Vince Fontaine is a musician, producer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba and one of Canada’s most important Indigenous composers. Celebrated for his creative direction of multi-award winning band Eagle & Hawk and his talented collective Indian City, Fontaine’s career abounds with awards and recognition. Vince has deep roots from his Ojibway heritage and the community of Sagkeeng First Nation.
Eagle & Hawk
Fontaine began as a guitar player and gained early experience playing in Winnipeg’s vibrant Top 40 scene in the late 80’s and into the 90’s. In 1996 Fontaine teamed up with Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ kicker Troy Westwood. Together Fontaine and Westwood formed the basis of what would be Eagle & Hawk. Their fusion of Indigenous themes and sound would become the foundation of Fontaine’s signature direction.
To date, Eagle & Hawk has received 75 nominations and over 30 wins at awards ceremonies across North America, including a Juno Award, two Western Canadian Music Awards, nine Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, three Native American Music Awards, eight Indian Summer Music Awards, and 10 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.
Fontaine has toured Europe more than a dozen times with Eagle & Hawk and has played featured stages in North America including invitations to Parliament Hill on Canada Day (2005/ 2009/2016), 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Summer Fest in Milwaukee, Atlanta Olympics 1996, Planet Indigenous in Toronto and the 2011 and 2015 New Orleans Jazz Festival, Summerfest in Milwaukee as well as numerous Casino’s in the US to name a few, along with numerous TV appearances. In 2017 Eagle & Hawk were featured performers on the CP Canada 150 cross country train celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. Eagle & Hawk will release their 9th cd in 2019.
Indian City was founded by Fontaine in December of 2011. He had a vision to create a music community of new and accomplished artists and bring them to a collective stage.In 2012, they were “barely off the ground and were nominated for 13 awards at the 2012 APCMA, ISMA, NAMA and the WCMA.
Collaborating with what he considers to be some of the very best Indigenous talent, Indian City is the realization of a creative concept and vision that has been taking shape in Fontaine’s mind for over 4 years. Indian City features band leader Vince Fontaine (guitar), alongside remarkable Winnipeg-based Indigenous talents Don Amero, Jeremy Koz, Jay Bodner and Shannon Mckenney (lead vocals), Atik Masson (bass), Neewa Mason (vocals and keys), and Rich Reid(drums), Gerry Atwell (Keyboards). With these artists in place, Fontaine’s vision has been realized. In 2014, Indian City walked away with four nominations and the Songwriter of the Year award at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards. IN 2017 Indian City release its 3rd album to critical acclaim garnering multi award nominations. In 2018 Indian City received a Juno Award Nomination for their 3rd album. Indian City were featured performers on the Indspire Awards which was broadcast across the country on CBC
Also in demand for composition, Fontaine connected with renowned Toronto-based composer and arranger Charles Cozens to create a 50-minute symphony arrangement for some of Eagle & Hawk’s most recognizable music repertoire. In 2009, Eagle & Hawk performed their first ever symphony show with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and has since been invited back for numerous encore performances. In 2014, Fontaine was also called upon to compose a musical score in its entirety for Canada’s Indspire Awards. The Indspire Awards are televised on National TV annually. Vince was also commissioned by Broadway Producer Keith King to write the music score for a live theatre production in the works titled – Orpheus -The Sacred.
Live Event Producer
In 2015 Vince presented a live 70 minute performance with Indian City band and a cast of feature performers including a puppeteer ventriloquist, A live DJ, contemporary dancers and runway models to compliment the music variety show. It would become the blueprint for his vision to create Vince Fontaine’s Indian City Live. The show featured the best of Fontaine’s music repertoire to date. Vince is President of his company Rising Sun Productions which have produced many live music events in Canada and the US. In 2016 Fontaine presented Indian City Live to a national audience on Canada’s Parliament Hill to a tv audience of over 5 million and a live audience of 50,000. Vince has produced numerous live events across Canada as well European showcases.
In the midst of his success with Eagle & Hawk, Fontaine used his knowledge of the entertainment industry and experience building strong teams to become Festival Manager for the 2002 North American Indigenous Games. He was responsible for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Winnipeg, 10 nights of entertainment at the cultural and historic heart of Winnipeg, The Forks. This sparked the addition of festival curator to Fontaine’s list of talents. Fontaine excelled in this field and sat as Music Festival Manager for the ManitoAhbee Festival from 2006 to 2009. He also produced live events for the Assembly of First Nations across Canada for over a decade. Fontaine was the Indigenous Festival Manager for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra from 2009 – 2011. He was able to bring music traditions together onto the live symphony stage.
International performance and experience.
Fontaine’s International experience begins with the 1994 Goodwill Games in St Petersburg Russia. He was the music director for the Foxwoods Dance Troup which featured over 60 Native American singers and dancers. Fontaine was a performer at the 1996 Discover Native America pavilion during the Atlanta summer Olympics. In 1999 Fontaine was the Music Director for the Pan Am Games Aboriginal Division. Fontaine was also created the opening ceremonies show order for the 2006 North American Indigenous Games in Denver Colorado.In 2007 he presented Aboriginal lCanada Live in Cannes France during Midem which is the considered the World’s music market place. The show featured some of the very best in Aboriginal music. In 2010 Fontaine performed 5 shows at the Vancouver Winter Olympics with Eagle & Hawk. Vince will once again represent Canadian Indigenous talent on the Main Stage at the Pan Am Games in 2015. In 2016 Indian City performed in New York City at the National Museum of the American Indian.
In 2011, Fontaine’s focus returned to his personal artistry as he released his first solo album Songs for Turtle Island, a record exploring Indigenous stories and themes alongside a fusion of Indigenous, contemporary and classical instrumentation. The album earned him a 2011 Native American Music Award for Best Instrumental Album and nominations at the Western Canadian Music Awards, the Canadian Folk Music Awards, the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards and the Indian Summer Music Awards. The year ended on a strong note with Fontaine licensing his songs to TSN, APTN, Showtime and Sony Music and also the launch of his newest project – Indian City. Fontaine received an award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year at the 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards. In 2016 Fontaine received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Indian Summer Music Festival. In 2017 Fontaine was inducted into the Manitoba Music Hall of Fame for his outstanding career.
Ideals and Community Connections
Fontaine’s drive to continue in the music industry is propelled by his palpable passion for sharing the beauty of Canada’s Indigenous culture. Always strong and always with intent, his songwriting carries Indigenous stories, imagery and spirituality and connects these ideals with audiences of today’s ever-changing world.
Fontaine has been celebrated as a contender in the musical arena for over 20 years, and in addition to his musical presence, he has been recognized as a supportive community leader. In 2008, Fontaine was the recipient of the Winnipeg Arts Council’s prestigious Making A Mark Award presented at the Mayor’s Arts Luncheon. Fontaine is also a regular with over 9 appearances in the annual JUNO Cup where NHL greats and Canadian musicians face off in a fun, competitive, non-contact hockey game in support of the Canadian music education charity, MusiCounts. Fontaine performs many charity events specifically supporting many issues around Indigenous Peoples and Native American People.
“It’s one thing to be a part of a Juno award winning rock band (Eagle & Hawk). It’s another thing to start a new band (Indian City) and realize this grouping has the potential to be as strong if not stronger than the first one.” – Sandy Thacker (CBC, 2013)
Fontaine seamlessly involves Indigenous sounds and imagery – Now Magazine (2010)
“(Eagle & Hawk) steamrolled awards shows, toured Europe and released 10 albums.”
– Melissa Martin (Winnipeg Free Press, 2012)
“My purpose is to lift up Indigenous people of North America and show the beauty, existence, splendor and mystique of our culture.” I want to be a musical beacon and cultural ambassador. My artistic vision is to bring cultural voice and excellence to the live stage.
– Vince Fontaine