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Category Archives: Workshops

Summerfolk Hosts Open Showcase

Performance showcases are one of the key ways that performers get exposure. Traditionally they’re done at large conferences and professional networking events so that booking agents, venue owners, and artistic directors can see what performers are like live. Years ago, the Georgian Bay Folk Society hosted the ‘Last Chance Saloon’ to give artists an opportunity to earn a spot at Summerfolk. This September we’re modifying the tradition and hosting an open showcase at Heartwood Concert Hall in the afternoon of Sunday September 24th.

Performers will have 12 minutes on stage to impress the crowd, knowing that Summerfolk’s artistic director is in the audience. We do not not guarantee that someone will be hired for the festival. We do, however,  guarantee the opportunity to impress the person who does the hiring.

In order to ensure that acts who are ready for a festival stage get a chance to play on the 24th, we’re screening applicants. Please apply here. There are 12 performance spaces available and they will be filled on a first come basis. Audience are welcome on the day of the show so bring your friends along too.

If it all goes well, you could see the Summerfolk stage from this side next August.

For more information, e-mail Jon at jon.a.farmer(at)


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Summerfolk to host Music Biz Conference in Sept

On September 23rd, Summerfolk will host a one-day intensive music business conference in Owen Sound to help aspiring and emerging artists of all ages and genres develop the skills they need to start and sustain robust musical careers.

Performers spend hundreds of hours learning to play  but when it comes to business, practice is difficult and trial and error is expensive. For performers in smaller and rural areas, opportunities to develop their business skills can be even harder to find and lead some aspiring performers to believe that musicians have to move to the city to ‘make it’. When musicians leave rural areas the local culture and economy lose.

Summerfolk has been working to support the local and rural music scenes by hosting monthly music business workshops since January with the goal of helping musicians learn about the business from established professionals. The Music Biz Tune UpConference will concentrate the information from the workshop series and go deeper through ten workshops presented in five timeslots throughout the day.

“We had a great response to the workshops and this conference will let people who missed them get a large dose of professional knowledge quickly,” said Jon Farmer, series coordinator.

 Workshop topics range from learning how to register for royalties and how to book gigs, to an introduction to sound engineering and sessions about performers’ unique legal and accounting issues.

 “We’ve set it up so that there’s  something for the people who want to learn what it takes to get their first paid gigs as well as more specific sessions for performers who have been playing weekend shows for years and want to make music their full time job,” Farmer added.

Thanks to grant funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and sponsorship from Music Ontario, conference registration — a $140 value — is only $50 and includes lunch and dinner. Summerfolk is providing performers who are 24 and younger a further 50% registration discount and is making travel bursaries available.  Online registration is open now at

Music Biz Tune Up Poster

On the Road Survival with Samantha Martin

Travel can be exhausting and for touring musicians everyday travel struggles come with the added pressure to perform at your best every time you take to the stage. Five Time Maple Blues Award Nominee and Grey Bruce musical export Samantha Martin will return to Owen Sound on July 16th to share the tips and strategies that touring musicians use to keep themselves at the top of their game while on tour. The workshop is the seventh in Summerfolk’s Music Biz Tune Up workshop series helping local performers develop the business skills they’ll need to make the most of their musical careers.

Sam MartinSamantha Martin has deep family roots on the Bruce Peninsula and she spent a formative musical period in Owen Sound. Now, she fronts an in-demand band (Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar) and tours from coast, to coast, to coast in Canada as well as in Europe and the USA. With so much time on the road, Samantha has built up an arsenal of tricks to stay healthy and happy. “The more planning ahead of time you do – means when the unexpected happens (and it always does) you are in a position problem solve with the least amount of stress”, she said. The interactive workshop will allow participants to ask questions and learn from Samantha’s stories first hand.

Summerfolk is presenting Music Biz Tune Up workshops every month to help local musicians of all genres develop the business skills they need without having to leave the area to develop. The On the Road Survival workshop will run from 1-3pm at the SuiteSpots building at 1051 2nd Ave East, Owen Sound. Participants can register online at or at the door on the day of the workshop. Registration is $20.


Those magic moments


I could fill a book with the magical moments I’ve had at festivals. As a performer, I had the opportunity to sit in with some of my musical heroes in workshops and sessions with the chance to sit on stage with them and get a close look at what they do. If things were really comfortable, I got to play a tune with them.

As an audience member, I have seen spur of the moment collaborations on workshop stages that have electrified me. I’ve felt the thrill of knowing that what I saw on stage would never happen again quite the same way. It defies audio recording and video recording.

Obviously, that synergy comes about by having the right mix of artists at the festival. So, how do you book and program a festival?As the artistic director, there is a lot that has to happen before magic touches an audience.

We open performer applications in early October and close them in February, receiving between three and four hundred for the festival. I have to look further than the outright applications, though. I also choose from artists that are touring in August, as well as those I want to bring in because I think our patrons will enjoy them. Selections continue with audience favourites, suggestions from social media and a dozen or so wish lists that people give me

I have about 40 slots to fill and from that I have to have some bands that can play formal dance sets — contra, step dancing and square dancing, for example. I need some singer-songwriters, some late night dance bands and some traditional acts. I need good storytellers and masterful instrumentalists.

Also needed are some performers with broad name recognition and most important, some bands that you’ve never heard of. One thing that Summerfolk audiences love above all else is making a discovery.


I end up with a working list that I have made for myself to guide the booking. If I were to show you the list I started with and the final roster you’d see quite a difference.

I present offers to artists and they accept, reject or negotiate them. Of course, some artists say yes right away. There can be any number of reasons why a performer doesn’t accept an offer. The weekend may be booked already. The offer might not meet expectations. Some time may be needed to see if other work can be found around the Summerfolk weekend — a big consideration if a band is coming from a great distance.

We aim to have the roster completed by the end of March. By that time, we have collected high-resolution photos of the artists, bios and video links needed for publicity. We start getting the bands’ technical riders for the technical director who begins mapping out what we need for sound, stage, and lights.


Once I have every performer confirmed and can account for their travel times, I start scheduling the festival. There are forty acts and almost all of them will get their own concert slot.

There are eighteen time slots available on the Amphitheatre stage and fourteen in the evening in the Down by the Bay tent. There are roughly sixty slots to fill on the six daytime stages.

There are workshops that are no-brainers. You have to have a blues jam. Songs from a Hat has become a staple. If there are enough Celtic bands for a ceilidh, you’d best have one. There should be a workshop geared to children.

We ask for suggestions from the performers. How else would I have known that Matt Epp does some songs in Turkish or that Mayhemingways have a dancing chicken puppet? We also have the band lists—handy if you want to do a workshop that might involve a specialty instrument.

But above all, I look for combinations of personalities that might work well together. In looking over the lists, are there performers who have already played together or appeared at several festivals together this summer? I look for performers from the same town or from the same region thinking they might already have some common repertoire.

I’m taking those things and a hundred others into consideration when filling the schedule. Even if I have done all that right, it still needs one more essential element — a great audience.

Performers are not going to go out on limb in an unrehearsed jam unless they feel comfortable. The audiences at Summerfolk make the performers comfortable. They are willing to walk out on the tightrope with the performer. Almost all the people who have played the festival have remarked on how extraordinary the Summerfolk audience is — attentive, interactive and supportive.

The forty-second edition of Summerfolk happens August 17, 18, 19, 20 at Kelso Beach Park in Owen Sound. Schedules will be appearing on the website later next week. Information can be found at or by phoning 519-371-2995.










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