“In a classroom I’ll see a kid with an earbud, and for me this is an exciting chance for a conversation,” said Paul Heppleston, substitute teacher with the Western School District and Mr. H Presents founder. “It’s like the way I get to know people by looking at their record collection.”
Six years ago, Heppleston recognized the lack of performance opportunities for young musicians on the west coast of Newfoundland. He hosted an End of Exams concert for his students at Pasadena Academy to perform in, and has hosted an event every month since then.
Heppleston hopes that by providing a stage for high school aged musicians to share their music, he can build a community where those musicians will in turn mentor the younger kids as they grow.
“Hopefully they can look back and say somebody made something happen for us,” said Heppleston, “and now we’re going to turn around and make something happen for somebody else.”
Mr. H Presents covers a series of events, including the monthly Open Stage For the Underage, which rotates between Deer Lake, Pasadena and Corner Brook, and is starting to stretch farther across the island. The annual Make Music Happen conference involves workshops with notable songwriters that mentor the kids through their own songwriting.
The End of Exams Jam provides students an opportunity to win an opening slot for a professional band. In Session is a series of workshops that bring the young performers into an intimate knowledge sharing session with professional musicians, and Live at Lunch is a concert series that brings musicians into the schools for lunch hour performances.
With all of these opportunities to be exposed to live music, performing, and mentorship, high schoolers on the West Coast are making themselves heard on the provincial music front.
Mr. H Presents regulars Bridgett Swift and Dahlia Waller recently snagged the top prize at the Statoil Newfound Talent Contest, which was won by Corner Brooker and Mr. H Presents participant Emma Peckford in 2013. Mr. H alumni can also be seen in Newfoundland bands Everglow, Newspaper Fashion Show, and Hogarth and the Sky Vines.
Jon Pike of Everglow said, “Having someone like Mr. H Presents in our community was a real inspiration and encouragement for young artists … it taught me a lot about professionalism, performance, and most of all passion.”
This past winter saw the first Open Stage for the Underage shows happen in Lewisporte, with the help of Dean Stairs and Adam Baxter at the Citadel House, and in Stephenville at the Arts and Culture Centre.
Mr. H Presents partnered with Music NL this year to bring more events forward, and things will be getting even busier this fall with more frequent events happening beyond the Humber Valley, and a new podcast soon to be launched on music industry and opportunities that Heppleston hopes the whole West Coast music community can benefit from.
Stay updated with Mr. H Presents events and news on their Facebook page, http://facebook.com/mrhpresents