, A&R, and management, so they've been more diverse and more weighted toward the industry. With FACTOR's mandate, the selection is based on music but also on marketing and commercial viability.
What sort of applicants impressed you?
I was most interested in supporting people who had their own voice, which doesn't necessarily mean wildly original, but something with a sense of integrity and commitment. We don't have a lot of listening time; we rarely get to listen to an entire song. So having a recording that serves the song is very useful. Also, people who weren't really trying to impress the jury resonated with me. People who presented their music as simply and directly as possible did well.
Do you feel the jury process works well?
Absolutely. It's particularly important that it's rotating juries for both FACTOR and the Canada Council. If it was the same people all the time they would start to have predilections. What I've found also is that there were no jury members with any sort of vendetta or bias; everyone seemed to come in with a spirit of fairness and community and brought their aesthetic opinions to the table. I think it works really well.
Did serving on juries alter your perception of grant writing?
The essential thing is that it made me trust the process. Understanding the entire process always helps, but knowing that you don't have to trick anyone or skew things is reassuring. There are no real tricks, other than being concise, direct, and having good music.