Swinging Calgary out of COVID-19 with live music

The Rhythm Barons Performing at the Peace Bridge. From the left: Ron Wrigley, Drew Smith, and Frans Burger Photo credit: Spencer Yu / For Livewire Calgary

Drew Smith has always had an interest in music.

At a young age he was inspired by his family and the tunes to which they listened.

Smith and his band the Rhythm Barons have been bringing music to Calgary streets during the COVID-19 pandemic by performing in easily accessible public parks and venues.

“I heard the Tijuana Brass on the radio and when my parents asked me if I wanted to take music lessons, I decided that I liked that trumpet thing. I liked the sound,” Smith said.

That’s when he started taking trumpet lessons back home in Hamilton, Ontario.

“Then I really fell in love with it and took music in high school,” said Smith

Later in his life Smith found himself playing for larger symphony bands. Though he found that he always gravitated to the sound of jazz.

“I auditioned for and was accepted to play in the London Ontario Symphony Orchestra and it wasn’t until maybe 20 years ago when I was teaching band that I decided I needed something to do for myself,” Smith said.

“Jazz always seemed like an open book and a way to explore something different.”

Isolated music

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Smith found it very difficult to find locations to play at due to the public health restrictions.

“When COVID hit I was just looking for places to hang out with other people who like music. With all the live music venues shut down we didn’t have a venue to play indoors. So, busking was the next best thing.

Smith said that the experience playing live in public venues has been good. He’s happy to be able to provide those walking by with some entertainment.

“The experience that I’ve had busking was unexpectedly terrific. Being outdoors anybody can walk by and I just never know who’s going to step up. Just meeting strangers and seeing the look on their face as they walk down the street. People really enjoy seeing live music, especially these days,” Smith said.

One of Smith’s usual spots is the south side of the Peace Bridge. The band attracts many onlookers, including those that live in the nearby apartment buildings.

“Last night we had a few people come down from the apartments and condos that are just in the neighbourhood. We know what some of their favorite songs are so the next time I see them I know what to play.”

According to Smith, Calgary has a rich underground music scene and he hopes that soon Calgarians will be able to experience it once more.

“There’s a lot going on in Calgary, not just in jazz, but music. I think it’s a little underground right now because of COVID. But it’s going to be fun to get everything open again so people can go indoors and hear their favourite music live.”

If you would like to hear the Rhythm Barons perform click here

Follow Drew Smith on Instagram at @busker_dru

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