Harnessing Creativity During a Pandemic. Pandemic Diaries #2

Over the summer we’ll be visiting various members of the Canadian orchestral community – organizations and individuals who contribute to a thriving arts scene in Canada. If you want to write for us about your experience as an artist or arts administrator during the pandemic, get in touch with Katherine Carleton at katherine@oc.ca.

A Report on the 2020 Virtual Musician Summit

Guest blog by Bradley Powell

This past May 29th and May 30th, I attended the first-ever Virtual Musician Summit (VMS). Organized by emerging musician-entrepreneurs Noniko Hsu, Melissa Mashner, and John Hong, the VMS was an entirely online, pre-recorded conference. Thirteen 1-hour-long sessions covered topics such as audience building, productivity, public-speaking, developing online courses to generate passive income, video-creation formulas, and résumé-building, to help participants during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

As our orchestras navigate current public health regulations and plan for the future, many of us are being called to find new ways to deliver and monetize our creative content. The VMS and many other educational resources are being offered to help us adapt, which presents a new problem: how to spend one’s time wisely by sifting through the plethora of pertinent offerings. The good news is that I watched all THIRTEEN HOURS of the VMS for you, on behalf of the Orchestras Canada team. Below are tips from the six presenters whose expertise is most aligned to fill knowledge gaps in our community.

Gabe Bautista | May 29, Session 1

Former Classical Pianist and Composer

Current B2B Marketing

Tips for understanding marketing as a musician

  • Understand and always remember that today there are a tiny fraction of people spending money on [recorded music]… even though music consumption is as frequent as ever.
  • Disney as a company forecasts losing money on Disney+ until 2023; what counts is the personal relationship they are building with their clients. They have to do this in order to enter the competition with their streaming rivals. Breaking into this market is not easy, and you have to have the cash flow to sustain a reasonable amount of initial damage.
  • Know that you’re in competition with the greatest musicians in the world. They’re also stuck at home. The difference is that they have thousands of followers and you may not. If you can position yourself, you can find a corner of the world that is unique to you and apply Pareto’s Principle.
  • You’re also going to be in competition with everyone who’s dead!
  • Even the Taylor Swifts of the world don’t make the majority of their money from the masses; Again, remember Pareto’s Principle
  • The most important people to you are those you support you 100%. If you can have 1000 true diehard fans, you can make a living. It’s not about the million 10% fans.
  • You’ve gotta do whatever you need to do NOW because the new normal is what we’re experiencing. Returns to pre-pandemic venues are far off; even after a vaccine it still won’t be immediate because implementation will take time.
  • Sunk cost fallacy: the more costs we’ve invested, the less we want to give up our paths. We need to accept that some of our assumptions are wrong. We need to embrace change.
  • If you’re a creative, then BE CREATIVE. Some people just show up (to an orchestra rehearsal for example) and do as they’re told. Our industry is creative – go out and create!
  • Read [Bautista’s] book “Most Businesses Fail Within The First Five Minutes. It just takes them 3-5 years to realize”
  • Everyone wants to be unique, but no one wants to be different. We don’t wanna cause any trouble. For you to stand out… you have to stand out!
  • Remember the rule of “and”: every time you say, “I do this And this And this,” that doesn’t multiply your talents, it divides them. Be careful about taking on too much. Limit how you describe your offerings to your public so your value proposition is clear.

Marley Jaxx | May 29, Session 2

CEO of Video Marketing Agency Jaxx Productions

Has worked alongside Gary Vaynerchuk, Seth Godin, and Randi Zuckerberg

Tips for how to market your online content

  • Form [what Jaxx calls] a True Fan base. People become “overnight successes” because of, in part, the community that they build around them. This often means that true fans have been recruiting other fans and the exponential increase in following happens at a tipping point. Getting to that tipping point requires fans that will support you, no matter what.
  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money to start learning; Jaxx started through YouTube, where she watched free videos and learned skills until she was ready to invest in courses that cost money.
  • You have to start to be able to find your voice. Don’t put up arbitrary obstacles for yourself like “I just need to be bigger; I just need to be a bit better.” before starting. Don’t worry if there are others putting up very similar content. Your start in video posting is as much for you to find your voice online as it is for developing a following. And your unique voice is really what will resonate with people watching your videos. We like to follow people who are relatable.
  • You have to make a conscious decision to be vulnerable as you begin to post videos for the first time.
  • The market will tell you what people need. Don’t assume you know what people need or don’t need. Test your content, and then go in the direction that your audience is asking for.

Ken Kubota | May 29, Session 4

Cellist, founder of viral Instagram and YouTube success JHMJams

Recognized in Glamour, The Strad and much more

Tips for ‘going viral’ with online music performances

  • Kubota has not missed a weekly deadline for this project ever; that means 4 years of meeting personal deadlines for the project. Consistency is king!
    • Started his project as part of an Intro to Technology course at Juilliard while he was in graduate school.
    • Announced to the world he’d post every Tuesday and Friday and creatively works to meet that; He began posting short cover-performances of songs every week.
  • Find a void missing in your own life; Kubota was losing sight of why he was a cellist in school, and the downward spiral of his mental health during classical music education motivated him to find a new path.
  • Make sure the fuel you’re using to drive your musicianship is sustainable. A lot of what Kubota was doing early in his training was driven by fear.
  • Four Step Process to Cultivate Motivation for Consistency by Finding What You Really Want and Are Intrinsically Motivated By:
    • Cue: What reminds you that your goal exists?
    • Craving: What makes a project attractive to you?
    • Response: What are you going to do to make this “easy” for you?
    • Reward: What will make this satisfying for you when you put in this work?
  • Eliminate as many obstacles to your consistency as you can
  • Suggested Reading
  • Patreon is a very effective and personal platform for creators (better than YouTube); avoid begging for money and instead provide a worthwhile value proposition.
  • Understand the concept of compound interest [as applied to marketing] and how it can propel the growth of your following.

John Hong | May 30, Session 2

Performing Arts Copywriter, Former National Sawdust PR Manager

Clients include nonprofit CEOs to US orchestra

Executive Directors to GRAMMY® winners

Tips for eye-catching text

  • What does writing good copy mean?! If you can communicate authentically you’re much more likely to convince someone to support you than if you try to sell in the showmanship style.
  • For Hong, a job in door-to-door sales (alarm systems) led to PR for National Sawdust (all learning on his feet). He had to convince people he was trustworthy enough to let him into their homes… to talk about alarms. Succinct, trustworthy communication style is key!
  • Diversify your income, even if it’s business as usual in your sector. As an example, only 10% of noted performance psychologist Noe Kageyama’s income comes from his Juilliard faculty position; most of it comes from his website.
  • Good copywriting can actually convince audiences to come to concerts. It’s important.

Jacques Hopkins | May 30, Session 3

Founder of 7-figure online empire PianoIn21Days

From an engineer to a proven piano pedagogy course builder

Tips for building passive income from online music courses

  • Youtube is a search engine! Remember that. Consistent quality will pay off in the end. People will be able to access older content as you gain a following, and that can become a great source of passive income.
  • Running an online business involves knowledge of complex tech. Partner with someone if that side doesn’t come naturally to you.

Jade Simmons | May 30, Session 7

Concert Pianist, Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur

Former Miss America Runner-up, “A magnetic personality worth seeing” — The Washington Post

The most compelling speaker at the VMS was Jade Simmons. Her entire message centres on the fact that classical music can be invigorated simply by each one of us making space for more creativity and individuality. In a ‘creative’ field which has told us to blend in, to compare ourselves to others, and to be the fastest and loudest so we can win a stable income, we have lost touch with our desire and ability to tell our unique stories. We have the potential to gain momentum if we focus on moving others. Communication with our audiences will compel larger, more diverse groups to support our story-telling.

I encourage you to watch her 2015 TedTalk. Watch all 18 minutes. It’s worth it. You can learn more about Simmons here.

According to its website, the VMS is “A two-day event where proven musician-entrepreneurs unveil step-by-step techniques to get an edge in marketing concerts, building your own social media content, building online streams of income that you can rely on during troubled economic times, and much, much more.” In attending this summit organized by and for a young, diverse group of musician-entrepreneurs, I believe that the orchestra community has a lot to learn, but that there’s a ton of untapped potential within our sector that we can access to adapt and thrive during a time of crisis.  *

* “Let’s get this bread”, as used by The Youth, means ‘let’s get to work and make that money, honey.’ I’m trying to blend in with Gen Z. The children are our future.

The Spanish Flu and Covid-19: Pandemic Diaries #1

Research by Dave Hedlund
Edited by OC Staff

Over the summer we’ll be visiting various members of the Canadian orchestral community – organizations and individuals who contribute to a thriving arts scene in Canada. If you want to write for us about your experience as an artist or arts administrator during the pandemic, get in touch with Katherine Carleton at katherine@oc.ca.

Regina Morning Leader, November 22, 1918

While we are certainly living in unusual and challenging times, Covid-19 isn’t the first global pandemic that has struck our communities and shaken the arts industry. The Canadian orchestral landscape was much younger when the Spanish Flu of 1918 hit the country, just months after the end of World War I. Much like what we’re seeing right now, many industries, including the arts, were forced to close their doors to stop the spread of the virus.

With a founding date of 1908, the Regina Symphony Orchestra is one of a small handful of Canadian orchestras to have seen both the Spanish Flu and Covid-19. We were delighted to learn that the RSO’s historian Dave Hedlund has delved into their archives and the RSO is having a book written on the history of the RSO, including a chapter on the busy time period that saw World War I and the Spanish Flu. We’re grateful that Dave was willing to let us publish an overview of the RSO’s return to activity after the Spanish Flu, just over 100 years ago.

By the time the Great War officially ended in November 1918, 1200 Regina servicemen had died in the fighting. As the war was coming to a close and troops were returning to Canada, an influenza epidemic broke out across the country. In response, by October 1918, Regina stores, schools, theatres and churches were closed. Public meetings were prohibited. About 2000 of Regina’s 30,000 people were infected, according to reports in late October. By late November 2018, over 250 people in Regina had died from influenza.

Frank Laubach

An item in the Leader on Jan. 7, 1919, reported that the orchestral society was resuming rehearsals. The society “has made an occasional appearance in public.,” the paper reported, but “it has been somewhat difficult to keep the society up to desired strength during the years of war, but some additional members are now in sight and Mr. Laubach anticipates a good winter’s work.”Despite the devastation, though, by December of that year, the RSO’s founding conductor, Frank Laubach, still believed that the city needed music more than ever. Maestro Laubach promoted an opera half week for January. And the resumption of Regina Orchestral Society rehearsals was also announced.

Over the flu’s two-year reign of terror, some 50,000 Canadians succumbed, most of them young adults, compounding the effects of the war, in which some 60,000 Canadians died, mostly young men. The orchestral society, described by the Leader as “the oldest musical institution in the city,” presented a full season in 1919-20, starting on September 16th, 1919 with a performance of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

And the band played on.

Learn more about the Regina Symphony Orchestra on their website or in this wonderful feature the CBC ran last year on the RSO’s 110th anniversary.

A Statement on Racial Inequity from Orchestras Canada

While Orchestras Canada serves a national network of Canadian orchestras, our office is on the treaty and traditional territory of the Michi Saagiig Anishinaabeg. We offer gratitude to the First Peoples for their care for, and teachings about, our earth and our relations. We will honour those teachings.

We are grieved by the anti-Black racist events in recent weeks.

We acknowledge that our society is built on, yet critically weakened by, systemic racism.

Orchestras Canada is committed to a more just society for all.

We are committed to sustained and effective action, manifested through our internal practices and our service to orchestras and the music that is shared.

With much to learn, we approach this important work with humility and transparency, guided by colleagues with lived experience. Their guidance is truly a generous gift.

We call on Canadian orchestras to recruit Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour in decision-making roles, as board members, lead volunteers, arts workers, and arts leaders.

We call on Canadian orchestras to welcome Black artists, Indigenous artists, and artists of colour to their stages, as conductors, performers, soloists, composers, mentors, and creators.

Until Canadian orchestras are fully welcoming and accessible, Orchestras Canada will encourage orchestras to adopt external strategies and internal practices that will foster an inclusive network of diverse leaders, artists, arts workers, volunteers, and audiences.

At our national conference in 2016, members asked OC to take the lead on commissioning and curating resources to inform Canadian orchestras’ work in inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. Since then, this work has been a focus for us, and has informed our research, knowledge-sharing, and convening practices, along with our nominating and recruitment efforts. The following is a short list of the resources that we’ve developed; more can be found here.

OC Resources

Other resources that we have found helpful

Briefing to the Standing Committee on Finance

May 8th, 2020

Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada (OC) is the national association for Canadian orchestras, representing over 130 groups from coast to coast, ranging from volunteer-driven community ensembles to youth and training orchestras to nationally and internationally-renowned groups. Our mandate includes advocacy, convening, research and knowledge-sharing, and we work in close collaboration with the Canadian Arts Coalition, Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance, and Imagine Canada.

We are pleased to share orchestras’ perspectives on the Government of Canada’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and hope they are helpful in the Committee’s work.


Canadian orchestras are not-for-profit organizations and registered charities. In 2018-19, according to OC’s comparative data from 71 of our largest member orchestras, orchestras derived 35.8% of their revenues from ticket sales and sold services, and 40.2% from individuals, corporations, foundations, and special fundraising events. Government support (from all three orders of government) made up the difference. Our members reported revenues of almost $218 million and connected with 2.8 million Canadians.

Canadian orchestras are structured in different ways, depending on mission, mandate, and community context. They range from volunteer groups with a paid music director and a hands-on board of directors to fully-professional ensembles with collective bargaining agreements with tenured musicians, a professional staff, and a high-powered governance board – and all points in between. Depending on the size of the orchestra, anywhere from one to well over 200 people are paid to do work directly for and with the orchestra each season, and they are all vulnerable to changes in their orchestra’s financial health. Orchestras also tend to plan and market their concerts 18-24 months in advance.

With public gatherings effectively banned in mid-March, our orchestras moved to cancel already-scheduled (and in some cases, sold-out) concerts; as the pandemic has continued, orchestras (which typically perform a September-June season, with some groups also programming in the summer months) have cancelled both spring and summer programs. Refunds or credits for ticket purchases have been processed; and many loyal patrons have converted the value of their tickets to charitable donations. We are tracking the impact of the pandemic on contributed income, and will have more to report as orchestras complete their fiscal years.

Still, we emphasize that some 76% of orchestras’ revenues are vulnerable at this time, their potential loss is highly destabilizing, and – as Canadian Heritage minister Steven Guilbeault said to Montreal’s Chamber of Commerce last week, “« Il est difficile de voir un retour à la normale avant le début de l’année prochaine, et c’est peut-être ça aussi, un scénario optimiste ». Indeed, every published provincial guidelines place concerts and other large public events in the final stages of their proposed reopening plans.

Orchestras are now looking at alternate scenarios for fall 2020 and beyond, including the cancellation or postponement of concerts, the implementation of physical distancing measures for artists, audience members, and venue workers, and re-programming already-planned concerts to feature smaller ensembles, physically-distanced audiences, and different venues. The logistical, financial and legal challenges that these scenarios imply are daunting: the increased costs of implementing recommended health and safety measures combined with significantly reduced ticket revenues are simply incompatible. At the same time, we emphasize that orchestras will not put the health of audiences, artists or workers at risk.

Observations on Supports from the Government of Canada

First of all, orchestras are profoundly grateful for the speed at which the Government of Canada has moved to implement economic supports across the broader economy: speed that has been matched with a high level of responsiveness to emerging needs and issues. The pace at which such programs as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the Canada Emergency Bank Account have been successfully introduced and adapted to meet diverse needs across the economy has been nothing short of remarkable. We also note the Canada Council for the Arts’ decision to expedite the release of 35% of core grants to organizations payable in the 2020-21 fiscal year; while this will not have an impact on year-end results, it will assist some 37 Canadian orchestras to manage cash flow at a tremendously challenging time. Thank you.

Secondly, we eagerly await details on the $500 million investment in arts, culture and sports, first announced by Prime Minister Trudeau on April 17. We hope that some portion of it can be directed to meet needs not yet addressed in the cross-economy measures already in effect.

Specific gaps during the emergency relief period include the following:

  • The CEWS only applies to employees, and not to long-time independent contractors. This leaves a number of orchestras in a difficult situation: they are continuing to compensate their contracted musicians (whom they treat as independent contractors) to create and work from home, but are not yet eligible for any form of subsidy to assist with this cost. This could be addressed by expanding the program to incorporate more classes of workers.
  • We also note that CEWS is due to end June 6: well before orchestras are likely to see any stability in their earned or contributed revenues, since many may still be closed until early 2021 or later.
  • The CEBA is available only to groups with payroll between $20,000 and $1.5 million per year. Larger groups, with greater cash flow assistance needs, are ineligible for consideration for interest-free loans by BDC and EDC because they are organized as registered charities. This could be addressed by expanding the CEBA to cover more employers, or potentially removing the exclusion of organizations that further a charitable purpose under the Canada Small Business Financing Act, to enable banks to assist larger organizations in our sector and to provide additional support for mid-sized orchestras who need more than the $40,000 that CEBA offers.
  • Smaller arts organizations and grassroots community groups have, to some extent, fallen between the cracks of the targeted government assistance to date, yet play a key role in their communities and are profoundly affected by the crisis. We join with Imagine Canada in the call for a non-profit and charitable sector stabilization fund to help them continue to function through this time.
  • Many cultural and community-based organizations own and manage their own buildings, edifices that need to be heated, lit, secured, and maintained even when closed and not generating revenue. They are under unique pressure at this time. Again, we are pleased to support Imagine Canada’s call for a sector stabilization program that would help address the needs of valued community-based groups that own and manage community infrastructure.
  • We’d also emphasize the desirability of providing broad-based incentives for charitable giving and business sponsorship at this time. We support a temporary increase in non-refundable tax credits for charitable giving, believing that this will be the most helpful to the greatest number of groups, and would be relatively easy to administer.

At another point in the Standing Committee’s process, we would be pleased to share perspectives on the re-building, re-imagining and re-launching phases ahead. Although the timeline for lifting restrictions is currently and inevitably far from certain, it is likely that the live performing arts will be at the far end of that process. Identifying and addressing the interim needs for support for our sector will be fundamental to achieving a robust and comprehensive return to core activities.

In both good and challenging times, our member orchestras serve and connect with audiences in every Canadian province. The Government of Canada has been an important partner in this work over many years, and we look forward to continued work together. Thank you for your consideration.

Katherine Carleton, C.M.
Executive Director
Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada

Orchestras Canada’s COVID-19 Response and Services

A letter from our Executive Director, Katherine Carleton

Dear members,

In the last four weeks a wave of cancellations has spread across the country in the wake of lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Every one of our approximately 130 member orchestras has been affected.

It has been nothing short of inspirational to see the adaptability of Canadian orchestras who are now creating more online content than ever. Orchestras Canada has also increased our level of online activity to support our members going through these unprecedented challenges. We know that orchestras are stronger together than they are alone, and we have been expanding and adapting our four mission pillars to help orchestras respond to the current crisis.


Over the last month OC has convened online meetings with a number of stakeholder groups to exchange information, ideas and to design collective responses to the current shutdown. We have held meetings with orchestra CEOs, youth orchestra leaders, personnel managers, and with groups of marketing and education staff. We’re making plans to continue and expand these meetings. Let us know what you need.


Our advocacy committee has been hard at work assessing the best way to approach federal government decision-makers and make them aware of orchestras’ needs. We’ve written a letter to several government ministers, and are encouraging our members to share the letter with their local MPs. For obvious reasons, we’ve focused on emergency short term measures. We’ll continue this, even as we consult with you to develop re-launch and resilience strategies for Canadian orchestras.


We are issuing frequent updates to our members with news that directly affects the arts sector, as well as resources and tools to equip you to respond to the current situation. We’re also happy to share your initiatives and triumphs. You can read these updates on our COVID-19 page, or by signing up to our email list.


So far we have run two surveys that have measured the immediate impact of the COVID-19 shutdowns on our members, and have reported back with some initial insights from our statistician, Steve Smith. This data collection is an ongoing process: while we’re aware that you’re being approached we’ll be collecting and analyzing further data.

I encourage you to take a look at what we’ve been up to, and encourage you to get in touch with us to share resources, brainstorm ideas, or just to check in. Take care,

Katherine Carleton C.M.
Executive Director
Orchestras Canada/Orchestres Canada

Marketing & Fundraising in a Time of Crisis: Panelists

Jeff Alexander is the President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. He has overseen the activities of the orchestra’s 125th anniversary season; worked in support of the wide range of education and community engagement program; supported and represented the organization on multiple domestic and international tours; and led a process to develop a new strategic plan for the Association. Prior to his work at the CSO, Alexander worked in senior management roles at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He is a former board president of Orchestras Canada.

Dale Hedding is the Vice-President of Development at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A passionate advocate for arts that inspire, he brings to the organization more than 25 years of leadership experience in arts, culture and education institutions, including successful tenures at the Arts Consulting Group, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Ryan Lewis is the Vice-President of Marketing and Sales at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, serving there as a member of the senior management team and leading a department that is responsible for marketing, communications and design, digital content and web technologies, as well as ticketing and patron services. Prior to his current role at the CSO, he held positions with Opera Philadelphia, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and Washington National Opera.

Trust, Transparency and Truth

Marion Newman

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation report and its calls to action destabilized many common assumptions about relationships between Indigenous and settler communities in Canada. In response to the report, many orchestras and other cultural institutions began to examine how we engage with our communities, and to rethink the ways in which we collaborate and partner with Indigenous nations, Indigenous people and Indigenous organizations.

Following the creation of an Indigenous Advisory Council at the Regina Symphony Orchestra in 2017, a lot of work has been done to grow this relationship. We spoke with the RSO’s music director, Gordon Gerrard, and mezzo-soprano and Indigenous Advisory Council member, Marion Newman, to learn more about this initiative.

How it started
Gordon Gerrard

The establishment of the Indigenous Advisory Council (IAC) at the RSO started with the appointment of a new board member, Audra Young, a member of the Cowessess First Nation. Its formalization came as a result of the consultation required for a substantial outreach project with Buffy Sainte-Marie, and one of the first projects that followed was the newly created Forward Currents Festival. Initially the IAC was made up of 12 members who met monthly, principally to advise the newly arrived Music Director, Gordon Gerrard and then-Executive Director Tanya Derksen on elements of Indigenous programming in the orchestras season. “There’s no rulebook for this kind of thing,” Gordon says, “but we wanted to make sure that this was a lasting beneficial relationship to both parties, rather than a one-off exchange.”

Through a desire to allow the time needed for these conversations, the IAC now meets less frequently, but advises on many more aspects of the RSO’s activities. Everything is interconnected. Other orchestras are following this model; the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, for example, has established its own Indigenous Council.

Risks and True Consultation

While there was some nervousness about the path on which the orchestra and the IAC were embarking, there was an understanding in the importance and openness of this work. Mezzo-soprano and IAC member Marion Newman cites an established relationship and trust with Gordon as a primary reason for her willingness to join. “We get asked to consult on projects all the time,” Marion said. “It’s less often that the organization actually listens. Because I already trusted Gordon, I knew the orchestra would actually listen to what we had to say. “

Both Marion and Gordon agreed that this is long, sustained and slow work. It required a transparency from the orchestra, sharing things that they weren’t used to sharing with outside groups. “We’re still in the truth part of Truth & Reconciliation,” Marion says. This is uncomfortable, but necessary work to do if true consultation and partnership is the genuine goal. Ultimately this has been a positive experience for the RSO, and advice from the IAC now affects every aspect of their work, such as land acknowledgments, clarifying what true consultation is and guiding all of its stakeholders in developing their own ways to engage in this work.

The Forward Currents Festival

The first project the IAC consulted on was the newly created Forward Currents Festival. “Each year the festival focuses on an issue that is socially relevant to our community here in Regina”, says Gordon. The first edition in 2018 focused on Truth and Reconciliation, and the 2019 edition focused on mental health awareness.

“It’s a very direct way to connect with people who believe that the orchestra isn’t for them,” says Gordon. By taking the orchestra outside of the traditional concert hall, the festival reached a whole new audience who may never have considered attending a traditional orchestral concert. Marion recalls being greatly touched at the first edition of the festival. “It was incredible to see Indigenous people in the audience being moved by the orchestra collaboratively telling their stories, and for these same people to see non-Indigenous audience members moved by Indigenous stories.”

Next Steps

The IAC is now starting to look forward to future seasons in terms of what is programmed and how partnerships are approached. They are also looking into how this work can have a lasting impact on the RSO. Cultural competency training is key, and they hope to soon establish a set path whereby new musicians, staff and board members at the orchestra will receive appropriate training to equip them to work in respectful collaboration with the IAC and other outside communities the RSO may partner with.

This is difficult work and it takes time. Strong individual relationships, trust and transparency need to be at its heart.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program

Updated April 9th, 2020

The Government of Canada has announced details for the proposed Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program offering a 75 per cent wage subsidy for qualifying businesses, for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020.

  • The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy would apply at a rate of 75 per cent of the first $58,700 normally earned by employees – representing a benefit of up to $847 per week. The subsidy would be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020.
  • Eligible employers that suffer a drop in gross revenues of at least 15 per cent in March, and 30 per cent in April or May, when compared to the same month in 2019, would be able to access the subsidy.
  • Eligible employers would include employers of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy, with the exception of public sector entities. (Editorial note:  These seem to include municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals.)  Charities and not for profits are eligible if they can demonstrate the required drop in revenue.
  • For non-profit organizations and registered charities not as deeply affected, the government will continue to consult with the sector to ensure the definition of revenue is appropriate to their circumstances. The government is also considering additional support for non-profits and charities, particularly those involved in the front line response to COVID-19. Further details will be announced in the near term.
  • An eligible employer’s entitlement to this wage subsidy will be based entirely on the salary or wages actually paid to employees. All employers would be expected to make best efforts to top up salaries to 100% of the maximum wages covered.
  • The program should be launched in the next 3-6 weeks, depending on parliamentary approval and the pace at which the on-line application process can be developed, fine-tuned and launch.
  • President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos noted for the “cultural sector” that all businesses receiving public funds are eligible for the subsidy – this seems to imply those that receive government grants, rather than public bodies like universities, colleges, schools and hospitals which were identified as being exempt by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
  • No cap on how much an employer can receive.
  • Applies to active employees and well as those who have been furloughed because of a lack of work.
  • Charities and non-profit organizations can choose to either include or exclude revenue from government when calculating their revenues.
  • Organizations can calculate their revenues using either accrual or cash accounting.
  • Adjustments will be made if the employer/employee is participating in other COVID-19 emergency response programs.
  • Applications will be through a web portal accessible through organizations’ CRA MyBusiness accounts.

Editorial note: If your organization cannot demonstrate a 30% revenue drop, you may not qualify for the 75% wage subsidy; however, your organization may qualify for a program announced earlier that provides a 10% contribution to wages, through the monthly remittances to the Receiver General.  Organizations cannot access both programs.

Government provides further flexibility for employers to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (press release, April 8th)

The media release from the April 1st announcement is here.

Ontario Arts Council and COVID-19

The Ontario Arts Council has changed some of its grant program deadlines for this spring, and you can click through to details from this page. The OAC also has useful and regularly-updated COVID-19 FAQs on its website, here.

Minister’s Town Hall Meeting

This morning, March 26, Lisa Macleod (Ontario Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries) held a telephone town hall meeting with over 1250 stakeholders from across Ontario.  Referencing both the province’s identification of essential services (on Monday evening) and the Economic Statement (issued on Wednesday), Minister Macleod outlined a number of measures that the Government of Ontario is taking to assist with relief and recovery of the sectors associated with the Ministry, as follows:

  • The commitment to keep money flowing quickly through existing Operational Service Agencies such as the Ontario Arts Council, Celebrate Ontario, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund. The Minister did not reference any increases to funding: OC has asked the Ontario Arts Council for more information as it becomes available.
  • The impending launch of a new Ontario Live online portal, where musicians, artists, libraries, museums and others can share their work with Ontarians. This is a partnership between the government and an array of artists, arts organizations, and such industry titans as Universal Music and Shopify.
  • The re-tooling of the Ontario Music Fund to get funding into the hands of emerging artists quickly.
  • Additional funding allocated to Tourism Development programs, which will be expanded to include Tourism Relief initiatives.
  • Additional funding allocated to Destination Ontario to help rebuild tourism, once recovery commences.
  • Permission granted to restaurants and bars to sell and deliver unopened packages of liquor in their stock.
  • Funding for Ontario hotels to serve as overflow space for health care workers, those in quarantine, and people in need of shelter (whether because they are not securely housed, or other reasons).
  • The extension of film and television tax credit to ensure that freelance workers in the industry have access to income during a period of time when production has ceased.
  • The commitment to work with provincial sport organizations and athletes to ensure that athlete development efforts are not damaged by the cancellation of major amateur sports events in the province and around the world.
  • The commitment to support existing Operational Enterprise Agencies (including the Royal Ontario Museum, Science North, etcetera) through the recovery period.

Remuneration Information on the Job Board

As of April 13th, 2020, jobs posted on Orchestras Canada’s job board will require remuneration information. This could take the form of:

  • an annual salary (or salary range)
  • an hourly rate (or range)
  • a per service rate
  • a total amount, for contract work or an RFP for example

Pro-bono jobs or professional development opportunities will be marked as such. Many of the jobs posted on our job board are for positions in unionized orchestras, where pay is defined in a collective agreement. We want to make the terms of pay as clear as possible to the musicians applying for these jobs. Likewise, we want to make salary details as clear as possible up front for administrative jobs as well.

Mandatory salary disclosure is fast becoming standard in the arts and non-profit industries. Practices such as this promote pay equity, help to reduce the gender and colour wage gaps, and are win-win for employers and job-seekers for a number of reasons.

For employers

  • It saves time when hiring. You’ll get fewer candidates who are overqualified or underqualified. Waiting until the end of the hiring process to discuss salary expectations means you could interview several candidates before finding someone who will agree with your terms.
  • It reduces staff turnover. Disclosing salary expectations early on minimizes the difference between a job seeker’s expectations and their reality. It starts out the employer-employee relationship as one of trust.
  • It’s fast becoming industry-standard. Other arts and non-profit job services following these practices are Work In Culture, the Professional Alliance for Canadian Theatres, the Ontario Non-Profit Network, the BC Alliance for Arts and Culture, and many more. Some people simply do not apply for jobs that don’t include salary information. Hiding this may be driving away good candidates.

For job-seekers

  • It saves time when job searching. Salary ranges are often a good indicator of the level of experience and qualifications you might need for a job. It means you won’t spend all day writing a cover letter for a job for which you’re woefully underqualified.
  • It acknowledges that people need to support themselves. You can make an informed decision about whether the particular job is an appropriate fit in your current financial or family situation.
  • It helps to reduce the gender and colour wage gaps. Salary posting at the outset ensures that all candidates are starting from a level playing field.