By Justine Kraemer, GAC Volunteer

Words can hardly express how COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to individuals and our community as a whole. One sector among many that has been impacted profoundly by the pandemic is the arts. So many elements of the arts rely on public exhibitions and events to generate revenue. So many of these events haven’t been able to be held in person for the last 2+ years. 

One proposed solution is to designate Guelph as a Music City. A Music City is defined by Music Canada as ‘any community that commits to supporting a vibrant music economy’. As the City of Guelph continues to look to solutions to recover economically from COVID-19, this is one potential solution that’s been offered. The designation of Music City is not restricted to municipalities of a certain size, nor existing music infrastructure. There are best practices that are recommended to make the project a success.

Juno-nominated musician and recording artist Miranda Mulholland recently addressed Guelph’s City Council on this topic. At the February 28 meeting, Mulholland spoke about her own experiences with Music Cities in Canada, and why Guelph would be a logical choice to implement this program. Mulholland has deep roots in Guelph. She was a member of the Guelph Youth Singers, played Annie in a local production of the musical, and sang at the groundbreaking of the River Run Centre. 

There are several identified benefits to implementing a Music City strategy. Mulholland discussed the fact that it can be implemented into Guelph’s downtown core revitalization strategy. Other businesses and venues can benefit from an increase in traffic and venues with the implementation of a Music City strategy. Local restaurants, cinemas, hotels, and outdoor recreation facilities and programs could all see patrons of music venues and festivals patronize their facilities.

In her presentation to Guelph’s City Council, Mulholland used the City of London, Ontario, as an example of a successfully integrated Music City. 5 years after implementation, London hosted the Juno Awards. London also received the designation as a UNESCO City of Music in November 2021. Mulholland sees much that Guelph can learn from this example. 

Guelph already has much in place to make the implementation of a Music City strategy a success. Guelph has an existing thriving music scene, with broad community support for music and musicians. Guelph also has a plethora of physical spaces that can be accessed for this purpose, both indoor and outdoor. Local government is generally supportive of music initiatives. Mayor Cam Guthrie is a musician himself, and Councillor James Gordon has made a career as a musician and artist. 

Although the benefits of a Music City designation are clear, there are still challenges to be addressed. An initiative such as pursuing a Music City designation requires investment from all levels of government. A case must be made to ensure that the revenue this project would generate makes it worth the investment. Hopefully, it will be taken into consideration that Guelph’s thriving music scene before the pandemic has the potential to continue expanding as pandemic protective measures continue to lift. 

Pursuing a Music City designation for the City of Guelph may be one tool that can be used to aid in the community’s COVID-19 recovery. Guelph clearly has a solid foundation to build on. In a community that values its support of the arts, particularly music, there is definitely potential here. Hillside Festival and the many musicians hosted at the River Run Centre are two of many examples of how music lives in the very fabric of the community. Ultimately, there is more work to be done, but this is certainly a project worthy of consideration. Do you think Guelph should be a Music City? Let us know or tell your city councillor.

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