The recent winner of the YK Win your Space contest Mary Kelly was able to take her growing home based business to the next level and provide a real community space for music education.

Mary Kelly plays a new piano she able to buy to help outfit her new business. It is one of several instruments she has available at Music Space.
Brett McGarry/NNSL Photo

Kelly, who holds a masters degree in community music, said that her business Music Interchange was to facilitate music education, especially with youth and their families, through workshops in rented spaces.

“I ended up renting out spaces like church basements or rooms, board rooms and general multi-use spaces,” Kelly said.

“Every time I set up for a program, I would have to bring all of my equipment to these spaces and bring it home. I was doing that regularly and I needed to dedicated space to grow my business.”

Kelly started looking for commercial space roughly a year ago, but found next to nothing in town that would suite her needs.

“All available space was in office buildings, so there were issues accessing the space after hours in addition to noise disrupting offices,” Kelly said.

So she applied to the YK Win Your Space contest, a chance for business owners to win a space to set up their business in a downtown location with a free year of rent, in hopes to find that missing piece of real estate so she could

“I went into (the contest) thinking, ‘I don’t know what’s going to come up with this’ but I applied anyway,” Kelly said.

“None of the initial spaces they chose were going to work. I kept submitting and getting approved and getting to the finals but no spaces would have been appropriate.”

Kelly said even though she kept getting to the finals, she didn’t want to win because none of the spaces would be appropriate.

“A week before the finals I was shown this space and everything fell into place,” Kelly said.

Now, the programming is starting to take off and so is the other

The space itself, with a large 800 square foot open room and two smaller, 100 square foot practice rooms, is meant to be rented out to music professionals and organizations.

“My own programming is continuing and expanding but I’m also finding the opportunity to collaborate with other music professionals and the musicians in our town are finding the space very useful,” Kelly said.

The roughly 800 square foot square foot room in Mary Kelly’s Music Space is available for to rent for music programming. Music Space also features two roughly 100 square foot rooms for private lessons or practice.
Courtesy of Mary Kelly

The program Kelly puts on is called Music Together, an early childhood class where young children and their parents and create music together and work on music skills such as singing or keeping rhythm.

In addition to her community programming and piano lessons, musician Brian Weadick teaches guitar lessons, every two wees the Aurora Fiddle society has their fiddle jams.

There and there are creative one off workshops. Fireweed Children’s Choir had a workshop, there was a vocal master class recently and vocal performance recitals as well.

Kelly also hopes that having these workshops and classes downtown will help bring a creative element

“It brings vibrancy to the downtown experience,” Kelly said.

“It’s a positive experience and people walk out the door having just had an awesome creative hour and it brings them downtown to experience that.”

Her first inclination was not to be a business owner. She came to Yellowknife for a job with environment Canada, but as the years went one, she was looking for something more fulfilling.

“The transition was moving away form environmental science work and to find something more meaningful. I feel like could make the world a better place through music,” Kelly said.

“The only way I was going to become a community musician is if I’m business owner. It’s not my instinctual choice, but it was the only way to do it.”

But eventually she realized she was more than capable of running her business and has found that satisfaction she was looking for.

“It’s satisfying in the small ways,” Kelly said. She admitted that working with small children can be challenging but it’s worth it when she sees the results.

“When I hear them singing in tune and keeping the beat at age three, I know that I’m making an impact and these kids are developing skills.”

With Music Space up and running with space for rent and plenty of space in the calendar, Kelly hopes it will continue to flourish as she prepares to put on summer camps and hopes that maybe one day, the space could be expanded further.

“If things goes well and there continues to be a growing demand, if Ecology North (across the hall) moves out, I would gladly acquire that space and open it all up. This would be in like 5 years from now.”

But for now Kelly says she wants to keep the space flexible, affordable and easy to access for any music professional.

Brett McGarry

Brett McGarry came to Yellowknife in early 2019 after graduating from Humber College with an advanced diploma in journalism. After covering city council and local business as a reporter, Brett is now an...

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