As one of the longest-standing events in Western Canada, the century-old Calgary Stampede continues to draw a global audience to its 10-day, city-wide, Western-style event, showcasing rodeo competitions and vaudeville entertainment, agriculture programming, and a memorable music concert series.
While the outdoor show celebrates Western heritage, culture, and community spirit, the diverse musical lineup is a key pillar to its success.
“Music is one of those foundational pieces for the Calgary Stampede. It’s always been an important part of the Calgary Stampede,” says the organization’s Programming Manager, Roderick Tate.
On June 22, 2015, the Calgary Stampede was honoured at the 2015 SOCAN Awards, for its continued commitment to developing music through community and culture, all legally and ethically licensed in partnership with SOCAN.
“It’s vital for us to recognize businesses and organizations like the Calgary Stampede that are committed to being Licensed To Play with SOCAN,” says SOCAN’s Leslie Craig, Director of Licensing. “Organizations that use music to make their business better are doing the right and legal thing for Canada’s songwriters and music publishers by recognizing that they are an essential partner in the music ecosystem. The prestigious Licensed To Play Award celebrates the highest commitment to this partnership.”
There are more than 100 live musical performances in and around Stampede Park where the main events take place, with an estimated 400 other live musical performances throughout the city and surrounding area.
Music has risen in importance since the Stampede’s early days. “Music is one of those traditional pieces that even settlers and pioneers would have celebrated as one of their forms of entertainment,” says Tate. “In different ways and forms, music has been around since the Stampede started. Even the rich history of First Nations is shared through song.”
The outdoor show is expanding beyond rodeo and vaudeville enthusiasts and die-hard country music fans, by curating music programming that appeals to a broader demographic of stampeders. As a result, it’s successfully winning over a new generation of admirers. “We definitely have diverse music offerings,” says Tate. “We’ve got everything from orchestral music to rock, pop, hip-hop – you name it!”
In 2015, the festival welcomed country music stars Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, the legendary Stevie Wonder, and top-selling digital male country artist Jason Aldean. Previous chart-toppers who’ve graced the Stampede’s stages include KISS, Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dragonette, and Reba McEntire, among other internationally renowned acts.
“We want to showcase the best in musical talent,” says Tate. “It’s one part of what we do. But we also love to foster music education and provide the opportunity for up-and-comers to be a part of it through a number of annual competitions that we hold during the Calgary Stampede.”
The Stampede helps local and rising musicians gain exposure through the annual Nashville North Star and the Stampede Youth Talent Search competitions, which give aspiring artists a chance to showcase their talent.
The not-for-profit community organization also carries on business year-round, facilitating arts and music education programs geared to youth. The Stampede Show Band and the Young Canadian School of Performing Art provide young Calgarians with learning opportunities and training that they might not get elsewhere.
Although cowboy culture is widespread in Calgary, the Stampede is very involved in building Alberta’s overall arts culture. “Supporting artists is really important to us, and we love celebrating country musicians in that way, and Canadian music in general,” says Tate.
When asked what the future of music looks like for the Calgary Stampede, Tate says, “Music is going to continue to grow and become an even bigger part of who we are and in the makeup of our organization, for the duration of the festival and year-round.
“Whether it’s through the education, or showcasing great talent, music is not going anywhere, and we recognize it as a significant part of Canadian culture, and also in who we are.”