Antigonish Music on Main
Sharing the Spotlight at Music on Main
Anyone who has ever felt the energy of a concert crowd knows that music has the power to bring people together. Sometimes, it’s all about the little things: getting together with friends, putting the day’s stresses aside, and taking the opportunity to relax, listen, and have a good time. But music’s impact can be much bigger. It can open our hearts, our eyes, and our minds. Music even has the power to strengthen our connections to each other and our communities, making us want to give back. For the past three years, the Music on Main concert series in Antigonish has been doing just that.
Each summer, Music on Main features some of the finest musicians on the East Coast, performing in a series of free outdoor concerts at Antigonish’s Columbus Field and drawing people from near and far. Garrett Juurlink, Music on Main’s Chairman, says that putting on top-notch concerts people can enjoy free of charge is good for both the community and Nova Scotia’s music scene. “You can’t be any more accessible than a free concert,” he points out with a chuckle, adding that the shows have a really positive and laidback vibe. “It’s easy to forget about everything else, and just enjoy the show. You don’t have to worry about how much it cost to get there.”
Music on Main helps expose audiences to both well-known and up-and-coming performers that many might not get a chance to experience otherwise. “The talent we bring in are primarily East Coast people,” Juurlink explains, noting established artists like Bruce Guthro, Matt Anderson, Ron Hynes, Sons of Maxwell, Jill Barber, and Coco Love Alcorn. “But we also audition for opening acts, and we open that up to anybody who wants come and audition for us,” he says. This year, four young performers were picked to open the shows. Juurlink says, “That gives them an opportunity to come up and be onstage in front of a few thousand people, gaining exposure and experience.”
In order to cover some of the costs of putting on the free concert series, Music on Main has had to be creative in its fundraising. In addition to support from their sponsors, Music on Main raises money by selling tickets to the popular Songwriters’ Circle series. The Songwriters’ Circle, held four times a year, brings together a small group of singer/songwriters who perform their songs, and talk about how the songs came to be and what the lyrics mean to them personally. “People love it because it’s much more intimate with the performers,” Juurlink says. “It gives people a better appreciation for where the songs come from, and what the musicians were thinking when they wrote them.”
While the Songwriters’ Circle performances are far more intimate than most concerts, this year, Music on Main introduced another fundraising endeavour that was even more personal. They sold tickets at various venues for the “Win Matt Anderson” lottery, which entitled the winner to have their very own private Matt Anderson concert. It was an initiative that proved very successful, and really grabbed the interest of the community. “The person who won is going to have him over for her birthday party,” Juurlink says. “There’s lots of buzz around town about that one.”
Music on Main’s success is largely due to the combination of the dedicated organizing committee, the participation of extraordinarily talented performers, and the support of the people who appreciate what Music on Main represents. Juurlink says, “We strive to have community involvement, and really promote music locally.” But Music on Main’s commitment to community involvement doesn’t end there. “We take it upon ourselves to try and give back,” he says. And that is exactly what they do. People planning on attending the free concerts are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to the show. This summer, Music on Main raised over 1,000 pounds of food and $2,000 for the food bank. “From the food bank’s perspective, to get that kind of food and cash in July is exceptional, because it’s generally a slow time,” Juurlink says. “Nobody really thinks of it that time of year, but the need is still there.” This effort is another shining example of how Music on Main is making a positive contribution to the area.
Nova Scotia has a reputation for producing amazing musicians and performers, and Music on Main is focused on sharing that talent with local residents and visitors alike. Our thriving music scene spans many genres, and events like the Music on Main concert series help to promote and showcase the talent right here at home. Juurlink believes that one reason we’re such a hotbed of talent is that the music scene in Nova Scotia is very open and supportive. He has observed that, “Everybody is so willing to share and listen, and tries to help you be better.” Juurlink also points out that Nova Scotians have a knack for enjoying ourselves. “I always have the kitchen party picture in my head, where people sit around and have fun doing it.”
Juurlink notices this ability to balance working and playing in just about every facet of Music on Main, from the people who plan, promote, and put on the shows to the appreciative crowds and the community that supports their efforts. “We work hard, but at the same time we can turn around and kick back pretty easily,” he says. And there’s no better way to kick back after a day’s work than getting together with friends to watch some of our most brilliant musicians play right here in Nova Scotia.
Feature story written by Amy Spurway