CORNER BROOK When he thinks about his own enthusiasm for promoting live music, Paul Heppleston drifts back to a long-ago memory of an open mic night at the Circus Room in Kitchener, Ont.
There might have been a dozen people at the bar — hardly a crowd.
Up on stage was his friend and open mic host, Matt Osborne, thumping out a bass line for someone who was trying to do justice to a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune.
All Heppleston could think of was why on earth was Osborne, a talented singer-songwriter and musician in his own right, wasting his musical gifts at an event that was likely never going to produce anything substantial for the music industry.
He felt Osborne, who died in his sleep in 2004, should have been headlining his own show somewhere or focusing his energies on his own career in some other way.
Osborne told Heppleston he just liked to make music happen. He appreciated that the people he was helping had a love for music, even if they were never going to have a career in it.
“That was one thing that sort of drove me to just want to make music happen in whatever way I could,” said Heppleston, a teacher at Presentation Junior High School in Corner Brook who has organized more than 40 venues for young musicians to perform.
With productions under the name of Mr. H. Presents, Heppleston is keeping Osborne’s spirit alive through the shows he has organized for his students and other youth in the Corner Brook and surrounding area.
He is in the process of arranging End of Exams Jam 3, an annual project he started when teaching at Elwood High School in Deer Lake. This year’s event, like the first two, will be held at The Oasis Bar and Grill in Pasadena next month.
Heppleston has also put together shows at Brewed on Bernard, titled Open Stage for the Underage, and has been holding Live at Lunch concerts at Presentation Junior High School every few weeks.
“From the beginning, I wanted to be a facilitator more than a promoter,” said Heppleston.
“I wanted to make it happen and put people in contact with other people.”
It’s gratifying when he sees young musicians he has helped get started move on to get gigs on their own, or to be able to refer them to other event organizers.
He has held events at bars, for which the bar owners temporarily suspend their liquor licence to accommodate underage people.
Venues that welcome youth any time they are open for business are his preferred choice.
“I think the best events have been at venues like Brewed or The Oasis because they are completely non-threatening and parents feel comfortable sending their kids there,” he said.
For the next End of Exams Jam, Heppleston plans to bring in a young act from out of town that is gigging regularly. He is also planning to bring in veteran musician Jerry Stamp from St. John’s to do an educational showcase with some fledgling local musicians.
“Some young artist will get to share a bill with a very talented, very well-educated and very well-spoken songwriter,” he said of the event with Stamp.
Heppleston, who can be found online by searching Mr. H. Presents on Facebook or by checking out his blog at http://mrhpresents.blogspot.ca/, is a musician himself, but said being in a band is not his thing these days.
“I did the band thing and its not the right time of life for me anymore,” he said, adding he does occasionally play for kids, including his own. “The Mr. H. Presents stuff is my way of being involved in the music community in a way that is compatible with my life now.”