Music on Main forges community and elevates artists through inclusive programming that lets audiences listen, together

Dec 12, 2022 | Funding Recipient, Music + Sound Recording

Since first taking flight in 2006, Music on Main has been connecting audiences, elevating artists, and shining a light on the global post-classical scene for Vancouver audiences. Dedicated to creating unique opportunities for audiences from all walks of life to take in great music, forget the stresses of the day, and tap into a true sense of community by ‘listening, together’, Music on Main’s programming continues to evolve in tandem with Vancouver as a city. As a pioneer for the increasingly-mainstream indie-classical movement, Music on Main has always been all about connecting meaningfully with audiences interested in discovering something new and beautiful – without the traditional pressures and expectations of the concert hall.

Vancouver’s own Microcosmos Quartet appears at Mount Pleasant Park in 2021.

Over the past year, in an effort to support artists impacted by the pandemic while also creating opportunities for audiences to experience live music safely, Music on Main has expanded its programming to Mount Pleasant Park, where the second year of a now-annual Summer Pop-Up Concert Series engaged an appreciative audience of over 3,000. Thanks to support from Amplify BC’s Live Music program, these concerts have been offered to audiences at no cost.

The format for the series is simple: show up after work (~6 pm), bring a blanket and snacks, get to know your neighbors, and take in an hour of great music. The atmosphere is lively and friendly, and the energy is expectant: you never quite know what you’ll hear! Offerings have included music for flute and guitar, the famous ‘Goldberg Variations’ by J.S. Bach, and minimalist masterworks like ‘In C’ from still-living composers like Terry Riley. This past Summer, Music on Main presented seven such events to diverse audiences. This now-annualized programming has contributed meaningfully to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood’s already-robust cultural life. It has also created continued opportunities for visibility and exposure for a wide array of artists continuing to reconstruct their careers in the wake of the pandemic’s public health restrictions.

Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa performs at a recent Music for the Winter Solstice concert.

Launched on Vancouver’s Main Street, alongside now-closed venues like the historic Cellar Jazz Club, Music on Main’s annual programming now animates a variety of Metro Vancouver venues, including The Fox Cabaret, the ANNEX, Heritage Hall, Christ Church Cathedral, and the Roundhouse. Music on Main also reaches a broad swath of audiences online – over 100,000 annually – via its Digital Storytelling Program: a means of building community and creating high-quality video content for audiences coast to coast to coast. The organization also engages youth via its annual Kessler Academy string orchestra mentorship program for promising Vancouver-based musicians, named for the late Vancouver-based music philanthropist who left this program as one of her many legacies after passing in 2021 at the age of 105.

Dailin Hsieh performs (as part of with the B.C. Chinese Music Ensemble) at Mount Pleasant Park in 2022. 

Beyond these efforts, Music on Main has also been able to bring a broad array of sounds and stories from around the world to Vancouver year-round, often showcased through their annual Modulus Festival of new music. The 2022 Festival featured the return of Nancy Tam and Robyn Jacob‘s Double Happiness: Detour This Way, a collection of personal stories of migration from the Chinese diaspora with a unique art-pop and music theatre aesthetic. The work had originally been programmed as part of Music on Main’s 2019/20 season, but was postponed in tandem with public health restrictions in the Spring of that year.

“A Percussionist’s Songbook” promotional art.

Looking towards Music on Main’s next few productions, audiences proved eager for the company’s annual Music for the Winter Solstice seasonal concerts, which animated Heritage Hall with meditative warmth and melody over two nights on December 14 and 15, 2022.  In the New Year, Music on Main will join forces with the PuSh Festival to host Joby Burgess’s performance of “A Percussionist’s Songbook”, presented on January 25 and 26, 2023 at the ANNEX.

You can learn more about Music on Main below.

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Photos courtesy of Music on Main and Jan Gates.

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