My secret life

Written by David Pye

It’s a cold Saturday night in February, but the atmosphere inside Montreal’s Scotyz Bar & Grill is warming up. A steady stream of party-goers, in their late teens to their 40s, files into the cozy bar, boosting the din. By the time Secret Life takes the stage, this crowd is ready to rock. The local band doesn’t disappoint. Lead singer Mark Bedard kicks off the night with a rollicking rendition of Bryan Adams’ “When You’re Gone” that instantly lures the crowd onto the dance floor.

Bedard is in fine form, delivering crisp vocals. “Our motto is that we’re going to have fun, and fun is contagious,” says Bedard. As Secret Life rips through two sets of songs, from Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” to “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors, the crowd responds with cheers, singing and high-spirited dancing that carries on into the wee hours of the morning.

It’s a typical show night for Bedard, a 41-year-old father and grandfather. But it’s a 180-degree turn from his day gig as CEO of MTL Technologies Inc., the $2-million-a-year manufacturing firm he founded eight years ago.

Bedard juggles his passion and business without missing a beat. In his Jekyll-and-Hyde-like lifestyle, he’s found the perfect mix of challenge and fun. After a 60-hour workweek overseeing the design and manufacturing of industrial chillers and other temperature-controlled refrigeration equipment, Bedard welcomes the musical downtime, easily trading his desk for a microphone.

“I get to scream for three or four hours,” says Bedard. “The band keeps me mentally healthy. It definitely puts me in a better mood, and it allows me to return to work every week in a relaxed manner.”

A lifelong music aficionado, Bedard played in his college years, but back then the business stage took precedence. When son Thomas, now 24, picked up the music bug, Bedard joined in for some family jam sessions. “We started playing together, but he quit after the first couple of weeks,” laughs Bedard. The experience renewed Bedard’s passion, and in 1995 he went looking for some like-minded playmates. Claude Gadoury, his partner at MTL, joined in on guitar, and the group swelled to seven with the addition of colleagues and friends Lenny Brum, Andy Dore, Chris Rowe, Stewart Pantel and Lori MacKenzie. “It took on a life of its own,” recalls Bedard. “We all just came together really well.”

Four months after forming Secret Life, the band landed its first gig, playing a fundraiser for a local hockey team. “When we started out, we were only doing charity events and fundraisers,” says Bedard. “After that, it kind of snowballed, and now we do everything from charities to corporate gigs, dances and private parties.” The band has worked its way through some of Montreal’s most popular nightspots, earning as much as $3,000 a night.

But the band values its charitable efforts the most. The Scotyz show, for example, will help send a local dance troupe to Toronto to compete in a national dance competition. The group has also lent its talent to fundraisers for such organizations as the Missing Children’s Network and Dreams Take Flight.

Bedard draws upon his business skills to run the band, keeping things organized in terms of bookings, promotion and administration, but the similarities end there. In fact, Bedard prefers to keep business and pleasure separate. With live performances consuming as much as 12 hours from setup to takedown, the band limits its shows to one per month. Friday night practices, however, are sacrosanct.

Being a part-time performer fulfills Bedard’s musical urge and allows him to enjoy life with good friends and family. “While we work hard at it, I usually go home sore from all the laughter,” says Bedard. “It’s a great way to relieve the stress of everyday life. You wouldn’t believe how much fun we have up there.”

© 2003 David Pye

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