Scott McKeen can be described as an Edmonton aficionado. He’s the city’s Ward 6 councillor, a recipient of various respected awards in journalism, and has spent 24 years working with the Edmonton Journal.
However, McKeen is humble enough to describe his journey to post-secondary as one not lacking in adversity.
“I struggled for a little while after high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I went to university, dropped out of university, actually even sold cars for a couple years,” McKeen says.
But after taking some interest tests, McKeen was reminded of his passion for writing and, shortly thereafter, pursued the journalism program at Grant MacEwan Community College.
“When you find a passion, it’s much easier to just throw yourself into it, and a side effect would be success,” McKeen says.
McKeen found success during his time at MacEwan, graduating from the journalism diploma program in 1983. He attended Cromdale campus, one of several properties leased to MacEwan by local elementary schools. MacEwan revitalized the space to host a mixture of journalism, public relations, and audiovisual students — but there weren’t many people on campus, McKeen says.
The smaller population of students allowed for a tight-knit group to grow close with one another.
“I made a lot of friends, lifelong friends. And we helped each other out and we’d support each other,” McKeen says. “I would say the Cromdale campus created a sense of being together.”
After graduating and completing a few field placements, McKeen went on to work for the Innisfail Province, a small newspaper in the town of Innisfail, Alta.
He then wrote for the St. Albert Gazette and, afterward, started freelance work in the automotive column for the Edmonton Journal, which landed him a spot at the paper until 2013 when he decided to run for city council.
Now, as a city councillor, McKeen carries his passion for togetherness into the downtown core. He’s a supporter of Jasper Avenue’s revitalization, and openly advocates for mental health awareness in the city.
McKeen stresses that, in an age when it’s so easy for us to be self-absorbed, it’s important to build connections with others — something he admits can be made difficult for young people.
“We live in a time where it’s easy to be isolated, in our own apartments, even in a large campus with our social media,” McKeen says. “It’s (about) taking the risk, taking the time to (give) time and be of service to other people.”
Edmonton born and raised, Mallory Chipman has been tuned in to the music world since early childhood.
She was brought up surrounded by a family of artists, one of them being her grandfather, Tommy Banks, a Juno award-winning musician and composer who undoubtedly influenced Chipman’s deep appreciation for contemporary jazz.
The 22-year-old vocalist has been performing in musical theatre productions around Edmonton since she was only 10 years old. She describes her high school self as a “typical drama kid.”
But it wasn’t until a MacEwan University recruitment team visited her high school that Chipman discovered MacEwan’s Centre for Fine Arts and Communications’ (CFAC) first music program intake and considered music as something more than a hobby.
“At the very end of their spiel, they mentioned that there was this new program, and I thought ‘Hey, maybe I could actually do that for a career,’” Chipman says.
“They gave me a pamphlet, and I just went to the audition. Once I did audition, I never wanted anything more badly.”
Chipman later became one of the first students to graduate from the program, in 2015.
She reminisces about her time at CFAC and attributes her best memories to the relationships she made along the way.
“My favorite memories (at MacEwan) were all created because of the friends I made there,” she says. “I’ve never felt so close to anybody that wasn’t a family member. Being isolated in that old orange campus, it really fostered this sort of closeness that I’m sure the new campus will have as well, but it was really special because you’re sort of just with one another”.
Chipman is still actively involved with those relationships. Her debut album, Nocturnalize, released in 2016, was a result of a collaboration between herself and fellow MacEwan alumni. Its tracks include Brett Hansen on guitar, Murray Wood on bass, Chris Andrew on piano, and Jamie Cooper on drums.
Her sound complements the foundations of traditional jazz while offering a contemporary spin on the genre through solo and ensemble work.
Her second album, Rags & Feathers: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, will be released Oct. 11, 2017, with MacEwan’s new record label, Bent River Records.
“I’m really excited about this project because I’ve spent a lot of time with Leonard Cohen’s music,” Chipman says.
She has traveled abroad to Amsterdam and Dublin and has played in festivals focused solely on Cohen’s music and poetry. Cohen’s passing last November prompted the beginning of the process for Chipman’s new tribute record.
“It seemed to be very timely. That was a very triggering moment for me,” she says.
Chipman has spent a lot of time in Allard Hall, both recording her album and familiarizing herself with her surroundings as she prepared to return to MacEwan for her second year as a vocal instructor.
“While (Allard Hall) feels super modern and artistic, it also feels like a place that could really foster creative work and … comfort as well. It creates a really intimate and special atmosphere. I think the students are going to love it.”
Long before MLA David Shepherd represented the constituency of Edmonton Centre, he was a music student at CFAC.
Shepherd spent his time at Grant MacEwan absorbed in music history, music theory, and composition classes, gathering knowledge that he finds practical even in his current career.
“A lot of the stuff I learned at MacEwan I still use,” says Shepherd.
“When I’m asked to speak publicly for example, I still think of things the same way. It’s like an old jazz standard. You’ve got to come up with a unique way to present it, you’ve got to come up with a cool introduction, something to hook the crowd, your theme, how you introduce it. And you improve on it,” he says.
Shepherd was introduced to music when he started piano lessons at eight years old. He continued piano exams and lessons until he was 13, when a teacher introduced him to the art of playing by ear.
“That’s when music really became something meaningful for me,” says Shepherd.
At that point Shepherd realized he could write his own songs and, as he says, could really start to “dig into playing piano.”
In 1992, Shepherd recalls being confronted, like most young people, by his parents with a decision to either work or attend school. It was then that he made the choice to audition for Grant MacEwan’s well-reputed music program.
Now, in 2017, Shepherd speaks on his view of Allard Hall, the new addition to MacEwan’s City Centre campus, as both a representative of Edmonton Centre and an alumnus.
“It’s great for downtown businesses, it’s great for our community, and I think there’s a lot of chances to interact with the local community (and) with those performance spaces,” says Shepherd.
Along with his excitement about Edmonton’s local music and arts scene, Shepherd is also an active living enthusiast.
“I got a chance to spend a few days in the mountains this summer. That’s always one of my favourite places to be,” he says.
His passion for activities like biking extends toward his involvement in the community. Currently, Shepherd is working on encouraging students to become more active in their everyday lives, whether that’s adding walking or biking to their commute, or becoming involved with their student government.
“There’s a lot of different ways to learn. Being in school and being in university is one of them, but being out on the ground and in the community — sort of seeing how things work, how things affect people in everyday lives — that’s a great way to learn, too,” says Shepherd.