It’s All Happening: Lessons learned from Volunteering

Canadian Music Week 2010

By now1, I would be neck deep into my fifth year as a Stage Manager for Canadian Music Week – that is, if they hadn’t moved the festival to a warmer time of year2. As I yearn for the late nights, live music, and the perfect outlet for my need to organize-the-shit-out-of-everything I thought I’d list a few lessons I’ve learned about volunteering for festivals such as Canadian Music Week and North by North East.

CMW logo

NXNE2014-logo

The simple things
Becoming a volunteer is pretty easy. For both Canadian Music Week and North by North East, you can simply apply on their respective websites. There are a lot of different positions, and you can choose from volunteering for the conference or the festival but I’ve always been partial to volunteering for the festival. I feel like I get the most out of it because the main perk I’m seeking is to be able to enjoy some live music – full stop. I’ve had a lot of people question this, and I don’t know what to say other than sometimes I’m just that simple: all I want are the feels that good music brings.

Lesson 1: Pay attention?
There is going to be a lot of information thrown at you and all of it is going to be important. Some of it is only going to be important to keep at the top of your mind, and not for every day use but you should still know it. You should also pay attention to the subtle ways that the volunteer coordinator and their team like to do things; even if it’s not the way you usually like to do things – making them feel at ease about your competency to do the job will go a long way. And I don’t mean that you have to read their minds; it’s okay to ask questions – but be careful that you’re not asking questions that have already been covered in the material they gave you. So: pay attention ๐Ÿ˜‰ and do your reading.

[As a stage manager or assistant stage manager] You also need to pay attention to the bands you’re dealing with, because the way they do things will vary as much as Toronto’s weather does. Some bands will prefer to do things via email and will have their own system for playing festivals down to a science, others may still need you to hold their hand3. The ability to pay attention to, and adhere to the subtle cues that people give you4, has been one of my favourite lessons learned from volunteering for these festivals. No matter what role you end up working, it’ll be good to pay attention to a lot of subtleties that will be everywhere.

Lesson 2: Things will go wrong
This is one that can be applied to life, but5 it’s so important to remember when working a music festival. With so many moving parts, it’s only a matter of time before something slips and/or falls into the cracks because life is beautifully imperfect like that. The most important thing I’ve taken away from this lesson is that the people who are in charge, whether that’s the volunteer coordinator or the festival coordinator or the programming coordinator, have given you guidelines for doing your job for a reason. You can deviate from their guidelines so long as the main objective is achieved, but if you miss the point and something horrible goes wrong – no one is going to be happy.

I’ve been pretty lucky, I haven’t had anything majorly bad happen while I was working as a stage manager6. I can only hope that with more experience, I can continue to avoid major catastrophes.

Lesson 3: Open your mind to new experiences
I usually ask to work every day of the festival, and even though I’ve been volunteering for so long I’m sure I could ask to work less so that I can take advantage of the free festival pass that I get and see some big name bands with my friends. I highly doubt I will be doing that though. You see, it’s just that I think it’s best to discover new music; listen to something you wouldn’t normally listen to when you go to a festival. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what these festivals were created for in the first place.

…which brings me to Lesson 4: Know your venue, and how to get there
When I volunteer, I don’t make requests about bands, nor venues to work with – to an extent. I do request to work venues that are closer to either my place of work or home so that I’m not too stressed trying to get to the venue on time. Stage Manager & Assistant Stage Manager shifts start as early as 5pm for some venues7, and if I have to trek across the city – I may not make it8. ย With NXNE, it’s pretty easy – I just hop on my bike and I know exactly how long it’s going to take me to get there.

Anywho, that’s all I have for now. I’m sure there are a few more lessons I’ve learned, and I’ll be sure to add them to another post when they come to me. If there’s anything you want to ask me about, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. You can also send me questions via the contact form on my Author page.

Happy volunteering!

Footnotes:
  1. and by now, I mean two weeks ago, but my blog-host decided to be a cunt so this post is a little late. you can thank them.[]
  2. or so we hope[]
  3. for example, bands who are not from Canada[]
  4. whether they are aware of it or not[]
  5. we are not talking about life right now[]
  6. actually, I do have a story but it is not my story to tell so I will have to save it for a face to face conversation; i.e. ask me next time you see me[]
  7. depending on what time doors open[]
  8. On the TTC? It is more likely that I will not[]

Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, 2013!

Well, I guess that’s it. Isn’t it? This year is finally behind us. I’ve never looked forward for a year to end so much as I have this year. This year was the worst year out of all the years of life. And yet a lot of wonderful things happened1; I guess it just goes to show that there is always good that will come out of a bad situation. I just wish there had been more good this year than bad.

The things I wish to never forget about 2013:

1. That time I was in the pilot episode of a reality TV show called, Come Date With Me on the W Network.

Still from Come Date With Me Canada

2. Being auctioned off at Love a Heart2. Photo credit: Chris Luckhardt.

Facebook Events | Love a Heart

3. Stage Managing for Canadian Music Week and meeting #LeBeau, Garret3.

Canadian Music Week Stage Manager

4. Stage Managing for North By North East and meeting Sloan. Sorry no pictures.
5. Getting a brand new family member, Drogo.

Drogo Sy!

6. Having a custom vine made just for me by Cyrstal Light Canada.

Facebook | Crystal Light Canada | Weird & Wonderful You

7. Assistant Stage Managing for Pride and getting to meet and work with En Vogue.

En Vogue at Pride 2013

8. Going to Cunt Cottage and having an amazing weekend away from the city.

http://fragileheart.com/wp-content/uploads/cunt-cottage.jpg

9. Working for TIFF and getting to see some stars up-close-and-personal-like. No pictures, because I want to be able to work there again in 2014.
10. Going on a boat cruise with Shannon & the gang courtesy of Crazy Uncle. No pictures because I have no idea what I did with the pictures from that cruise. Oops.
11. Volunteering for TEDxToronto4.

TEDxToronto 2013

12. Being in a feature film that won an award at TOIndieFF2013, was part of the official selection at DIFF2013 and reviewed here.

Unhappy Happy Still
13. Working on the 48 hour film project where our team won Best Ensemble Cast.

Hashtag Bougie Productions

13. Meeting and falling in love with #LeBeau’s two daughters5. No pictures, of course. They’re too wittle.
14. Celebrating Christmas with our families and getting 2nd Christmas with the girls. Also no pictures, because I’m a spoil sport like that.
15. Being able to celeberate my birthday & the holidays with some really awesome friends. Again; no pictures, because we didn’t take a group photo and there are too many great ones to choose from.
16. Getting to keep in touch with my wifey, Christine Estima even though she’s a gazillion miles away.

Skyping with the Wifey

Last but not least…
17. Getting to do this fun photoshoot for Ford Canada with the ever-sexy, Ford Fiesta, Marie & Brock.

Date Night with the Ford Fiesta

Shopping fun with Marie & the Ford Fiesta

I’m not at all interested in re-living the past that was this horrible year, so I won’t go into any details about it. I would rather look forward with hope and excitement for what 2014 might have to bring. I can only hope that it’ll be a good year because if my own personal history has taught me anything 2015 is set to be another doozy. You see, there’s something about years that end in zeros and fives – they don’t like me very much. I had a terrible 1995, I can’t say 2000 was any better, 2005 was horrible, 2010 was another nightmare year… mind you, they were all bad for heartbreak but not much else.

Anyway, that’s a whole 365 days away. For now, here’s hoping that in 2014, I…:

  • …no longer have to worry about how I’m going to pay for groceries or laundry.
  • …can actually afford to meet up with friends at least once a week.
  • …find the energy to get off my ass and start exercising again.
  • …will visit my parents and cook for them more often.
  • …will stop worrying about things that I really have no control over.
  • …can reconnect with some old friends who I miss but have drifted away from, for no good reason. And stay connected.
  • …get to go camping twice – once with the family, and once with the man and/or friends.
  • …get to visit somewhere I have never been.
  • …write more for this blog.
  • …learn how to make a Filipino dish I have never made before, but love to eat.

And that’s about it. I had a longer list but I’ve cut it down some in an attempt to be a little more realistic with my resolutions. I didn’t make any resolutions for 2013 because at this age, I’m kind of over them. Since 2013 was such a bad year though, I needed some things to look forward to. And these are some of the more important things I’m looking forward to for this New Year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

Footnotes:
  1. I met Garret this year after all[]
  2. an annual favourite[]
  3. Nope. Not his real name[]
  4. another annual favourite[]
  5. and finally having children in my life. wee![]

It’s all Happening, Part 2: NXNE 2013

[update: This will be the hardest year but it could also be the most glorious. More on that soon.]

I remember when I applied to be a volunteer for North By North East in 2011. I wasn’t sure I was going to be accepted. I had successfully managed the stage at two Canadian Music Festival venues in a row at that point and I was feeling pretty confident but I somehow had the impression that it would be harder to get in. It wasn’t.

NXNE2013

My first year, I was assigned to manage the stage at what is now known as The Sister1. It went pretty smoothly. I was still living in the Humewood/Cedarvale area and cycling everywhere. I was in heaven. Last year, I got to manage the Ballroom stage at the Gladstone Hotel. There was something special about the experience that I’m not sure will ever be duplicated.

There was something about the programming, the people I got to work with, the people who came to visit me, the people I didn’t get to see because they fell ill and missed the entire festival… it all worked together somehow. I’m so very excited for this summer as I’m sure it’s going to be just as magical. The Great Hall is one of my favourite venues, and I have no doubt that I’m going to feel right at home.

My memories of NXNE started long before I became a Stage Manager for the festival. I went to my first ever show at the Horseshoe Tavern to meet the quirky and talented Steve Poltz. I went to see him in 1998, then I went back a year later to ask him to sign the photo of us from the previous year. We also hung out and had some laughs in the green room. He’s a doll and we still hang out from time to time when he’s in town. Anywho. I’ll just leave this here so you can see the line-up at The Great Hall this year.

What will you be seeing at NXNE this year?

NXNE 2013 lineup

All photos used in the above collage belong to the bands and their management. Collage credit belongs to me and my photoshop skillz. Sources:

bengunning.com
delbelmusic.com
sloanmusic.com
brazosbrazos.com
coeurdepirate.com
inflightsafety.com
olenkalovers.com
ourfounders.com
armyoftoys.com
mikeoneillmusic.com
superfriendz.bandcamp.com
wearevillagers.com

Footnotes:
  1. I guess they lost Mitzi[]

Here we go again, Hard as I try I know I can’t quit

[Lyrics borrowed from Demi Lovato for the blog post title]

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My life is about to explode with some awesome Indie Rock music((most of the bands . It’s going to open it’s sweaty freakin’ arms and envelope me with its foot tapping, head bopping, awkward-shoulder shaking goodness for the next four days. Every year when I get my list of bands, I make it a point to sit down and visit every band page and listen to whatever it is I can listen to online.

I guess you could say I take my role as a Stage Manager pretty seriously; and I think that knowing who you’re working with is an extremely important part of it. It’s easier to work with someone when you understand something about them, even if you don’t necessarily understand them completely. What better way to understand someone than by finding some sort of common ground through music that they’ve put a lot of hard work into? I think so too ๐Ÿ˜‰

I don’t quite know what today actually has in store for me1 but I’m sure I’ll be able to steal away some moments to tweet a few things that may or may not be telling.

What does Canadian Music Week have in store for you?

Footnotes:
  1. because can never quite predict exactly what is going to happen in this world[]