After planning the project for over a year, the UTM Music Club released an album of original songs by UTM students and held a launch concert last Tuesday. Almost all of the artists were present to perform the pieces they recorded for the CD, titled The Original Chords.

The atmosphere in the MiST Theatre was a cozy, welcoming one. Lights were wrapped around the railings around the seats and the stage was strewn with guitars and speakers. The small theatre was perfect for the intimate evening of great music from talented students. Throughout the night, the audience cheered on and applauded the performers, who played and sang to the best of their ability—especially after the hosts announced that there was an independent record label representative in the crowd.

The night also included a raffle for an iPad Mini. The hosts informed the audience that all proceeds from the sales of raffle tickets and CDs would be donated to Canadian Music Therapy, a charity that helps disabled people of all ages learn adaptive skills through music. The hosts gave the example of a boy born with polio who learned to use crutches and a wheelchair through music therapy; he eventually became a rapper and has since worked with Eminem.

The first performance was given by Nicholas Colosimo, the winner of the online covers contest that UMC held last month. Calismo covered several songs on solo electric guitar and controlled his own mix from his iPad. Several members of the audience could be seen videotaping the impressive performance.

Next, Sophia Bustos, also known as Selah, performed her original song “Blues in My Heart”, accompanied on piano by Vinh Nguyen, also known as Lasersharp. Bustos is no stranger to the music scene, having been spotted late last year at the EDSS open mic night. Vinh later performed his own solo piano piece, “Eclipse”. He seemed nervous, but he had absolutely no reason to be—in fact, he wowed the crowd with his talent. He was not the only pianist there; Luke Sawczak also performed a reflective piece called “Late Afternoon”.

Michael McTavish was one of the many performers who explained his song’s background and meaning by way of introduction. “Near and Far Shores” was about a canoe trip gone wrong, he said, and about deciding whether to give up or press on in hard times. The message of the song and the humour of its origin made it even more enjoyable.

Jason Summers, also known as Punch Face Champion, shared with the audience that all the names of his songs are lines from sitcoms. Because of my extraordinary skills as a TV-watching couch potato, I recognized this one from Friends. Summers’ song, “Oh Dear God, This Parachute is a Backpack”, matched the high energy of his very entertaining performance.

Andrew Wilson, who played a month ago at UTM’s Got Talent with his band Northern Souls (of which McTavish is also a member), performed solo this evening with his song “Here on Earth”. He described the song cryptically as “about a tree” and cheekily encouraged the audience to “buy the CD if you want to know more”.

Several of the songs were based on breakups and broken relationships. Joe Measures confided that he had not played “How Long”, with its intricate fingerpicking, since June 2012—that is, not solo. The song was about relationships, as he put it, “because music”. Danny Lwin played another notable song about “unresolved things after a relationship ends”, called “Rain, Rain”.

However, two artists on solo guitar sang about quite different, reflective themes. Caspian Sawczak sang about how he felt the need to live a less complicated life in “Simple Living”, and the lyrics of Matthew Household‘s song “Glory and Excess”, which he said was inspired by Death of a Salesman, lamented that there is “nothing without some loss … nothing without some cost”.

The energetic band Nebula also took to the stage towards the end of the evening. Nebula told the crowd that their song, “Last Time”, was “like a newborn— not quite mature yet”. They also warned, “It’s really sad, so don’t get pumped about it.” But this didn’t stop the audience and the hosts from voicing their appreciation.

Professor Dax Urbszat concluded the evening with a song called “The Song that Will Change the World”, inspired by a lucid dream he had. After the applause, the hosts presented the raffle winner iPad Mini. Perhaps because some ticket buyers didn’t actually attend, the hosts had to read out three ticket numbers before an ecstatic member of the audience came up to claim her prize.

After the show, I caught up with UMC’s president, Nilabjo Banerjee, to ask him why he thinks it’s important that students have this platform to share their music. “Because on this campus, since there is no music program other than us and ArtsFest—which happens once a year—there’s no other avenue for musicians to showcase original talent,” he pointed out. “Most of it is limited to, say, cultural clubs.”

He also stressed the importance of representing diverse musical styles. “When people come to our events, most of the performers tend to be typical guitar and vocals or keyboard and vocals, and we kind of give off the image that that’s what we cater to. But we want to open it up so that people don’t feel they’re restricted,” he said. “We want to encourage anyone that plays anything or sings anything to come to our events.”

With gala dinners to raise money for United Way, jam sessions every Friday, and open mic nights once or twice a month, the Music Club has had a busy year promoting UTM’s musical talent. At the time of writing, there are still some copies of The Original Chords available for purchase at the Music Club’s office during their regular office hours.