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By Barry Hertz

Last year, Matt Hryhorsky, 22, was honing his web design skills in Kerr Hall’s labs.

Now, he’s schmoozing over drinks with record executives. “The attention is really amazing. When record company executives come to my shows, it’s just flattering. I thrive on it,” says Hryhorsky.

A Ryerson graduate in Information Technology Management, Hryhorsky has been playing his soothing, emotionally charged brand of pop music at Oakham House’s open mic nights for the past three years.

After his recently released EP sold almost 5,000 copies, major labels started paying attention-including Universal Records. “We’ve been recommended to other labels by Universal, and right now we’re concentrating on getting Matt’s music out to as many people as possible,” says Hryhorsky’s manager, Kathleen Warden.

In addition to her burgeoning promotions career, Warden, 22, is also a fourth-year Business student at Ryerson and is the president of the Ryerson Commerce Society.

The two students first met three years ago during one of Hryhorsky’s gigs at Reilly’s Pub. Warden fell in love with Hryhorsky’s dreamy style of guitar strumming, which is similar to the styles of John Mayer and David Gray. It was only a short time later that Warden and Hryhorsky struck up a friendship, which eventually lead to a business partnership.

“I had been approached by management groups in Toronto, but I was always told by people at Universal to find someone you trust and who loves your music. Kathleen was the first person I chose,” recalls Hryhorsky.

Once Warden joined her friend in their business endeavour, the two quickly dove into the music industry’s overwhelming scene of socializing and deal-making. During the day, Warden juggles the pressures of class and her responsibilities with the commerce society and Hryhorsky works on his freelance web design.

But during off-hours, the two immerse themselves in meetings with producers and label representatives. “It’s been hectic,” says Warden, “but the record executives are fantastic. It’s a much different dynamic than a normal business meeting, with people coming to meetings in T-shirts and everyone just tossing around ideas.”

Hryhorsky agrees, adding that it can be a bit of a culture shock going from honing web design and learning business skills to booking studio time and convincing session musicians to sit in on recordings. “ITM is based on skill, but the music industry is much more street-savvy. It’s all about who you know,” says Hryhorsky, adding “twenty per cent of succeeding is based on great music, but eighty per cent is contacts. I’ve been very lucky.”

Hryhorsky’s transition from mild-mannered ITM student to full-fledged musician was more than luck. Using the web design skills he developed at Ryerson, plus contacts he made through his cousin, singer-songwriter Andy Stochansky, Hryhorsky had an added edge to get his music out to the public.

Even though Warden now handles finances and promotion, including the planning of a tour next spring, Hryhorsky still takes time to update his website and produce cover art and press packages for his EP.

While Hryhorsky hasn’t been signed yet, he’s planning to record his first full-length album later this month and Warden is confident his music will reach more than local pubs.

“The labels don’t doubt he’ll be huge, and neither do I,” says Warden.

“I’m not expecting us to break out in the next six months, but this is a long-term investment. We’re focused on the next year and we will be a success,” says Warden.

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