by Katie Rankin
When I was 18 years old, a friend who worked at UPEI’s student newspaper helped me and another friend sneak into The Wave in order to see our number one music crush Joel Plaskett perform. This resourceful friend also helped us get backstage after the concert in order to interview Plaskett. While my friend had a legitimate reason to spend over an hour chatting with Plaskett, I was at a loss when I got home with a filled tape recorder and notebook. What would I do with this? What if Joel found out that I wasted his time for no reason and he never lets me see him play again? After I fretted over my future career as a journalist and my future life as Joel’s wife, I decided to write the best article I could and submit it to The Buzz. Although I had no experience interviewing, transcribing or writing a profile, Peter Richards graciously read my interview and offered to put a shortened version in The Buzz that would align with Plaskett’s appearance at Shoreline Festival later that summer. As most followers of PEI’s music scene know, Shoreline was cancelled that year and my Plaskett article was utterly useless.
Instead, Richards offered me a regular summer writing gig of reviewing plays and performances throughout the Island. Living in Hunter River, being willing to drive outside of Charlottetown, and having access to my parents’ car made me an ideal writer for The Buzz when so many theatres exist outside the realm of the city. I saw it as an opportunity to build my resume for applying to journalism school, my mom (my plus one) loved accompanying me to these complimentary plays, and Richards liked that I had a car. The funny thing is that I have no training or knowledge about theatre, singing, or dance, yet I felt completely confident in reviewing these performances. My logic was that if I am upfront and honest with the reader about my limited knowledge on the subject and I consider the performance in the the context of its players, its budget, and its location, I can give Buzz readers a fair review. A friend once told me his theatre professor made copies of my review of The Outsider put on by UPEI’s theatre group. He passed out the copies to the class, gave them an assignment to write a review, and said, “This is a good review. This is what it should like.” I laughed because that same professor gave me a 75 on most of my essays.
When I returned home after completing my journalism degree, I was lost and was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. The Buzz was a bit of a refuge and reassurance that my degree was not entirely worthless. Richards offered that I take over the column Talking Bands in which local bands are featured. I felt comfortable interviewing local bands because my former band The Barnkats had interacted or played with most of them, but I also hoped to find new bands that were emerging. For over a year I submitted my monthly column, but found it increasingly difficult to find new bands or even news about bands. What was most frustrating is how few women play in bands in Charlottetown. I interviewed two bands over the course of my column that had female members. Women of PEI: go play music. It is super fun and most people will be kind and gracious.
As I packed my belongings to move to St. Catharines, I also wrote my last column. The Buzz was and still is a wonderful experience. The number of plays, performers, and bands I have been exposed to because of my work is incomparable. It was job that was not a chore, and one that helped me maintain and improve my skills as a writer and interviewer. The Buzz is integral in promoting PEI’s cultural and arts community and will be the first thing I’ll read when I get home for summer vacation.
The Talking Bands column has endured since November of 2004, and there appears to be an ever-replenishing well of new bands to draw from—most of whom are willing to talk. We may be forced to create a future
column dedicated to those Islanders who did not play in a band. Our current Talking Bands columnist is the aimiable Luke Arbuckle and he follows in another Buzz tradition—recruiting students from the Holland College Journalism program to give them a chance at real world (Buzz world) assignments. This list includes Charissa Reeves, Jaclyn Killins, Jill Hamilton, Lyndsey Arsenault and Marianne Dowling. We have also grabbed a couple of King’s College students along the way including Christian Ledwell and Fraser MacCallum. They are all climbing to greater heights, but we are very grateful for their contributions along the way.
Katie Rankin is…
Katie Rankin is from Hunter River. She is currently finishing her MA in Popular Culture at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. She says that she misses The Buzz, The Barnkats, bike rides, and summers in Charlottetown.