Mu­si­cians step up to po­lit­i­cal stage

Four can­di­dates say mu­sic back­grounds help­ing them in mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion runs

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - WEEKEND LOCAL - BY ROSIE MULLALEY

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.

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, open­minded and ap­proach­able.

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.”

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 homes 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 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….

“But there are so many other ar­eas that need im­prove­ment. The mu­si­cal piece (of my back­ground) is just one small part of what I can of­fer.”


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


Mu­sic teacher and NSO vi­o­lin­ist Mag­gie Bur­ton is run­ning for coun­cil­lor at large in St. John’s.


Dar­rell Power, mu­si­cian and busi­ness­man, is run­ning as an at-large coun­cil­lor for St. John’s.


Stephen Pretty says mu­si­cians are peo­ple per­sons, and he’s run­ning for a seat in Con­cep­tion Bay South.

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