Sound of Music volunteers desperate for answers as their organization appears to be melting down.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 27th, 2018



It started out with an email sent on July 18, 2018, at 4:29 PM, from Peter Martin, president of the Sound of Music Festival who said:

Greetings Everyone.
Let me start off by apologizing profusely for the short notice of the cancellation of tonight’s meeting. This decision was made by the board.

Dave Miller is no longer with the festival.. We as a Board wish Dave the best of luck with his future endeavours.

We will provide further information at a later date.

The email stunned many.

Since then the Gazette has heard from many Sound of Music Festival volunteers; copies of emails have been sent to us.

SOM 2012 crew marking for set up

The volunteers – the heart and soul of the Sound of Music Festival. Here two check to see that the right vendor is going to set up in the right space.

There appear to be two camps: a Board of Directors who are failing to comply with their own bylaws and a large number (estimated to be more than 500) of volunteers who are dedicated to the now fired Executive Director.

Those who have provided email messages have asked us to not identify them at this point in time.

The confusion for the people who actually make the Festival happen is evident in this response to the Peter Martin notice of a meeting cancellation:

This is very unprofessional…

There needs to be a wrap up meeting as per our bylaws when will this be happening?

Can we have a meeting to discuss what will happen in transition towards a new executive director?

Where will the job listing be posted?

We have scheduled meetings coming up with all of our suppliers who will be attending them with me?

Shall I cancel until further notice?

The inventory organization and storage move happening next Wednesday.

Have the vehicles been organized and what time will they be picked up?

I have my committee showing up at 6pm to start organizing who will be there to talk to the sponsors and arrange for the locations to be unlocked?

I would also like to inform you that xxx – redacted, will no longer be continuing with the festival, several members of logistics have heard that Dave has left and have made the choice to leave due to uncertainty of how this change will negatively impact the festival they feel that having a new executive director and operations manager will be too stressful and add a lot of work to their plate.

I am holding a xxxxx meeting this Friday to try and talk to people – is there more information I can pass on about the current situation?

Awaiting your response feedback / comments.

Another volunteer joined the email thread and asked:

Crews putting in stakes

Festival set up crews setting up tents.

The funny thing here I have ask myself, who is the BOARD? Is it strange that you are part of an organisation and you don’t even know who the BOARD is – the BOARD!

This feels like a stranger have just walked into your home and separated your family.

I agree we deserve answers. Also where can we read the constitution by which the BOARD operates, is there a constitution; who puts the BOARD in place?

What structure is this organisation following and how is the processes of the BOARD vetted? At the end of the day WHAT IS THE GOAL.

Burlington just might be witnessing the melt down of an organization that has put the city on the map and drawn thousands of visitors to the downtown core.

Volunteers have explained to the Gazette that there are reports that have to be made to granting organizations and sponsors in order to ensure that the Festival can take place in 2019.

Streaming in Friday night

They stream into Spencer Smith Park in the thousands to take in a free concert.

At this point the President, Peter Martin and another Board member have installed themselves as the co-executive directors until a new Executive Director can be put in place.

The Gazette has reached out to the President and the Festival Corporate Secretary for comment and answers to a number of questions.  We have not heard from either person.

Many of the volunteers fear that the Board is going to choose someone with little or no experience with the Burlington Sound of Music.

It is not too late to save this incredible organization – but they are running out of time.

Dave Miller is taking a much needed break from this mess – he is reported to be taking a vacation that will see him unavailable until about the middle of August.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 comments to Sound of Music volunteers desperate for answers as their organization appears to be melting down.

  • Pepper – I sincerely think you should stop writing these articles until you have more concrete information on what is happening. It’s all conjecture and unsubstantiated right now. You keep repeating yourself. You aren’t helping the cause by writing these articles.

  • Brian Ellis

    Well, Beth, I imagine that one could argue that your words might better apply to the actions of the board with respect to the sudden firing of Dave Miller! As a Past President of the S of M Board of Directors during the early years as a ‘not for profit’ organization, I would argue that the board has an obligation to its stakeholders to be as open and transparent as possible. The volunteers, committee chairs, corporate donors and the citizens of Burlington in this case replace the shareholders of a normal ‘for profit’ company. It appears that the initial decision of the board (along with their subsequent failure to explain their actions) has the volunteers voting with their feet. It is the seeming unwillingness of the board to “deal with this internally” that has turned this into a full blown crisis. Pulling the rug over the mess as you seem to be suggesting will do nothing to resolve the situation.

    • Beth

      Actually, Brian, I have also worked closely with Dave for years, and he is a good friend of mine. I do not agree with the board’s decision in any way, and especially don’t agree with the way they’ve been handling the whole situation. I am one of the Chairs who resigned in protest of Dave’s termination, and am certainly not reconsidering my decision, nor are any of my past volunteer colleagues, as Pepper stated in another article.
      I stand by my words. I think this needs to be handled internally, despite there being many “stakeholders” (literally anyone could be considered a stakeholder of a not for profit) . The board doesn’t owe a public statement, and no one else needs to read emails that have been sent between us, inside the organization. However, I believe they do owe answers to the volunteers that give up so much of their valuable time to put the festival together. I am certainly not suggesting anything get swept under a rug. Quite the opposite, in fact…I believe change needs to happen to save the festival. But it doesn’t need to be in the public eye at this point in time.

  • Beth

    Whoever is sending these email chains needs to take a serious look at themselves and think about the repercussions this could have. Is ousting the board really important enough to destroy the festival in the process? Suppliers and sponsors will go running for the hills, and how is anyone going to trust you? I urge you to keep your dirty laundry to yourself and deal with this internally.