Sheldon Kagan has earned the moniker “Mr. Entertainment”, after all he’s been providing successful entertainment, concerts and trade shows in his native Montreal for over four decades and shows no signs of slowing down.
The budding impresario kicked off his entertainment career as a DJ at 14 dubbing himself “Shelly the K and his Mobile Discotheque.”
By the time he reached 19, Kagan, the accomplished DJ, turned his focus on producing. His first major effort, was a sell-out concert staring jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Gene Krupa at Montreal’s Place des Arts. A locale he continues to book to this day, along with other venues including the St. Denis Theatre.
His company, Sheldon Kagan International, continues to bring Montrealers the big names in the pop and jazz genres. Past shows included Loggins & Messina, Artie Shaw, Buck Owens, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Herbie Mann, Ravi Shankar, Billy Preston, Jackie Mason, Grover Washington, George Benson, Buddy Rich and Duke Ellington, who became a close confidant. He recently produced a two-and-a half-hour ABBA tribute show with lights, sound and visuals at Place des Arts.
“I’m in the process of lining up entertainment for 2014,” explains the entrepreneur. “I should produce three to five concerts. Also in 2014, I’m working on an event that will be called Kids Idol which will be a talent competition for kids. Up until now through choice, I work in Montreal, but I have now expanded to do work in Jamaica. I’m contemplating organizing a music festival in 2014 with Canadian acts. I’ve had opportunities to do more things in Toronto because of lifestyle mostly what I’m doing is taking place in Montreal, but that could change next year too.”
Over the years, Kagan says, the industry has changed, although the brunt of it has remained the same. “In terms of the concert business, it has to depend on the economy and lifestyles of the people I’m selling tickets to. There is nothing guaranteed, you make money, you lose money, you break even. At this stage in order for me to take on a show, it has to be an artistic success and I have to feel very comfortable that it’s going to make money. Even if it is going to make money but I don’t feel it’s going to be an artistic success, then I don’t want to do it. It is important to me that the audience really, really appreciates what I’m doing also.”
Kagan stays involved in the Jewish community by supporting different organizations.
“I’ve been doing events for Maimonides Geriatric Centre and Jewish Elder Care for the past 15 years. I do all kinds of events there—I host as a disc jockey and MC a summer barbecue for the residents and staff. I play music from way back including Hebrew and Yiddish music. I have a vast amount of somewhat rare Jewish music that I have collected over the past 40 years. I even organize horas, it is really fun, so I do it every year. Whether it is seniors’ centres or Jewish weddings, people really appreciate the music that I play.”
Kagan says that being a disc jockey is similar to being a musician. “I feel the music and I’m dancing in my mind and making everyone react to what I’m doing. I do a lot of interaction,” Kagan says.
Kagan and his wife of 31 years, Linda, have two children, daughter Marlene, and son, Barry, who works with his dad in the family biz. The couple just became first-time grandparents to grandson Turner.
Sheldon Kagan International also has its hands in the Montreal trade shows business. The Salon de la Mariee, is a bridal show now in its 34th year the next will be held Feb. 1 and 2. Other trade shows he produces are Salon des Boomers Plus – geared to the Baby Boomer generation, Salon Affaires de Montréal, a business to business trade show, and Le Salon de la Famille featuring a comprehensive range of goods suited for families.