Museum staffer’s journey from land of entertainment to history

October 5, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

You never know where your career path will take you.

When Nanci Malek, event, promotions, and marketing coordinator, at the Museum of Dufferin decided to move from Toronto to Horning’s Mills in 2008, it was a big change.

Going from the skyscrapers of the ‘Big Smoke’ to the idyllic setting of a small village may seem like a stretch, but Nanci had no problem adjusting to her new surroundings. She ran her own promotions and publicity company for the entertainment industry from her home.

With a background in promotions and marketing and a huge interest in history, she was a perfect fit for the position at the museum. 

She organizes events at the museum and does the marketing and promotions to let people know what is happening there. Nanci starts planning her events months in advance.

“It’s a great place to work,” Nanci said. “We have a great team that is smart and really passionate about what they do. A lot of our staff have been museum study trained – these people really know what they are doing and offer incredible talent to the museum.”

While her current work at the museum is interesting and challenging, Nanci’s previous work in the entertainment world is a fascinating story on it’s own.

She started her career as a ‘switchette’ at City-TV in Toronto in 1978, when that TV station was just starting and making waves in the industry through their unique programming.

“Ziggy Lawrence (TV personality and host) and I were the first switchettes, (switchboard operator) which were the receptionists and hostesses in the building at the reception desk,” Nanci explained. “I ended up going into the entertainment department of the show ‘Toronto Rocks’. I worked on that for years. Then I left City and went on to YTV and was doing music producing and directing. I was there for about five years then broke out and went on to record labels.”

She started YTV with a big on-air promotion working with the late film star John Candy.

Working in the record industry took her into a whole different world of celebrity, entertainment, and rock stars.

“I did publicity, album launches, media, styling, all those type of things.”

Nanci worked with top name performers and still calls many of them friends.

She worked with singer song writer, Gordon Lightfoot, band Deep Purple, Roger Hodgson from the band Supertramp, singer songwriter Ron Sexsmith, and “hundreds of North American and British artists.”

She worked as the publicist for Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones when they were in Canada, as well as renowned guitarist Jeff Beck, legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Canadian bluesman Jeff Healey.

“I’ve worked with every style of music,” Nanci explained. “I was the publicist for the Canadian Brass and Ashley MacIsaac.”

Part of her job was working with touring bands. When you have an entire band and entourage on the road, there’s a lot to consider. Nanci had to be aware of everything from nearby hospitals to local mechanics in case of a tour bus breakdown.

A charismatic and friendly person by nature, she had no difficulty mixing with the elite of the music industry.

One night she was at an industry party and saw Bob Dylan sitting by himself in a corner of the room. Apparently most of the people at the party were so intimidated by his presence that no one was speaking to him.

Nanci went over to him, sat down and introduced herself.

“We had a nice chat. He’s a lovely man,” she said.

She eventually decided to leave the industry, saying that although she enjoyed many years of living a hectic lifestyle, it was time for something else.

“It was a crazy life,” Nanci said. “I don’t think being in the music industry for a long time is healthy. It’s not glamorous. I needed to be out in the country,” she said of the move to Horning’s Mills. “The touring aspect of it can really wear on you.”

Although working at the museum isn’t quite as fast paced as getting a touring band from city to city, Nanci enjoys her work and uses her skills to promote the many events the museum has each year.

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