Helpful Resources to Learn About Racial Inequity in the Arts and Non-Profit Sector

In late May, the deaths of George Floyd in the United States and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Canada, each at the hands of the police, provoked an international movement condemning anti-Black racism and police brutality. In the months since, Canadian police have also killed Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi, and Ejaz Choudry, reinforcing the calls for action to address police violence against BIPOC communities in Canada.

There is now a greater sense of urgency in this country in the fight against systemic racism. These issues extend beyond just law enforcement; white supremacy and systemic inequities are prevalent in all industries, including the arts and orchestras. Many people have taken to writing about the arts and non-profit sectors to explain these inequities and provide insights to what long-term change could look like.

Reading list compiled by Nina Jeftic, Equity Coordinator, Orchestras Canada (summer 2020)

We Must Breathe – Why it is important to talk about race and racism in the context of classical music by Lukas Krohn-Grimberghe (WQXR), June 2020

In the article “We Must Breathe – Why it is important to talk about race and racism in the context of classical music”, Lukas Krohn-Grimberghe dives into why classical music, an art form often considered to be universal and meant for everyone, benefits from white privilege and is inaccessible to many. While classical music remains overwhelmingly white, Krohn-Grimberghe highlights why conversations about race in the context of classical music are relevant to the ongoing conversations of systemic racism within society.

Time to finally deal with racism and discrimination in Canadian charities, Shanaaz Gokool (Toronto Star), July 2020

Shanaaz Gokool delves into the world of Canadian charities and not-for profits to discuss the discrepancies that occur between their public mandates and private behaviours. Gokool notes that the pandemic continuously shines a bright light on systemic inequities that appear within these organizations, and calls for the sector to act and make changes that will create long lasting change and put an end to these inequities. She discusses major areas that all not-for profit organizations can improve on, from redefining roles within the organization to implementing new management requirements.

Give Us Permanence—Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Art Institutions, Syrus Marcus Ware, June 2020

In “Give Us Permanence—Ending Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Art Institutions”, Syrus Marcus Ware writes about Canadian art institutions needing to go beyond their Black Lives Matter statements and acknowledge the inherent racism and white supremacy that has and continues to exist within them. He discusses the important work of Black artists and curators and presents ways to achieve long lasting structural changes within arts organizations, considering both a shift in power dynamics as well as the works showcased.

A Crisis of Whiteness in Canadian Art Museums, Sean O’Neill, June 2020

In his article, Sean O’Neill surveys the boards and senior executive teams of the four largest public art museums in Canada, finding that they are overwhelmingly white. While most of these organizations make efforts to diversify their exhibition programming, O’Neill calls this “outward -facing progress”, as artists and curators are not in charge of making decisions that are be instrumental to seeing systemic change within arts institutions. His article explains why this overwhelmingly white leadership needs to change in order for public art museums to effectively hold themselves accountable and serve their communities.

An Open Letter to Arts Organizations Rampant with White Supremacy, Nana Chinara, May 2020

“An Open Letter to Arts Organizations Rampant with White Supremacy” is a personal account of Black queer femme artist Nana Chinara, who details her recent experiences working in the arts. Chinara discusses an ongoing grant process in which she was mistreated and the lack of accountability from her employers, even after challenging them to take responsibility. Her article highlights that these mistreatments were all choices made by her employers and discusses the numerous ways in which white supremacy affects Black artists in the industry. She provides several suggestions to organizations to uproot the white supremacy ingrained in them.

A Collective Awokening in the Performing Arts, Michael Zarathus-Cook, June 2020

Michael Zarathus-Cook writes about the performing arts world and explains that the idea of diversity alone does not create a safe space for BIPOC artists, the industry needs to begin to foster a culture of inclusivity. He discusses the need for inclusivity in every aspect of the organization in order to create these spaces, not just in works programmed and performers featured, and that inclusivity extends beyond race. Hosted by Against the Grain Theatre, Zarathus-Cook led two panels as a follow-up to his article featuring BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+, and disabled artists where they discuss the need for equity in the performing arts and what changes can be implemented.

A Collective Awokening in the Performing Arts Panel part 1

A Collective Awokening in the Performing Arts Panel part 2

8 Ways People of Color are Tokenized in Nonprofits, Helen Kim Ho, September 2017

In efforts to diversify or be more inclusive, many organizations may try to recruit or highlight their BIPOC staff/work, which often leads to them being tokenized. In her article, Helen Kim Ho discusses why these organizations, who are dedicated to the common good, so frequently have adverse outcomes to their diversity and inclusion initiatives. She reviews 8 ways that people of colour are tokenized within non-profit groups and why each of these is harmful to those individuals affected.

Open Letter to Directors, Executive Directors, and CEOs of Canadian Charities and Non-Profits, Senator Ratna Omidvar, June 2020

In this open letter, Senator Ratna Omidvar reveals that a majority of non-profits in Canada do not collect data on the diversity of their employees and leaders. Collecting this information annually would be a way to hold these organizations accountable as well as see if and how progress is being made. Senator Omidvar claims that when it comes to diversity, “the sector’s spirit is willing, but it’s flesh is weak”, and calls for the non-profit sector to be leaders in the battle against racism through this crisis

Nonprofits and Foundations Are Unintentionally Promoting Racism: Here’s How to Stop, Michele Norris and Sean Gibbons, February 2019

Michele Norris and Sean Gibbons confront the issues of racism in non-profits head on and discuss how these issues are intertwined with the environment we live in (while their focus is on America, these claims ring true in Canada as well). They write about the influence of the sector and why they cause unintended harm. The article goes through an example of this and discusses the steps taken to reduce it. Norris and Gibbons call for honest introspection within the non-profit world as part of the necessary practices that need to be built to combat racism.

Dear White Orchestras, Alexander Laing (Arts Journal), January 2017

When discussing the lack of Black and Brown people orchestras, Alexander Laing claims that the majority of discussions center around a universalist ethic, where it’s assumed that orchestral music is a universal artform. In his articles, he challenges readers and those part of the classical music/orchestral world to move towards a particularist ethic when discussing issues of race, a definition he borrows from author Jennifer Harvey which “recognizes that there is no one shared standard against we might measure or interpret our experiences of race, nor one to which we may all be held similarly accountable.”

Notes on Racism, and White Supremacy In Classical Music, Brandon Keith Brown, May 2020

Conductor Brandon Keith Brown comments on how racism and white supremacy have personally impacted him and his career in “Notes on Racism, and White Supremacy in Classical Music”. He calls for white people to start doing anti-racist work within themselves. Brown believes that classical music belongs to everyone, and states that a “visceral commitment to include Black artists, audience, artist managers and administrators in their business plan” will be essential to the long-term survival of any orchestra.

Can the arts world fight systemic racism in a real way instead of resorting to tokenism?, Zainub Verjee, June 2020

Zainub Verjee provides an overview of the Canadian arts world, citing several examples from across the country of various artistic responses to social movements. She points out that these struggles are “wiped out of the public memory”, and that the motivations behind diversity are business related. Verjee questions whether the current climate will be enough to begin a commitment to fighting systemic racism on an ongoing basis, or if this crisis will join the others as tokenistic responses.

I’m tired., Andrew Adridge, July 2020

Andrew Adridge, a Toronto-based Guyanese-Canadian baritone writes a vulnerable work sharing his perspective as a Black performer in the classical music industry. He asks members of this community to start to speak out and advocate for Black and Indigenous people. While Canada has a multicultural population, Adridge notes that nothing else has been done by us as a country to prove we are a multicultural country.

REMOTE | Andrew Adridge ‘The Way The Industry Is Currently Structured, I Have No Business Hoping To Be In It’, Michael Zatharus-Cook, June 2020

Michael Zarathus-Cook sits down with baritone Andrew Adridge to discuss the current #BlackLivesMatter movement and changes that need to happen in the performing arts community. Adridge states that the lack on accountability being taken in Canada leads to what he calls “Performance Representation”. He envisions “Authentic Representation”, where “an underrepresented person can actualize a path to belonging”. Adridge explains that the classical music industry plays a role in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which is a problem beyond just law enforcement.

Art is integral to Black Lives Matter: a conversation with Dr. Kristin Moriah, Nathan Gallagher, June 2020

Nathan Gallagher speaks with English professor Dr. Kristin Moriah to discuss the role of art as a catalyst for social change. Focusing on Black Lives Matter- Toronto, Moriah notes that several of their founding members are arts practitioners and that one of their first actions to attract attention was a piece of performance art- when they temporarily stopped Justin Trudeau’s float at the Toronto Pride Parade. She comments that art and literature provide a different element of understanding to people, and that engaging with Black art can help deepen the insights of those who don’t comprehend the Black experience.

Why we need Black and Indigenous leadership at Canada’s top museums now more than ever, Syrus Marcus Ware and Sean O’Neill, June 2020

Syrus Marcus Ware and Sean O’Neill call for urgent change within management in arts organizations. After the recent #BlackOutTuesday campaign, several people have spoken out about the racism they experienced at these organizations. Both Ware and O’Neill advocate for structural change within these organizations to begin to combat the racism imbedded within them. Ware notes that it is only in the moments of unrest that museums choose to engage with Black artists, and thinks that including Black and Indigenous voices in management as well as regularly programmed artists will increase the excellency of the work featured.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

COVID-19 Resources

If you are experiencing difficulties, the Google Doc below can also be accessed here. You can contribute resources to the document here.

Four questions to ask before starting any digital project

Blog post by Nick Walshe, Orchestras Canada

Last month, I attended the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) second Digital Stage Symposium. The Digital Stage is a collaborative project between the COC, the National Ballet of Canada, and Sheridan College’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre, and is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. It is designed to explore and embrace new technology in the arts, equipping arts organizations with what they need to thrive in a constantly changing digital landscape. From apps designed to help audience members engage with the works presented at a concert (last year we wrote about the Winnipeg Symphony’s adventures with an audience engagement app), to ‘smart’ wearable items designed to help performers and artists monitor their bodies, the Symposium presented a wide range of cutting-edge digital technology. More information on these technologies and others can be found in their initial Digital Horizon Scan.

Download the Horizon Scan here.

Unsurprisingly, there was no single technology that stood out as a game-changer for orchestras. The question of how we engage with our audience digitally or live is complex, and only complicated further by the wide range of sizes of Canadian orchestras and the diversity of the communities they serve. I came away from the day with more questions than answers and felt that rather than providing a list of new technology to explore, it could be more useful to share a list of questions I kept coming back to when looking at how orchestras might engage more deeply with digital technology. This non-exhaustive list of four questions is designed to spark discussion and thought before starting any digital project.

What problem are you trying to solve by undertaking this project?

As they say, “every solution has a problem”. It’s important to look at what problems we’re trying to solve with technology, and what other solutions may exist to the same problem. Our audiences can feel when the use of tech becomes ‘gimmicky’. Considering how stretched resources are at arts organizations, it’s important that our investment in technology aligns with our organization’s goals. Are we trying to educate the audience? Increase audience numbers? Deepen their engagement by livestreaming or creating ways for them to participate digitally?

Has it been done before, and did it work?

While Canadian orchestras operate in diverse communities with different tastes, strengths and demographics, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel with every digital project. It’s worth exploring who is using the new technology being considered and seeing what they learned from implementing it. These examples may not come from the orchestra world; we have much to learn from other art forms’ use of digital technology, from dance to theatre to visual arts.

What does this do to the live product?

Or perhaps, what IS the live product? Every exploration into the digital realm has the potential to make us more aware of the live product we present. We often talk about the live experience as one of the most important aspects of what we do as orchestras. Can we bring this experience to more people? Do the forms of digital technology we plan to use enhance or detract from the experience of our live audience? In a digitally connected world, it’s important that we acknowledge online forms of engagement for people that are unable to get to the concert hall for a variety of reasons.

What resources are we lacking in order to get there?

With many arts organizations running at (and pushing) the limit of which they are capable, it’s important to have a plan to bridge any knowledge or resources gaps. Issues of time, money and the knowledge of people within the organization are critical. Is an outside consultant needed, and how much of their time can we afford? Are there additional funding streams we can apply to for this project?

These questions are designed as a starting point for discussion before embarking on a digital project; there will no doubt be other important conversations to be had. We’re excited at the possibilities that new technology will bring to the orchestral sector and the arts world, but acknowledge that this is fast-moving and requires a smart investment of time and resources from decision-makers at our orchestras.

The Canadian Opera Company’s Digital Stage project is ongoing and scheduled for completion in June 2020. Learn more at

Guest Blog: Music for All Abilities in Canada’s Capital

Child trying out a flute at a Music Circle event In recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in recognition of the need for access to the arts and music for the special needs community. Music is part of the human experience and all people have a right to be a part of that. Yet, traditional concert events have barriers that are difficult to overcome: bright lights, loud sounds, high cost, and the expectation of proper concert etiquette and behaviour can make attending orchestral concerts impossible for many with special needs. Arts education opportunities that are truly accessible are also few and far between. Physical accessibility is only part of the equation; true accessibility involves removing all barriers, which requires creative thinking on the part of arts organizations.

Child with earmuffs trying a horn at a Music Circle eventThe benefits of taking part in accessible music making and concerts goes beyond just the music (which is a great incentive in itself!). Participating in an accessible adapted music program can facilitate social skill development through encouraging turn taking and engaging with peers. The sensory stimulation provided by making and listening to music in a controlled environment can aid with self-regulation and promote well-being. For parents of children with special needs, the opportunity to engage with the arts in a way that is comfortable for their child is priceless.

The National Arts Centre in Ottawa has taken up this cause with dedication to creating a welcoming and adapted environment for the special needs community. Since 2012, the NAC has offered their groundbreaking Music Circle program. This hybrid music education and concert experience is designed to meet the needs of special needs patrons. Small groups participate in a series of hands-on workshops featuring an instrumental family (brass, woodwinds, strings or percussion), followed by a sensory-friendly concert featuring those same instruments. The environment is comfortable, with various seating options, space to move, and a quiet area for breaks as needed. The workshop material is developed to meet the needs of each participant and allow them to interact with the instruments and each other in a way that is comfortable and meaningful for them. The concert is carefully planned to prevent sensory overstimulation. For many, participation in this program has also served as a bridge to attending regular orchestral concerts, and the NAC has facilitated this by offering sensory-friendly pre-concert activities at family concerts. Through the Music Circle program, hundreds of patrons of all ages with special needs have come to learn about the orchestra and have attended concerts designed to meet their needs. As a result, a love of music has been sparked in many, and they feel welcomed and comfortable at the National Arts Centre.

Thank you to Erin Parkes from the Lotus Centre for Special Music Education for writing this guest blog. Erin will be at our national conference talking about orchestras and social inclusion with other experts in the field including Ian Ritchie (Setúbal Music Festival), Faith Scholfield (Windsor Symphony Orchestra), and Elizabeth Simpson (NAC Orchestra).