Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council



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Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival

Location: St. John's, NL
NLAC Program Funded Under: Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organiations
Amount Funded: $24,500


Credit: Bud Gaulton

Dates: September 23 to 27, 2015
Organizational Website:
Organizational Contact:
Bradley Power,
Board of Directors member
Contact E-mail:

Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues Inc., now in its thirteenth year, was established to foster and sustain an appreciation of creative music in Newfoundland and Labrador – primarily jazz and blues, as their name suggests – but also world music. The organization is probably most well known for their annual Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues festival, but they are also busy throughout the year with a variety of programming that includes concerts, educational activities, and fundraisers.

The festival itself was originally launched in August 2002, but has since moved to the month of July. It was initially evolved from the Hew Knoo Jazz Festival and called the St. John’s Jazz Festival; it now annually features over 200 jazz, blues, and world music performers who do shows in venues throughout St. John’s. They went with calling it ‘Wreckhouse’ in 2003 after the distinctive geographic region of the province known for fierce and tough wind gusts and gritty landscape, feeling that the analogy paralleled the raw and strongly authentic qualities of the music genres involved.

Wreckhouse-Johnston-LearCredit: Bud Gaulton

The organization is governed by an eight person board of directors led by current president Linda Mansfield who recently worked hard with volunteers to make the dozens of events happen for this year’s festival. The headliners of the five day event, which features local, national, and international talents, were Holly Cole and Matt Anderson. Others who took to the stage included Brianna Gosse, Cathy Newhook and the Blue Sky Thinkers, the Dana Parsons Trio, Denis Parker and the Modern Saints, Johnston and Lear, Mary Barry, and the Shuffle Demons among many others.

The festival also boasted a workshop series and they created an app available through the AppStore and Android Play Store that featured schedule details, audio samples from performers, and more. To hear more about the festival funded by ArtsNL through the Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations, we chatted with board of director member Bradley Power.

Q and A with Bradley Power...

ArtsNL: How long does it take to program the festival, and how are programming decisions made?

Wreckhouse-DominicCredit: Bud Gaulton

Bradley: Programming starts in January and a committee of approximately six members take submissions and put together a list of performers and the festival schedule. It takes a lot of planning, and unfortunately we can’t have every artist that applies play, but we feel we put together a great line-up for the 2015 festival that just concluded.

ArtsNL: Can you highlight your hot ticket events for this year and why these were popular?

Bradley: Holly Cole and Matt Andersen were the featured artists for this year’s festival. Both are tremendously talented and gave guests a unique musical experience.
Holly has a long and storied international career and sold hundreds of thousands of recordings in the US, Japan and Germany. She was also the recipient of the prestigious Ella Fitzgerald Award and is one of only two Canadians (Diana Krall) to ever receive it - putting her in the company of legends like Tony Bennett, Sade, Aretha Franklin and Ella herself.

With over 2 million views on YouTube, independent sales over 30,000 albums, a 2013 European Blues Award, and winning Best Solo Performer at the Memphis Blues Challenge, it appears that the entire world is now discovering Matt Andersen.

A powerhouse performer with a giant soul-filled voice and commanding stage presence, Matt has built a formidable following the old fashioned way – touring worldwide and letting the converted audiences and Andersen devotees spread his reputation through word of mouth. Now with Weightless, his debut album for True North Records, Matt’s music has been captured on record as never before – shifting his formidable talents as a blues performer to his song-craft. After hearing the instant classic material on Weightless, it’s hard to imagine any fan of Matt Andersen—old or new—left unsatisfied.

We were very excited to have such high calibre entertainers performing for Wreckhouse audiences this year.

ArtsNL: Tell us more about the workshops that were offered and a little about the Songwriters Circle, as well?


Credit: Bud Gaulton

Bradley: The Children’s workshop was Sunday morning at the Masonic Temple, and it featured the Munchkin Music Factory (Lisa Gillam) and Alive Adventure (Katie Power). It started with a music creativity program and ended with a concert presentation.

The Songwriters circle was on Saturday at the LSPU and was a writers circle, with audience interaction. It involved creating music and lyrics with jazz and blues, and other musical backgrounds. It featured Roger House, Katie Baggs, Steve Maloney, and Jeremy Ledbetter of Canefire.

ArtsNL: How has the festival grown in the last thirteen years? How was attendance this year?

Bradley: The festival has grown steadily each year. Jazz, blues, and world music are becoming more popular throughout Newfoundland and Labrador by the day. We see more shows taking place now throughout the year than ever before, at venues like the LSPU Hall, the Arts and Culture Centre, the Black Sheep, The Social House, and others.  A number of shows sold out, this year!

ArtsNL: Wreckhouse tends to take place at multiple venues, what ones were involved this year?

WreckhouseCredit: Bud Gaulton

Bradley: All events were happening at the LSPU Hall, Arts and Culture Centre, Masonic Temple, The Rooms, The Social House or The Black Sheep. These venues have been amazing partners for Wreckhouse Jazz & Blues. We are grateful for their support.

ArtsNL: Why did Wreckhouse decide to develop the app? What are some of the positive outcomes you’ve seen because of it?

Bradley: The App was suggested by our marketing partner, Dc Design House. It’s a way to target a different demographic than the festival has been typically used to. It is also a one-stop-shop for everything Wreckhouse, a tool that we’ve been looking to incorporate for many years. Downloads are steadily increasing and we’ve had a number of people commend us for “getting with the times!”

ArtsNL: What makes the festival possible, how many people are involved?

Bradley: The festival is always made possible by our dedicated staff, board of directors and many volunteers. Many hands make light work! We have to mention our sponsors, too. They are very generous and it couldn’t happen without them.

ArtsNL: How does the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) funding from theSustaining Program for Professional Arts Organiations help?

Bradley: The funding from ArtsNL is absolutely essential to our operation. We are very grateful for the public funding and the work ArtsNL does to grow the music industry, amongst others, throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

ArtsNL: Was there anything else you would like to add?

Bradley: Social media was a huge help for getting the word out again this year. We have a Facebook page, Twitter profile and YouTube channel. All three have been very busy these last few weeks, with contests and information about the shows and artists being posted. We encourage people to reach out online and get engaged in the discussion.