Sound of Music appears before city council budget committee - there might not be much for the Festival.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 11th, 2019



With the budget before them and the Mayor having whittled down what she would like to see in the way of a tax increase to 3.99% it was time for delegations to speak about what they would like to see.

There were several outstanding delegations – asking for the most part for additional staff to be on the Climate Change file and for better communications coming out of city hall.

Myles Rusak 2

Myles Rusak, Executive Director Sound of Music Festival: Making his case for a funding increase.

There were two exceptions: Myles Rusak speaking for Sound of Music who wants an additional $40,000 a year each year for the next three years starting with this year.


The other levels of government have cut back on what the Sound of Music was getting and SoM isn’t interested in cutting back. They want the city to make up the short fall.

Their view seems to be that if they cut back on the quality of what they have been doing, audiences will dwindle and the economic impact of what SoM does for the city will dwindle as well.

Last year SoM did a two day kick off – that’s the period of time when paid ticket performances are put on stage – to raise money for the shows that the public can see free.

The two day Kick off didn’t work out all that well last year – so it will be just a one day event going forward.

It may be quite a bit less than that if the city doesn’t come up with some cash.

There is a Municipal Accommodation Tax  somewhere in the works at Queens Park – Myles wants to get a piece of that using the phrase “100% – we want some of those dollars”. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward pointed out that it is city council that decides where the dollars go.  Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) Hotels and people doing short-term rentals must pay a four per cent Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT). More information will become available in December 2019, regarding short-term rental regulations.

Myles told Council, meeting as a budget committee, that SoM has been meeting with anyone that delivered a service to the public, looking for ways to partner with them. The YMCA, the Library, the Museum, the Performing Arts Centre – conversations have taken place looking for ways to partner with them.

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Tammy Fox, Executive Director of the Performing Arts Centre has been waiting to hear from Myles Rusak for sometime.

Roll that film back – during our last interview-conversation with Tammy Fox at the Performing Arts Centre she said that she has been trying for a couple of years to put something together with the SoM. Which is correct? We’re going with Tammy.

Myles told council that he has as yet not been able to meet one-on-one with every council member. Then he hasn’t been trying very hard. Councillor Sharman would certainly like to have a conversation with Myles and the SoM music long term plans – the Mayor probably has some sage advice for Myles as well.

Myles talked the big picture and said that that the Sound of Musical Festival was going to drop the word Festival from the brand name.

The want to be seen as more than a ten-day event and become the organization that gives the music industry in Burlington the cohesiveness it lacks.

Myles wants SoM to be the curator of everything that is music in town – from what takes place at the Library to what is featured at Emmas.

Myles Rusak 1

The Sound of Music wants to morph from a 10 day event to become the curator of everything musical in the city. They are looking for much more in the way of clout.

It is an ambitious reach – one that is going to have to be earned and not taken.

SoM was once an organization that had an active membership – anyone could be a member and every member could vote for the Board of Directors. That form of governance disappeared about four years ago when Andy Porecki was Executive Director.

When the Board decided that Dave Miller needed to use the exit door – he was dismissed rather unceremoniously which threw the membership into a serious state of confusion. SoM almost had a mutiny on its hands. The unhappy members were not able to organize themselves and bring about changes that would make the organization more transparent and accountable.

Councillor Sharman wanted to know what part the city would play in this change in the way music would be managed, overseen and developed. “We have people on staff” said Sharman who can and should be part of the thinking you are doing.”

Myles said he has had meetings with a few people at Parks and Recreation and he has been working with Tourism as well.

The SoM gets $106,093 from the city each year. He wanted that bumped up by $40K this year and an additional $40,000 for the next two years.

Myles said they are putting together a television show with Cogeco and that there are plans to put on a program with the Indigenous community that will be highlighted in 2020.

Myles Rusk 4

Sound of Music needs a fatter cheque from the city.

Sharman wanted to know a lot more before he went anywhere with additional financing. As he put it he “wants to eat the meal before he pays for it”.

Councillor Kearns cut Myles short – as chair she had heard enough. Kearns sits on the SoM Board.

Myles Rusak should wait for a fatter cheque to arrive from the city. He should take Tammy Fox out to lunch – she really does want to do some business with the Sound of Music people – she has been trying to get something going for more than two years.

Myles needs to learn just who will butter the bread he needs. Council needs to be romanced.

Related news stories:

SoM lets council know they will be back looking for financial support

SoM volunteers feel left out.

S0M – trouble in paradise

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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8 comments to Sound of Music appears before city council budget committee – there might not be much for the Festival.

  • Jeremey J

    I’m curious where people are drawing the conclusion that they want to curate everything in the city? I’m not ok with that, but I don’t think that’s the point. They simply said they want to do more in the city throughout the year. This tabloid continually spins the real message. Arts, tourism, and culture will actually build the economy, all due respect, but $70 tickets at a 700 seat theatre aren’t bringing in tourists, and ribfests happen everywhere, so what else is there to bring real visitors to the city. Condos?

    Sitting and wallowing in the past, and believing that having the city curating big events is the solution seems to be really poor thinking. I’m not saying the festival deserves more money of the city’s money, but come on…This reporter has a pretty good set of bi-focals. One for his opinion, the other for his augmented understanding of the english language, and how to spin it. As a musician, I hope this festival continues to keep Burlington relevant. Because for actual culture, not much else changes around here. zzzzzzzzzz
    The Burlington Spinzette indeed!

  • Don Fletcher

    If SOM sees itself as a Burlington music curator, perhaps it could start by curating its’ own event back to one long weekend, as it was not so long ago. Ten days is ridiculous, to codon-off a major public park such as Spencer Smith and to dominate the airwaves of long-suffering, downtown residents. The Teen Tour Band remains the only real gem on the Burlington music scene, in my opinion.

    • steven craig Gardner

      Re Don Fletcher’s comment Teen Tour Band the gem I fell off my chair laughing at that one. Yes the Teen Tour Band are great ambasssadors for the city and at a top notch Canadian Marching band,but sorry to say if they were the only attraction at Sound of Music we would not draw the 250,000+ people we draw. It is about being mostly a free fest (I day day of concerts is paid to ensure the folowinng 4 days of concerts, the parade, the music education and kids activities can remain free. The festival onl runs 5 days and of those 5 their is only 1 the paid day, when th park is inaccessibe for 12 hrs. As for noise I am told they follow all city by-law with all music ending by 11 pm. If the only ran 1 week I am almost sure another event would take the second week as I do know there is a waiting list of events waiting to be held in Spencer Smith it is the focal point of activity in our city and will only grow as the multiple 15 to 20 story condos get built in the downtown core. The festival lineup always see,s to have music for all tastes and ages including the very well attended Silver series on Friday afternoons. I have been attending for as many years as I can recall (lived her going on 35 years) and I find something to my liking very year. It is usually on the provinces list of top Ontario festivals so they must be doing something right. Sound of Music, Canada Day, Ribfest and the festival of lights are things that make Burlington unique, special and we must preserve them all.

      • Don Fletcher

        I’m pleased that I have at least made you laugh. We could all use more. As downtown residents, we’re also happy to share the collective joy & draw of free for SOM with other venues across the city, Steven!

  • Jamie K

    So, did you actually watch the broadcast? Because a lot of what you wrote isn’t what actually happened. As a concerned resident of Burlington, I watched the broadcast from start to finish. And frankly, the pictures you’ve lifted aren’t even from yesterday. If anybody cares for a more accurate summary of the events of this meeting, go look at the Mayors twitter. You seem to have some real hate for the sound of music. I for one think they’re doing a great job with the new direction. We should be considered lucky to have this in our own backyard.

  • steven craig Gardner

    Were there two paid days at Sound of Music in 2019? I thought only 1 Saturday June 8. 2018 had two a rock and a country and 2017 had 2 one being a city event for Canada 150 with Walk off the Earth performing.

  • Crawford

    The SOM festival has been around YEARS longer than the performing arts and does more for this city in one week by the amount of people it brings than the BPAC does in one year. I’d rather see that money go towards them and less to a theatre that sits empty half the time.

  • Steve W

    I don’t think additional tax funding should be made available to SOM. 4% is already a bitter pill for people to swallow on fixed incomes. Most people are getting 1-2% increases in pay increases at most now. Then with food and fuel going up 4-6% in the coming months, the middle class in Burlington is doomed. Paying more money for the SOM is out of the question.