Trouble in paradise: Sound of Music board of directors are being challenged to change their ways.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

July 24th, 2018



The Sound of Music is part of the heart of Burlington.

There are some who are uncomfortable with the noise. The SoM works hard to respect the time frames within which they have agreed to operate.

During the weekend they operate the city closes down Brant Street that is then flooded with people enjoying the city at its best.

But there is trouble in paradise.

The Sound of Music Board appears to be politically corrupt.

Dave-Miller SoM

Dave Miller, former Executive Director of the Sound of Music.

The Gazette was made aware that Executive Director Dave Miller was summarily fired last week.

Shortly after that the Gazette began to hear from the hundreds of volunteers that make the festival the event that it is.

Many were prepared to talk but not on the record.

The Gazette reached out to the President and the Sound of Music Corporate Secretary and asked some questions. There was no response.

We asked Peter Martin, President the following questions:

Would you provide a statement on the organizational status of the Sound of Music.
Is there a replacement for Dave Miller in place?
Who will do the work that Miller has been doing?
Who will conduct the post festival interviews with the 21 committee chairs?
When will you be available for an interview?

We asked Corporate Secretary Rich Anderson the following questions:

Would you confirm that the Sound of Music Festival is incorporated as a non-profit in Ontario.
Would you set out how the by laws define the membership of the organization.
Would you describe the process that puts directors into office each year, that is who actually elects the directors and what are the requirements to serve as a director.
Would you provide me with the date of the last AGM

The Gazette has not had an answer from Martin or Anderson.

What we did get was a letter Tara Hambly, a chair of one of the 21 SoM committees and a former SoM vice president.. It is the volunteer committees that make the Festival the success it is.

The letter, written in September of 2016, was her resignation from the SoM. In a conversation Hambly said: “I am willing to go on record with how it changed back when I was on the board and the VP of the festival.

“I have been in contact with many who just resigned and forwarded my resignation letter from 2 years I have been involved in this Festival for numerous years now and have thoroughly enjoyed my time, however after the events of this past Wednesday I feel as though I am no longer able to continue in my role on the Board.

Sound of music - from stage

When the music is right – Spender Smith park is filled. The music hasn’t been as right as many thought it should be the past few years.

“As a Board member you sometimes you do not agree with the results of a motion, however, regardless of the outcome you as a Board member have to support the direction of the Board. I feel I am no longer able to support the decisions that the Board makes and therefore am resigning.

“When I chose to resign it was my decision and therefore, how I resign will also be my decision, not on the pre-written statement provided to me.

“Over the past year there have been specific decision that I am not proud of and feel need to be changed. My regret is that I have not always spoken up on some issues and for others I may have not spoken loud enough.

1. “The Executive Director should, by virtue of their role, be a member of the Board and be a part of all meetings to be able to offer expertise and opinions on any motion. They should not be a voting member, however, they should be there always, in a non-voting capacity. How can you have someone run the day to day dealings of a Festival and ignore their opinion? It is not right. If there are motions that deal with the contract or concerns of the executive director, at that point they can be asked to leave, but not having them there for the rest is detrimental to the organization. Withholding agendas and topics of discussion from the executive director do not allow for the input needed going forward.

Spoons - female lead

The Spoons on the Sound of Music stage – it doesn’t get better than that.

2. “AGM should be open to ALL. Having an AGM with only 10 directors present who are only concerned with re-electing themselves is not in the best interest of the organization. AGM’s use to be open to the public and notice was put in the paper so anyone could attend. SOM is funded with money from the city, government grants and sponsors. It is run by volunteers. All stakeholders should be able to have a say in who the Board is and who the Executive is. At the very least, the meeting should be open even if not everyone has a vote. Why make it so secretive? People have put their names in to join the Board to be brought to AGM and are then asked to wait outside. Why are they denied the opportunity to speak about their intent to joint the Board? The Board has given itself full power to make changes and decide who they want to join. Unfortunately, with this power comes personal agendas and vindictiveness. People are holding on to grudges from the past and awaiting opportunity to act on them.

3. “Transparency between the Board and Operating committee. Everything is done secretively in Board meetings. The Board has spoken up about concerns with transparency between the executive and the board thinking the executive is hiding information. The Board demands transparency however, refuses to be transparent with the chairs and vice chairs, volunteers who bring so much insight and expertise to the organization. Chairs and Vices have just as much right as the Board to offer opinions and to know everything that is going on. These volunteers devote hundreds, if not thousands, of hours every year to put on the Festival. With so much time devoted they have a right to know what is going on and to have a say.

Listening best babe

They come to listen – and listen they do.

4. “The make-up of the Board. If you are going to have a working Board it should go back to how it was with all Chairs being on the Board. Having some on and others not creates division within the organization. If you do not want a working Board then you have a Board run by completely outside individuals. But if it is a working Board, it should go back to how it was with all Chairs on the Boards and all chairs able to have a say in matters. Walking into operations meetings last year I could feel the tension in the room when the Board entered, especially when we entered late. First of all, I personally apologize for the lateness at times. My time is no more valuable than anyone else’s. Making people wait while a Board meeting is conducted is disrespectful. The Board should have either conducted meetings on separate nights or recessed to join operations at the designated time. Unfortunately, there are Board members who would leave after Board meetings. As a working board you should be aware of the operations of the festival and if not for that reason, attend out of respect to the volunteers giving up their time to follow through on Board motions. If it is to remain a working board, it needs to be a working board, and board members need to work with the volunteers to ensure the success of the festival.

5. “The division in the organization. There is a clear division among the board and operations. In speaking to chairs and vice chairs I personally feel that many do not feel appreciated for their contributions to the festival. Many have asked how you get on the Board and have come to realize that it is much harder than it should be. Anyone should have the opportunity to put in their name and be considered. There is a clear division between the groups as it is not transparent on how one can have a fair chance to get onto the board.

Two woman in chairs

The weekend event is a family affair.

6. “Conflicts of Interest. If you are financially gaining from your role in the Festival, or as a result of something you did while in your role at the Festival it should be openly disclosed to all so it can be decided if there is a conflict of interest or not. Many volunteers bring expertise to their committees from their work experiences, however, if their Festival involvement results in personal financial gain or employment opportunities, everyone should be made aware of the situation to decide if it is a conflict or not.

“I have enjoyed all my time with the Festival and it was very difficult to come to the decision to walk away from it, however, I know that right now being on the Board would be putting myself into an environment I do not want to be in. There are just too many decisions that I do not support.

“Last week someone told me everyone was replaceable. I agree we all are replaceable, but at what cost? People can be replaced however things will never be the same when they are and it’s not always for the better.

Rapt attention crowd

Still some room for those with a blanket – crowds are fully engaged when the music is right.

“I hope that things will change for the better and Sound of Music will once again find the greatness it had and a much warmer, welcoming environment to all, and equal say for all. Transparency to all stake holders is key to achieving this.

“All the best to each and every one of you I hope our paths cross in the future, it has been a pleasure.

“Please consider this my formal resignation, effective immediately.
Tara Hambly

The SoM is a $2 million operation that raises about $440,000 in sponsorship money.

That red light was a sign - Sound of Music didn't get the $37,000 they felt they needed as fall back money if the weather turned on them and events had to be cancelled. Note that the pier in this 2011 picture isn't visible because there was nothing to see. The city plans on offocially opening the pier during the Sound of Music festival this summer. SOM should charge the city a fee for horming in on theior event.

The many sponsors that make the Festival possible are all listed. Note that the pier in this 2011 picture isn’t visible because there was nothing to see.

The city of Burlington funds the organization.

The province of Ontario funds the organization.

The TD Bank is a major sponsor

Tim Hortons is a major sponsor.

The list goes on.

The Burlington Downtown Business Association is one of the sponsors.  In a conversation with Brian Dean, Executive Director of the BDBA he said that if there is an issue with the way the SoM Board is operating I will want to take that to my Board and ask for input from them on what the BDBA position with the SoM should be going forward.

One can expect all the sponsors to take a second look at just what it is they are sponsoring.


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4 comments to Trouble in paradise: Sound of Music board of directors are being challenged to change their ways.

  • Laura

    I volunteered for the first time this year doing many shifts with plans to become more highly involved next year and years to come. But the reason for that decision was primarily due to the fantastic chairs and members of the committee I worked with. I hope the Board recognizes the value of these repeat volunteers who bring experience and a huge amount of dedication to the festival.

  • Annette

    Wow! Kudos to the volunteers for putting up with this and still doing an incredible job, year after year. Sounds like the whole board is rotten and should go.

  • Chris Maynard

    SOM is an important part of our city and needs to be protected. Having volunteered through a local Scout Group I can offer my opinion that politics and favoritism seem to be more important to some involved in organizing. Volunteers or not, there needs to be more review on the activities and standards used at SOM.

  • Nicole

    Sounds like they should have dealt with their issues instead of sweeping them under the rug. I have a feeling more dirty laundry is to be aired out… Three articles in three days. They are leaving themselves wide open to legal action by the sounds of it… maybe the people involved should step down…