MOM’s the Word

It was only logical for Debbie Peters to do what a Mom would do – pitch in and help.

At the time, her sons Jesse and Graeme had formed a jazz trio with fellow F.H. Collins student Caroline Drury.

Before long, the Peters Drury Trio started gaining traction.

“They needed somebody to do management, and so I learned all about the business,” Peters says, by way of explaining how Mom became MOM – Magnum Opus Management.

Prior to starting her artists’ management business just over 12 years ago, Peters spent years teaching flute and being involved with the Yukon Music Teachers’ Association and the Yukon Summer Music Camp.

But being “Mom” to an eclectic roster of musical groups was not on her radar. That just sort of happened.

“The transition seemed to be something that was pretty natural. I can remember at the age of 40 that I was driving up Mountainview Drive and – maybe you should never say this to yourself, but – ‘Is this all there is? Will I be the Yukon’s flute teacher for the rest of my life?'”

Everything started to change when the Peters Drury Trio started gaining notice, and people began asking about CDs.

“Then it was like, ‘OK, where are they going to record? It needs to be in a studio that has a piano, so where is that going to be? Who’s the producer that we need?'”

Peters began researching and connecting the dots from information gleaned over the years from local and visiting musicians.

“So then I learned about recording. And then I learned about financing that recording, and then I learned about how you get distribution, and licensing CDs in different territories,” she says in the Porter Creek home that also serves as her business base.

“And then it was OK, you’ve got this product, what’s the next thing?”

Because “the kids” were still too young to perform in bars and clubs, in her naïveté, Peters started booking them into “soft seat” theatres and 500-seat jazz clubs, and arranging interviews with such national radio luminaries as Peter Gzowski and Shelagh Rogers.

“And I booked their first two-month national tour, and off we went. They were too young to drive a rental car, so I went along,” she says.

“I learned about road management. I learned about not only the booking process, but what it takes to get a group or an artist onto the stage to deliver that concert that you negotiated a year ago.”

Step by step, skill set by skill set, Debbie Peters was becoming a professional booking agent and artists’ manager.

Along the way, she decided she needed a name for her business.

Then, on a “dark November day” she got her inspiration from the family dog, a Chihuahua named Magnum.

“Magnum opus means a great event, or a great work. So, of course, Magnum Opus Management.”

But being both Mom and MOM had its drawbacks.

“When people called us the Partridge Family, I just shuddered.”

Besides, presenters – the people who actually engage performers – tend to cringe when confronted by what’s disparagingly known as “mom-agers” or “wife-agers,” Peters admits.

So she took the advice of Vancouver publicist Ellie O’Day, to broaden her horizons.

“She said to me, ‘You need to work with other musicians. You’ve got the skills; there are things you can offer other artists, and it’s going to increase your credibility.'”

Peters now works, in one capacity or another, with 12 different Canadian artists or groups. But being MOM doesn’t mean she’s given up being Mom.

Although the Peters Drury Trio has since disbanded – Jesse is carving a successful niche of his own out of Kelowna, BC and Caroline Drury (now Caroline Márkos) is gaining new recognition as an opera singer – at least one of the acts in MOM’s stable is part of the family.

Sons Graeme and Jody are two-thirds of the high-energy Whitehorse rock band, Speed Control. They both also teach music and conduct “rock camps” in Yukon and BC.

But what is it like to manage musicians, a job that can entail everything from advising a group to get a new bass player, to reminding an artist to pack that asthma inhaler before hitting the road?

“I don’t think you can ever do enough for an artist, and I can understand why. They are about their art form. The concept of selling and packaging yourself for sale is hard to embrace as an artist.”

But what’s it like, especially, to do it from a relatively remote location such as Whitehorse?

It helps to ignore the “naysayers” such as those who insisted she could only be successful by moving to Toronto and working 80 hours a week.

“And I went, ‘Well, I’ll show you’ and I went back to my piece of paradise here in the Yukon. I’m sure I work 80 hours a week, but I don’t need to be in Toronto.”

Last November the Canadian Arts Presenters’ Association named Peters the Agent/Manager of the Year.

MOM is up for nomination for similar honours at next week’s Western Canada Music Awards, part of the BreakOut West extravaganza she helped bring to Whitehorse for the very first time.

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