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Front cover of International Musician Magazine features local artist Leisa Way

January 12, 2023   ·   1 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Leisa Way, actor, singer and producer of her 12 wonderful shows is thrilled and “overwhelmed” to be on the front cover of the International Musician Magazine January edition. Last year, she was also awarded Toronto Musician of the Year, putting her on the list of this award’s recipients with Oscar Peterson, Jim Cuddy, Nellie Furtado and Diana Krall.

With her on this front cover of the International Musician Magazine is her band, Jesse Collins Jr., Fred Smith, Bruce Ley (behind), Don Reid, and Bobby Prochaska.

Our interview was on Facetime, where she and David Nairn were calling from the splendid view of a location in the Caribbean, taking some weeks away in the warmth. All is not holiday there, though, as they are each working remotely.

As Ms. Way explained it to the Citizen, both the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) are under the same umbrella of the AFM, which is the largest union of musicians in the world. It holds a membership of 80,000 musicians. The International Musician Magazine is the publication of the AFM, sending its monthly issue to all those members.

“I am the first Canadian in two years to be on the front cover,” said Ms. Way. “I’ve been a member of the AFM since 2007.”

This was when she opened her company and began to hire musicians and book venues, telling us that she was sorry she had not joined years earlier.

Whereas the Canadian Actors Equity Association (CAEA) and American Actor Equity Association (AEA) are important and she is a member of both, the difference is the AFM is a certified union, unlike the other two, which are associations. AFM protects musicians as to how much they are paid to perform, the terms of their contracts and, perhaps most importantly, AFM provides a pension fund into which musician members can pay throughout their careers.

Historically, with the AFM, Ms. Way has filed hundreds and hundreds of contracts and hired many musicians. Going back to the 44-city cross- Canada tour she put together in 2017, touring Canada with the Canada 150 concert, she worked with most of the major AFM locals across this country.

She commented, “I think I have a reputation for the high calibre of my concerts and the superb musicianship, thanks to the incredible fellas I am so blessed to work with, and the talent of my phenomenal arranger, Bruce Ley.”

She praised those “fellas,” saying, “You are only as good as the people you work with – and I am surrounded by the best!”

Leisa Way considers the AFM essential in a musician’s life and it has been her goal to encourage as many young musicians as she can to become involved.

“AFM has one of the strongest union pensions,” she said, “Musicians have to be hired under contract by other professionals for two years before they can join, to demonstrate they are truly professionals.” 

Seeking a new musical career does not actually contribute to saving for the future. Also, as she said, last year AFM set $175 as a three-hour performance fee but that is without counting the hours and hours of rehearsal.

Said David Nairn, “Anytime we work with musicians at TOV, they are members of the AFM.”

Mr. Nairn commented, in his opinion, “The recognition for Leisa being on the International Musician’s cover is the Toronto Musician of the Year Award which she won. She was so active during Covid and kept people working, creating. A person in the business said everyone knew about her keeping musicians working.”

The year 2020 was set up to be Leisa Way’s best one yet for her and her business, Way-To-Go Productions, with more concerts booked than ever before. While Covid stopped the in-theatre live performances, it did not “shut down” Leisa Way.

“Even though we were ‘shut down’ in 2020, I was determined to keep my musicians working, and managed to persuade some bookers to do some outdoor shows during that first year, and went into rehearsals with my band [masked up and separated by plexi-shields in those early days of Covid] and I hired a film crew to film our holiday show.”

Furthermore, “In 2021, I applied for AFM funding, through the Musicians Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) and was able to secure funding to put together two concert series, one for the Downtown Orangeville BIA. [We were] presenting professional local musicians in the BIA’s farmers market concert series, and then another series taking professional musicians to perform outdoor concerts at seniors’ retirement residences.

“I also applied for and received funding to bring some of my own concerts to theatres that couldn’t afford (during Covid) to bring our concerts in, due to only allowing 50% of their usual audience to see a show. We live-streamed these concerts so that audiences who perhaps didn’t feel comfortable yet to come to the theatre in person still got to see the show, from the comfort of their own home.”

Working through AFM, contracts and dues for each musician hired are sent to the individual’s local. The contracts and fees go to the city local where the musician lives, no matter where the venue is.

“We hire musicians from anywhere,” she told us. “When I perform across the country, I have to find the local for that town, that has authority.” She laughed when she related, “One local, we performed with their musicians [paying fees for each] so much that they took us out to dinner.”

Mr. Nairn went on to note, “Really about the cover – she has been a beacon on how to manage during Covid and producing outdoor concerts and film shows.”

Ms. Way was able to access funding for farmers’ market concerts and seniors’ outdoor concerts and for theatres that could not afford funding.

“One also wants to mention,” David Nairn added, “that Leisa was awarded her second award as Best Established [Artist] of the Year for 2020-2021 in Orangeville, at the Arts and Culture Awards night.”

In addition to her innovative approach to keeping her musicians employed during difficult times, the International Musician Magazine was equally applauding her for appreciation of the AFM’s efforts on behalf of musicians, especially younger musicians to encourage their future success by taking advantage of the protection and benefits of membership.

Plans for 2023 mainly focus on the Lightfoot show: Early Morning Rain, the big show this year, along with the Opry Gold show.

“So many wonderful things happening. In Burlington, we’re performing Rhinestone Cowgirl [Dolly Parton],” she was excited to say.

The following year, 2024 the band is performing a show of their own works, finally doing songs that the members of the band have written, as well as the 12 concerts created by Leisa Way herself. This year, there will be a new Christmas concert. 

Really: way to go, Leisa Way!

To keep in touch with Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind Band, her website is

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Hello! This is a really great article! However, I noticed that the acronym for the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) is transposed [AMF] in a few places. Would you be able to correct it, please?
    Thank you!!

    Antoinette Follett

    American Federation of Musicians
    Director of Communications/PR

    International Musician Managing Editor

    Antoinette Follett

    American Federation of Musicians
    Director of Communications/PR
    International Musician Managing Editor

    C: 315.383.1028


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