Tag: open musical spaces (page 2 of 3)

One Year Anniversary of the Open Stage Adventure

After one year of Open Stage Adventuring I have visited 23 musical events (some of them multiple times) in 16 cities/towns/hamlets. While some of those expeditions were solo ventures I also had musical/moral support at different times from: Peter Balka, Trish Brubacher and Genny Grier.

As part of my one year anniversary celebration I’d like to showcase some shining stars in the vast sky of open musical spaces.  Some pride themselves on attracting high calibre music, while others have created space for musical collaboration and expression that otherwise would not have happened.  Here are a few events that stand out. (Click on Stages, Circles & Jams and go to the city of the event to find the original post.)

Corktown Ukulele Jam, TorontoFor the most ukuleles I’ve ever seen together in one room and for providing multiple ways to participate.

In addition to the large group workshop to brush up on your uke skills and build some repertoire and the full house uke jam, uke players can sign up on-line to perform or lead a song. Beyond the weekly uke jam, host Steve McNie also offers workshops (ukulele high school 101) and promotes all manner of ukulele focussed happenings.

Groundswell, AllistonFor the impressive array of youth talent

(and the great snacks and micro-brews available)

A predominantly young crowd showcased an array of musical styles and instruments

Free F’all Sundays, TorontoFor the greatest number of musicians

Considering this event at the Supermarket is relatively new, the turn out is astounding: 50-70 performers each week keep the music going from 8 pm until the wee hours of the morning.

The Black Walnut Folk Club, Kitchener  – For the longest track record (1994)

This monthly club has a loyal following and has been going for 16 seasons.

The Elora Acoustic Café, Elora – For the high calibre of music at both the open stage and feature performance

In addition to featuring musicians ranging from Ian Reid to Kevin Breit to Sue Smith, the Elora Acoustic Café boasts an open stage full of talented regulars and delightful surprises.If you are reading this thinking “I go to an open stage that has been running longer than that” or “Why wasn’t [insert open stage here] mentioned? It’s the best!” then  go to the bottom of this post and click on the comment button (just to the right of “Read the whole story”) and suggest a venue that should be on my list for Year Two of the Open Stage Adventure. (The OSA FB page is another place to post info about your venue or event.)

June 2010, the first full month of theopenstageadventure.ca welcomed 152 visitors. This has climbed to 842 in the past month and some of those visitors have given me tips for new venues to explore and featured musicians that are not to be missed. I am looking forward to visiting some old favourites and discovering new gems in the year to come.

Coming out of the Musical Closet – Tips for Open Stage Newcomers

Whatever your reason or motivation, you are now ready to take the plunge and share your music. Here are a few suggestions to ease you into that first outing.

Relax and have fun!

The hosts and participants at these kind of events are generally very welcoming, encouraging and happy to see a new face. Show up a bit early to get a feel for the room and let your instrument acclimatize (particularly in the winter).

Know your venue:

What is the event is offering/looking for? Check out the website or call the host to find out more. Be aware of the style of music featured at that venue – could be bluegrass, celtic, folk, blues, original songs or anything goes. Song circles may appreciate lyric sheets unless you are leading a very well know or call-and-response song.  An open stage is often miked – you may be on your own or there could be other musicians for back-up and collaboration. If it is a popular event it might be necessary to arrive fairly early to sign up – some events even arrange the list of performers in advance.

Musical etiquette:

Make sure your instrument is tuned up in advance. Preferably, do not start tuning when it is your turn as this slows down the event (minor last minute adjustments are OK). Respect the time or song limit that the host has laid out. It is great to be enthusiastic about the music or stories you want to share but “share and share alike” – others also want their time to shine.


Cultivate the art of listening to the other musicians while playing. This elevates the event from a bunch individuals playing or singing at the same time to a group of people making music together. Listen for changes in tempo. Listen for harmony potential. If you don’t know how the song goes – stop playing and listen. If a singer is being overpowered by a room full of instruments – stop playing and listen. Everyone knows that open stages are about performing – they are just as much about listening.

Jeremiah McCaw also has some good tips to pass onto open stage performers:


Musical Musings: A Song for Everyone

One of the things that intrigues me about these open musical spaces I have been exploring is how people are drawn to come out and share personal music.  There is a wide range of talent and training represented, as well as very different feelings about performing.  Some people have finished a draining workday and are bursting to share a song they just wrote while others are using all their courage to take their compositions out of the living room and into a public forum.  And there they are – waiting to be a part of the music.

Over the summer I read a couple of books that touch on how we are connected to the creative instinct that draws amateur musicians out of the closet.

In her book, “If You Want to Write”, Brenda Ueland puts forward the idea that everyone has the potential to write, whether poetry, stories, songs; it is a natural impulse present in children that is winnowed out of us as we mature and become more self conscious and preoccupied with the practicalities of day to day living.  She urges us to give expression to our imaginations, let the ideas flow without critiquing and censoring ourselves, for the simple joy of knowing ourselves better and participating in the creative process.  My favourite chapter is entitled:  “Why women who do too much housework should neglect it for their writing”;  I wonder how contentious a statement this would have been in 1938 when the book was published?  It would be a stretch to claim that I do too much housework but I really love the sentiment.

Brian Levitin (“This is Your Brain on Music”) describes how our brains are hardwired to derive pleasure from music, that we have an inherent ability to understand musical patterns which is then shaped by our cultural milieu.  Another interesting point he makes is that it is a recent human development (last 500 yrs) that music has become the realm of the expert: the performer, the rock star, the prodigy.  It is likely that music is among the oldest human activities as evidenced by instruments found in ancient archeological sites; in existing societies around the world participatory music and dance are integral parts of celebration, mourning, rites of passage, and story telling.  The expectation is that everyone sings, everyone dances to the extent that people speak and people move.

Let’s revive – from our childhood, from our ancestors – this social and expressive activity and make it part of our present.

Venue: Sing Along with Sam & Jane

This weekend we checked out another kind of sing along – instead of being hosted in a private home, these sing alongs are held in Ashuré’s restaurant in Guelph. Sam Turton and Jane Lewis use their voices, a guitar and some occasional accordion to lead audience members in song.  Participation is encouraged by songbooks placed at tables along with slips of paper to make requests.  The songbooks cover a wide range of singable songs, from John Prine to the Beatles to U2.  Last night we had the pleasure of singing one of Sam’s originals and a “cameo” appearance of Trish Brubacher singing a Patsy Cline number.  With patrons scattered around the room, and Jane & Sam miked, there is less a feeling of singing as a group than singing along with Sam and Jane (which is, to be fair, the name of the event).  One solution:  bring a group to share a table and some harmonies.

The Guelph sing along has been going for three years and was a response people saying they wish they had a place to sing (other than the shower).  A year ago Jane & Sam started another sing along event in St. Catharines.

Sam & Jane’s website, All Together Now: Music for Everyone, has detailed information and resources on how good singing is for you.  To allow more people to reap the benefits of music, Jane & Sam host sing alongs in a variety of settings and promote workshops that help develop your inner musician (harmony singing, chord progressions, and a women’s choir are among the offerings).

[Ashuré’s has closed. Sing Along with Sam & Jane, Ashuré’s Restaurant, 259 Grange Road, Guelph, last Saturday of most months, 8-10 pm, no cover, tips welcomed]

Venue: Open Mic with Robbie Hancock

The University of Waterloo Grad House is usually open to members only, however, on Tuesday nights, it opens its doors to music lovers and players alike.  Host Robbie Hancock starts the evening off with his own tape loop infused guitar, piano and vocals and invites people to sign their name on a chalkboard if they want to perform.  This relatively new weekly event emerged from a songwriting competition earlier this year, also run by Robbie (http://rjentertainment.ca/) – after the competition finished there was a desire to continue the creative exchange and another public forum for sharing music was born.

This week I was joined by fellow jamseekers, Trish & Pete, so we added our trio to the list of performers.  Even the general manager of the establishment, Rose, came out to join in the end of evening jam, which brought all the musicians to the stage.  Host Robbie doubled as sound man and accompanist – lyric sheets available if you feel moved to sing but didn’t bring an instrument.

The pub and restaurant is housed in the historic Schweitzer Farm House, a quaint building leased by the Graduate Students Association, surrounded by large, modern university structures.  In addition to pub snacks and light meals, tasty local microbrews are served (Grand River Brewing, Cambridge and Flying Monkeys, Barrie).

If you are in the Waterloo area, come help keep the momentum going.

[Open Mic with Robbie Hancock, University of Waterloo Grad House, every Tuesday 8 – 11]

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