ACWB is Centre Stage with Campbell’s Music

Interview with Scott Meller

  1. Give a brief history of Campbell’s Music.

Established in 1976 by Murray and Donna (Janie) Campbell, in the basement of the Hill Mall below Hill Drugs on Franklin Avenue, Campbell’s Music started during a time of bustling Economic Activity in Fort McMurray. With a focus on superior customer service and product selection, the business grew substantially, making it necessary to find a larger retail store front. It was only four short years after inception that the location on the corner of Manning Avenue and Main Street was built so Murray and Janie could give Campbell’s Music a new Home.

Seeing it through the Alberta Oil Boom and subsequent Bust of the 1980’s was indeed a challenge for the Campbell family, but Murray never lost sight of the vision to provide a great product at a fair price, with the best possible service- the keys to any successful business. He could often be heard to remark, “If there is no benefit for the customer, then there is no benefit in having it.”

In the autumn of 1993, Mike and Susan Allen moved their family to Fort McMurray to begin the purchase of Campbell’s Music. Through the next decade, several more expansions occurred as the business continued to thrive, always keeping the focus on the original philosophy established by Murray Campbell. Eventually, in 2005, that led to Mike Allen purchasing the Hill Mall on Franklin Avenue and moving the music store back on to the Main thoroughfare, but this time on street level. Also during this time period, Scott Meller, who had started in the repair shop at Campbell’s in 1995, began to work with Mike as a shareholder and managing partner. In 2013, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo expropriated the property on Franklin Avenue, necessitating another move.

In June, 2015, Campbell’s Music opened the doors on their current location on the corner of Biggs Avenue and Main Street, and still work every day to positively impact their community through music by employing the business philosophy established by Murray and Janie back in 1976!


  1. Why do you believe music is important to foster growth in the community?

Let’s back that up a bit. Music is a part of a larger community of the Arts, and the Arts are important for so many reasons that I’m not sure that one article can contain it all! I think that the best way I can explain it is to say that the Arts provide balance. It is a physical manifestation of your feelings, whether that be through Visual Art like Photography, Sculpting or Painting, or Performance Art such as Dance, Drama, or Music. I`m sure that there are far more Artistic endeavours that are out there, but those cover a good sum of what we see here in the RMWB. Getting those feelings out, feeling like you are connecting with another human being on an emotional level, having the meditative act of creating, those are the things that improve quality of life, that regulate depression and anxiety, and make life more than a mere existence!


  1. Tell us about how music has changed your life, employee’s lives and/or client’s lives.

Personally, music hasn’t changed my life as much as guided its trajectory. My family has always been musical and it has been one of the things that has kept us together, even when we didn’t particularly like each other!

As to a particular story, I can remember a young gentleman coming into our store on the corner of Manning and Main around 1995 or 1996. He was a shaggy maned creature, who had a desire to get an electric guitar, plug it into a really big amplifier, and play loud and proud! We sold him an Epiphone Les Paul, and it became his refuge. He played in a local Punk band, but also in his School band. Between us and his instructors at school, he was opened up to many new styles of music, including Jazz, which prompted him to apply to Grant MacEwan College (now MacEwan University) for their Jazz program. He graduated from their program, has come back to Fort McMurray and become a staple of our Musical Community as a Performer, Educator, and Technician. It has been my pleasure to participate in and observe Daniel Gillies journey, and I certainly enjoy that he is still a part of the Campbell’s Music Family!


  1. Describe different organizations or initiatives that Campbell’s Music supports and why.

The initiatives we support are varied and personal. Ever since I joined the company in 1995, we have supported the SPCA. Whether it is because we relate to animal honesty, or want to support those without a voice, it is a worthwhile cause that contributes to our community on so many levels
The Legacy Children’s Foundation- Instruments of Change. This is a great organization that helps disadvantaged youth and children not only get an instrument, but also instruction. Since a part of our mission is to positively impact our region through music, Instruments of Change makes sense for us!

The Fort McMurray Historical Society (Heritage Park). If you don’t know where you come from, it’s hard to see where you are going, and the stories of our region are varied and exciting! We need to let our children, and their children experience that excitement too.

The Fort McMurray Music Teacher’s Association. Musical Educators who carry on their passion for music to the next generation.

The Oilsands Rotary Music Festival. Anything that can help young musicians get feedback and feel reward in their musical development is something we can get behind.

We have also worked with so many community organizations over the years, as part of our mission is to positively impact our region through music, and the following organizations have helped us to do that by working with us on events and community development; the Salvation Army, the Gujarati Cultural Society, the New Heights Outreach Association, the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts, Keyano Theatre, the United Way, the Regional Recreational Corporation, the Hindu Cultural Society of Fort McMurray, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, the Centre of Hope, Metis Local 1935, NAABA, and many more! I guess the short answer is that we are happy to support anything that provides a positive impact in our region, and actively look for ways that we can help spread that positive message!


  1. How would you describe the arts community in Wood Buffalo?

The Arts Community in Wood Buffalo is dynamic and diverse. Take a mixture of cultures, viewpoints, experiences and skills, pour it into a room when its 40 below outside, and leave it for 4-6 months. That’s where we are. We have older and experienced artists who have come here for employment, and we’re raising new artists who get to experience that dynamic of these diverse backgrounds as they soak it in and put it back out as something different. Where else can you see paintings made from bitumen, listen to music on an Oud, Bagpipe, and Cajon, see photographs of unique flora and fauna, and see a play that talks about the international world of human trafficking? And that was just what happened in 2016! I can hardly wait to see where it goes from here!


  1. What impact do you hope to have on the arts, both in our region and in general?

I think, at the end of the day, as long as we can continue to positively impact our region through music, encourage people to keep playing, and give people another reason to make the RMWB their home, we will consider ourselves successful.


  1. What is next or upcoming for Campbell’s Music?

The last few years have been tumultuous. Changes to our civic political structure, economic instability, and (of course) May’s wildfires have drastically changed our community, and consequently, how we must view our business model. We are revisiting the idea of reopening our school of music, constantly evaluating our product offerings to see where we are supporting the business and what is being less successful, and how we can best uilise the space we are in. June will be two years since we moved to our location on the corner of Biggs and Main, and I think we can make some changes to make it more efficient and pleasant to visit. It’s also worth noting that June will also be 41 years that our company has been operating. We had planned on celebrating 40 years in 2016, but it didn’t seem appropriate to celebrate when the time came, so perhaps we’ll be able to accomplish our 41st birthday party in 2017 to make up for it!


  1. How long has Campbell’s Music been an Arts Council Wood Buffalo Member? How did you hear about the Arts Council?  What membership benefits have you used?  Do you feel it is worthwhile for Artists?

The ACWB would have the records, but my recollection is that we have been on board with ACWB since day 1. For sure since 2014, since that’s when the first e-mail I have on file is from.  We try to work closely with the arts community of Wood Buffalo as whole, and when Russell Thomas let us know about it, we immediately saw the benefit. The benefit then, as now, and the reason it is a worthwhile endeavour, is simply collaboration. There is enough sunshine for everyone, and rather than engage in competition for audience, dollars, exposure, the collaboration that ACWB facilitates elevates all artistic endeavours in the community.


  1. Campbell’s Music participates in the ACWB’s Local Business Discount Program. What are your thoughts on this program and how does it benefit yourself and the arts community?

It’s a great way to let us, as a retailer, show the artists we serve that we value them and their contribution to our community. It additionally shows the community how much we value ACWB, and what it does for us as an arts community. You can be any person who purchases music gear, but if that same person lives their art and joins ACWB, we offer them a discount. That speaks volumes.


  1. Do you have any advice for artists in our community that would like to pursue art as a business?

The business of art is messy. It monetises that which is an expression of your self, and that harsh perspective is difficult to reconcile with the satisfaction that the expression brings. Probably the best advice I can give is to keep first and foremost in your mind that the business side of things is not personal. When someone places a higher value on their money than your art, it’s not a personal attack, it is their value judgement. Remember why you express your art, and keep doing it, despite the opinions of others. Anything that you practice, you get better at, so practice being positive and believing in your art. Collaborate with other local artists, celebrate each others victories, and grow the community of artists, and you will see your own success increase.


  1. Do you have any advice for individuals who want to pursue music?

Don’t wait, and don’t stop. One of the greatest successes of the recreational musician is not facility of the instrument, but pure expression and enjoyment of the journey. You don’t have to be a good musician to be successful. If you feel better after singing at the top of your lungs in the shower, you’re successfully enjoying music. Don’t wait, and don’t stop.


  1. Anything else you would want to have highlighted or featured?

Support your local arts community. Go to shows, buy the arts and crafts that intrigue you, practice your art. We have world class talent here, and if we don’t support it we will lose it. Be an ambassador for your arts community, be proud of what they create, and show the world. That appreciation and exposure tells a far greater story for our community than the media will, and shows the world that we are more than the sum of our parts. Support your local arts community.