Interview with Carl Stretton, Founder (2004) and Creator of the Red Deer Scene Publication, Musician, Sound Technician and Supporter of Arts and Culture

Guest Blogger: Barb Rusiewicz-Enright An Interview with Carl Stretton. What if our community was a creative Hub that is distinct and connected?

Interview with Carl Stretton, by Barb Rusiewicz-Enright

Calling Question: What if our community was a creative Hub that is distinct and connected?

A community that generates enriching experiences and cultivates a sense of connection and belonging where we are known and known to each other, allowing for collaboration and new things to emerge, a movement that's part of people's lives.

So, in doing this we are pursuing stories about these possibilities including: artist-centered approaches, skill sharing or spaces for partnerships. We also think about the importance of arts in people's lives, young creatives flourishing, and diversity.

Carl Stretton with a guitar and microphone in the background, and the whole back wall is covered with Red Deer Scene magazine covers.
Carl Stretton

Who are you and why is it important that you are here?

Well, okay! My name is Carl Stretton, with no middle name. Why am I here? I am here to help other people find what I have found through the arts. And the things I have found through my interest in the arts is the community of artists that exist in Red Deer. Thereby enabling the ability for me to share my art with other people and have them share with me. And then, hopefully, be able to attract outside people to the arts and culture community, as a means for learning about ourselves and us as a society. Something along those lines.

When did you start caring about this and why does it matter to you?

Well, as I get older, I care about it more it seems. I’ve been a musician for pretty much all my life. I started piano lessons when I was six. When in grades four to six, I tried playing viola and violin to no avail. In grade seven at the Jr High school, they gave us a choice of instruments to play. They sat us down in the music room with all the instruments on display, and said what would you like to play? And me, being one of the smallest persons in the room, I chose the biggest thing, which was an upright bass. And that started me playing with other people in group settings, which continued for grades seven and eight. This was in Ohio because we had moved there (from Edmonton) when I was just starting grade three when my stepdad took a job teaching at an Ivy League men’s college in Gambier, Ohio, called Kenyon College. It was very well known for its literary publication there called the Kenyon Observer, (you might be able to Google some of that). That was one of the strengths of that learning institution. My step dad taught physics there, so I got a lot of science as well as art growing up. I’ve always enjoyed playing and sharing music with other people, but I didn’t really get started with promoting arts and culture until I was on the Red Deer and District Arts Council for most of the 1990’s. In the early 2000’s I took a break from the Arts Council. But I would say that it was in the mid 90’s that I got started with promoting  Arts & Culture to the community, and getting people involved in partaking in those experiences. I pretty much am continuing that path still.

What are you doing right now that contributes to this kind of possibility? (So you kind of spoke just now about building community and capacity and promoting the arts).

Well, I am actively supporting live music experiences by being a sound technician for shows at the Velvet Olive and elsewhere.  I am also a performing musician, hosting a couple of open stages in Red Deer and playing shows. I’m also on some committees like the Arts and Culture District Collab and being a supporter of the Red Deer Arts Council and the Downtown Business Association.

What are you doing that excites you the most?

That's a good question. For me, it's exciting to see the growth of music, specifically in Red Deer. That happened and was assisted by the wealth of great musicians we are lucky to have here and of course, the Red Deer Scene. I was a big part of that as I founded and published it in March of 2004 and ran it until March of 2018 when I transferred ownership of it to Kyle Key who is the current publisher. I’m excited to see where that has ended up, having been improved by the new publisher, and thankful it’s still continuing. I’m excited by the fact that I’ve got a good studio space to rehearse and produce music in, and that it’s downtown. So, all those things. 

At what crossroads do you find yourself with what matters most to you?

Well I would say at the moment I’m trying to narrow my focus. So, I’m trying to eliminate or reduce the energy that I’m spending in other areas such as the repair of electronics .There’s a need for and it makes me happy when I fix someone’s instrument because they can continue to use it. But that’s not my main focus. My focus presently is to produce music of my own and to have product, material and work to present to other people. 

So, what would you like to experience as you go about this kind of work?

Well, for many of the same reasons that I play music. It’s interesting to play music with other people, and I love it when people play together well. I'm just excited about being able to share and create music with other people.

What do you think is the courage needed to travel in that direction?

A belief in yourself that you’re capable, and that the possibilities are endless. I think that’s really just about it. I believe I can do this and so I’m going to do it. A positive attitude goes a long way.

What are your next steps?

Well, let’s see. Being organized helps a lot. I’m working on that. It’s never been one of my strong suits. So, doing the physical organization in my studio is a challenge.  My studio needs a lot of work. I want to lose probably about 30 percent of the stuff that I have as I’m not using it. I’m just trying to detach myself from as much of the physical world that I can. 

So, what would you like, need or want from the community to make your next steps (the ones you’ve just mentioned) as wonderfully successful as possible?

Certainly, having opportunities to present music is important to me. And to have more spaces available for artists to show their work is very important. It’s nice when an artist feels that their art is being well received. The more spaces we can create for that will help bring people in and improve the arts economy. I would like to see music as a way to generate income wherever I am in the world. That’s one of my goals because I do want to travel a bit more.

What, if any, meaning has been made for you during our conversation here today (as we wrap up our time together)?

It helps give me an overview of my mission in life, helping me put things into perspective by defining them a bit more. It also gives me much food for thought!

Last words and special recognition to:

My late musical mentor Roger Deegan (Edmonton) offered opportunities, instruction and inspiration to me in my late teens, which I will cherish always.

My late mother Josephine (nee) Rowan, who played with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra since its inception and was always supportive of my musical endeavors.

All my music instructors and musicians I’ve played with over the years. I would not be playing music still if it weren’t for them. Bless them all.