Ashley Bieniarz, Kwiat. I’m an avant-pop Metis and Polish artist from Winnipeg, Manitoba. I’ve been playing piano since I was three years old but didn’t start performing original music until 2015 while I was completing my bachelor of music at the University of Manitoba in the Desautels Faculty of Music.
I was actually born in Iqaluit, Nunavut but my family moved down to Winnipeg, Manitoba when I was a year old to be closer to my mother’s family. My mother grew up in Northern Manitoba, Treaty 5 territory and my dad is a first generation immigrant from Poland. I lived in Winnipeg for most of my life, with a brief three year period in Phoenix, Arizona.
I call myself an avant-pop artist because I grew up learning classical and experimental music, and also loved animated and live-action musicals. I didn’t realize how much it had influenced my writing until people would describe it as ‘theatrical’ or ‘something you’d hear on broadway’. I like to describe my music as artsy yet accessible. Most of my lyrics are inspired by the people around me and my relationship to them. I like to write somber and dramatic tunes that are inspired by themes of loss, love, mental health, and self-motivation.
I think the biggest challenge I’ve had to face in my career, is allowing myself to fail. Growing up I was a perfectionist and as the eldest of four siblings, I needed to set an example. I was so hard on myself and had unrealistic expectations of who I should be. In the last few years, I’ve learned to embrace who I am and how what makes me different, also how that makes me special. I put so much pressure on this debut release – everything needed to go right – so I kept putting it off and hiding behind my industry work. It wasn’t until I had the realization: All I can do is my best, so let’s enjoy the experience. If I can create something that resonates with others, that’s a win; but if not, I’ll still have something that I’m proud of. That’s when real progress started to be made with my music and career.
I first learned about Creative Manitoba and the Art of Managing your Career program through my friend, and local musician, Raine Hamilton when I was interviewing them for my music podcast back in 2015. They told me about Heather Bishop and how impactful the program had been on their career. From then on I’ve been involved in various programs around developing my craft (Grant Writing, Branding, Creative Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Youth Mentorships, and more.) You can definitely tell I’m a fan of the programming at Creative Manitoba. I’ve also met some incredible artists from different mediums through the programs that I’ve collaborated with on a couple projects.
I believe through my participation in Creative Manitoba’s programming, I’ve become quite competent in the administrative aspects of the arts world. All the skills I’ve learned in regard to grant writing, project planning, and marketing, have all been influenced by the programs and people I’ve worked with at Creative Manitoba.
Right now, my goal is to focus on recording my music. I’ve received a couple grants and am using this time to really define my sound and prepare my “debut” to the world. I want to use these songs as an opportunity to expand into a full band sound. I’ve been performing solo for almost a decade now and I want to whip out my keytar and shred some sick solos. Eventually I’d like to sign with a music publisher and collaborate with other songwriters across the world.
One of my favorite aspects of working in music is connecting and building up the community around me. Music is such a collaborative process and I’m very lucky to be based in Winnipeg. This is one of the most talented and supportive communities in the country. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and opportunities I’ve received here over the years. As I gain experience and insight, I make sure I’m always giving back to the community. I have a project called Songsmiths where I develop song writing workshops and collaborative opportunities for others to develop their skills. It’s so beautiful seeing a song shaping over time and the confidence in a song writer develop.
In March 2023, Women In Music Canada acknowledged Ashley Bieniarz, Kwiat, with an Honour Roll Award for the work she has been doing with SongSmiths.ca. Ashley/Kwiat is the first Indigenous woman from Manitoba to receive this commendation.
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