By Erica Howes
This blog series features women+ in different careers in the music industry, from centre stage to behind the scenes and everywhere in between. Is there a career in music you’re interested in learning more about? Contact us with your ideas!
Marilena Gaudio is always on the lookout for musicians or bands whose sound sparks something different, with moving vocals and killer lyrics.
Her job involves managing and attending hundreds of shows and sometimes - in the case of the Folk Alliance International Conference in February - seeing a hundred artists in the span of four days. Marilena started at the University of Ottawa with an arts degree majoring in Arts Administration and was band manager of beloved local band The PepTides and programmer at the downtown club Mercury Lounge.
Now, Marilena is the Programming and Rentals Officer at the National Arts Centre (NAC) with NAC Presents, as well as a board member with Girls+ Rock Ottawa. She manages community programming, which takes place on the Fourth Stage, features many local musicians and hosts about 100 shows a year.
So what is it like to be a Programming and Rentals Officer with NAC Presents? I met up with Marilena to learn more about her role and it was quickly clear she’s a music lover passionate about her work.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the shows and discovering new artists while figuring out what their sound is. There’s so much variety in my job. In my day to day, I’m managing show logistics, updating the website, liaising with artists or managers, coordinating rentals or traveling to venues and/or showcases to see different artists. It’s a lot of advancing, which is connecting with the tour manager to sort out all the logistical details from transportation to accommodations to a rundown of the show program.
From May to September I often attend concerts and festivals because I want to make sure I’m aware of what’s coming up and what other programmers who I admire are doing. It’s never repetitive and there’s an exciting energy and adrenaline rush when shows all come together.
What do you look for in selecting shows for NAC Presents?
I look for artists with unique sound and style, strong vocals and lyrics. It’s important to go to showcases in different cities and venues to see what’s out there, what’s new and what’s exciting. In the programming world, you can’t stay in one spot and assume you’re going to know everyone or make new discoveries. When the NAC Presents programming team, which includes my colleagues Heather Gibson (Executive Producer), Xavier Forget (Associate Producer) and myself, plan out the year, we make sure to schedule a diverse collection of genres and styles of music, and acts from every stage in their artistic careers, whether they are emerging and new to the scene or seasoned musicians who have a large and dedicated following. NAC Presents features Canadian musicians. Many of our shows take place in the NAC’s ‘Fourth Stage’, an intimate space with a capacity of 150 people, which is ideal for emerging artists as they develop, well known artists who wish to offer their fans an intimate experience or artists looking to experiment with new ideas.
What’s the greatest challenge in your work?
The long hours can be tough at times, sometimes I’m checking out shows around the city until 2 a.m. in addition to my regular day job managing logistics, answering emails, coordinating rentals. When I graduated, it was hard to find a position in music programming and I had to work three part-time jobs to make a living and gain experience in my field. I’m very fortunate to now have been in this role with the NAC for over three years.
Certain times of year are always very busy so you train your brain to prepare for the intense rush of our busy season. It’s also a different kind of work if I’m at a show looking out for artists, and despite the long hours, it’s an exciting part of the job, and what I am passionate about.
What advice would you give to someone interested in music programming?
Find a band that you love in Ottawa, reach out to them and ask how you can help! Many artists want to focus on their artistry and less on the business side of things, so you’d be surprised by how much they’d appreciate that help. That’s how I started out with the PepTides, I volunteered as their band manager and loved it.
The Ottawa music scene is full of music lovers, who are happy to help and although it can be intimidating, don’t be afraid to reach out to musicians or people in roles you admire and see what you can learn from them. Networking and finding a mentor goes a long way.
Is there a career in the music industry you’re interested in learning more about? We’re always on the lookout for great women+ working in music in Ottawa and want to hear from you! Contact us with your ideas.