For the 10 or 12 remaining people on the face of the planet who haven’t yet heard the news, this past May 16 The WholeNote received the Toronto Arts Foundation biennial Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition for our “role in promoting current music, emerging artists, and for being vital to the entire music community.”
We were one of three finalists in our category. Musicworks magazine and Mitchell Marcus of the Musical Stage Company (formerly known as Acting Up) were the others.
Our category was one of five. The Arts for Youth Award went to RISE Edutainment – a youth-led grassroots performance arts and storytelling movement “in recognition of its role in creating a healthy and inspiring space for youth, and for challenging systemic barriers through innovative partnerships.”
The Celebration of Cultural Life Award went to Ruth Howard – founding artistic director of Jumblies Theatre “in recognition of the impact, sustainability and legacy of her community-engaged arts practice.”
The Emerging Artist Award went to Jivesh Parasram – multidisciplinary artist, researcher and facilitator “in recognition of his ability to create excellent work that is honest, diverse and collaborative.
And the Toronto Arts and Business Award was shared this year by Active Green + Ross – Complete Tire and Auto Centre “in recognition of its first-time contribution to the arts through its sponsorship of the HopeWorks Connection, covering transportation costs for performers and offering discounted and VIP services,” and to RBC “in recognition of its sustained contributions to the arts through its Emerging Artist Program, making RBC a vital contributor to the arts ecosystem.”
The awards were announced and presented at the 13th Annual Mayor’s Arts Lunch (this year held at the King Edward Hotel) and actually attended by Mayor John Tory (not something one could count on with his predecessor!), along with a broad cross section of arts and business leaders, elected politicians and a hearteningly strong representation from the arts community itself.
All finalists were instructed to prepare acceptance speeches around two minutes in length (300 words maximum), and I am pleased to say that, as befits my inky stained status in life, I complied to within a dozen words of the letter of the instruction.
I’m equally pleased to say that the majority of the other recipients blithely ignored the stated limitations, leading to some of the event’s most heartfelt, inspirational, moving, hope-filled and, yes, constructively political moments.
(I also found myself wishing I had a chance to see what the other finalists wrote down. I would wager there was no set of words among them that would have been less inspiring than the ones we heard.)
In my two minutes and 15 seconds and 314 words, this is what I said:
I want to acknowledge, by name, Allan Pulker, co-founder of The WholeNote (or Pulse as it was originally known) 23 years ago. His unshakeable belief in the richness and variety of Toronto’s grass-roots music scene is the reason The WholeNote exists. I also want to thank Sharna Searle who nominated us for this award. It took her three years to persuade us, mind you. We are more comfortable telling stories than being in them.
I can’t name everyone else – our eight-member core team; 30 to 40 writers every issue; a five-member listings team who come up with 400 to 500 live performance listings each month; the 20 to 25-person distribution team regularly carrying 30,000 free copies per issue to 800+ locations where a deeply loyal readership snatches them up.
To the finalists and other artists in this room, flag-bearers for countless others for whom the arts are necessary to feel fully alive, thank you for being passionate contributors to all our city’s villages – street by street, block by block. Thank you for giving us something to write about. And to the Toronto Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Foundation, the knowledge that you share our belief in a grass-roots music city makes this award very special.
Make no mistake, though: the grassroots music city is at risk. Housing/land cost is displacing artists, along with the rest of the working poor, from our overheated downtown; small-scale live performance venues are disappearing one by one. Outside the downtown, the nurturing of block-by-block cultural life across our metropolis is a mighty challenge – painfully slow because it is a process of planting not paving.
It’s astonishing, thinking back, that the breakthrough technology that helped launch this magazine was … the fax machine! Now we must all adjust, almost daily, to the ongoing challenge of dizzying change with all its dangers and opportunities. What a story it promises to be.”
Two weeks on, there’s not much I would want to add to those words, except this: the bit about a “deeply loyal readership” means you. Without your use of what we harvest, there would be no point to our labours.
May your summer be filled with the music you find in these pages! And may much of it be live! We’ll see you on the other side.