Female musician (left) in red hat play a modified washboard, Male musician plays guitar in brown hat on curbside

Spotlight: Bringing The Concert To The Streets

December 17, 2020

Welcome to the third in a series of profiles on the winners of this year’s Spotlight Recognition Program. This week, we’re looking at the winner of the Creative Solutioneering Award, who thought outside the box to pull off a successful event.

This year’s winner brought a series of curbside concerts, featuring The Vaudevillian, to the streets of Milton, conducting safe & socially-distanced jam sessions to bring music to the city.

Ontario Culture Days’ Kevin Valbonesi spoke with Rick Imus about how his team and Arts Milton worked together to ensure that the show would go on.

Q – I see that Rick Imus Music Studio recently celebrated 20 years. I’d love to know about how it started out.

Rick – The leap of faith moment was getting our own space in Milton and working with a great team of teachers. This town is moving the needle, and that took away any temptation to look elsewhere like Toronto, London, Montreal.

Q – For the Ontario Culture Days festival, I’m curious to know why you took the approach you did. It would have been much easier to livestream a concert or pre-record the show.

Rick – There’s still something special about having a performer right in front of you. There’s no intermediary, no substitute. It’s also timeless. For as long as culture has been around, there’s been music and dance, and it’s just so natural to play under the stars, at a safe distance, and do something in the moment. Putting those three concerts together was really worth the effort. 

I also want to share the love and disperse the praise. Arts Milton is a really well-run organization, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

Q – How do you feel people reacted to having these sort of socially-distanced, “pop-up” concerts around Milton? What was that experience like?

Rick: We were amazed to hear people saying the feeling in the air was like the end of World War 2. In those small slivers of moments, you just feel like “yeah, this is right.”

Q – Are these kinds of concerts a good solution going forward? Things aren’t going to go back to normal right away, traditional concerts included.

Is there a future for pop-up concerts? Probably, in the sense that they are a bit of work, and you have to mind your P’s and Q’s, but hey, we’re fighting for culture in our value system, and it’s worth it to have these as an option.

Q – A lot has changed to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. How do you see things changing for the music industry, particularly in Ontario?

I think what you’re going to see is smaller crowds for events, but don’t take it the wrong way, everyone has a camera, so more people are enjoying the show than are actually there. People will do stuff in cool environments with fewer numbers but it’s going to be captured and distributed far and wide.

We’re looking forward to doing more stuff digitally. We recently played the Korean national anthem virtually for a baseball game, right from where I’m talking to you now, to a crowd in Auckland.