History of Muskoka Lakes Music Festival

1996: Incorporation

Muskoka Lakes Music Festival was incorporated on December 19, 1996 and subsequently received charitable status. It grew out of the Algonquin International Music Institute Summer Camp in Muskoka. Its original mandate was to organize and conduct an annual summer music festival for the Muskoka lakes region (comprising all of the District of Muskoka), hence the name of the organization. Since then, the scope of MLMF’s activities has broadened to include year-round multi-disciplinary arts programming as well as year-round arts education as part of its community outreach program, and MLMF has developed many mutually advantageous partnerships with other regional, provincial, and national arts organizations and tourism operators.

1997: Inaugural Season

MLMF offered classical music concerts in five regional locations - Windermere, Rosseau, Bracebridge, Port Carling and Gravenhurst, in its inaugural season.

1998: Expanded Programming in Music and Arts Education and Outreach

In order to attract a greater audience MLMF added more variety in musical genres, including jazz, and held in several more regional locations. It also expanded its community outreach and programming to include other arts disciplines, primarily visual and theatre arts, introduced the Kaleidoscope Children’s Festival, and presented the first annual Flavours of Muskoka culinary fundraising event featuring more than 20 of Muskoka’s most distinguished chefs and vintners. The Kaleidoscope Children’s Festival held annually in June, offers hands-on multi-disciplinary arts activities for children guided and facilitated by professional artists. Kaleidoscope Children’s Festival activities and performances are open to everyone. Admission is by donation, and children are invited to participate in such activities as rain stick making, singing games, clay sculpture, felt making, drum making, stone carving, native drawing and banner pictures, led by professional artists. School choirs and community groups are invited to perform at MLMF, which usually attracts about 200 children and their parents to the Port Carling Community Centre.

2001: Format Changed and New Community Culture Centre Built

In order to continue to expand its outreach and attract new audiences MLMF adopted a new concert delivery model – Jazz Tuesdays, Variety Wednesdays, and Classical Thursdays -which continued for several years. MLMF staff was instrumental in the building of the new community cultural centre in Port Carling, which became the home of the Muskoka Lakes Music Festival. 2002: Aboriginal Programming Added Aboriginal programming was added with a performance by the Kanenhi:io singers.

2003: Kaleidoscope Arts Education in the Schools –Further Expansion to Outreach Programs

MLMF launched Kaleidoscope in the Schools (KITS), an arts-in-education initiative which brings professional artists, including First Nations artists, into local schools to conduct creative workshops. KITS has assembled a team of over 25 professional artists working in a variety of disciplines, including both visual and performing arts. In a whole-school project, an artist is paired with each teacher according to interests, age group and curriculum connections, and the workshops are developed cooperatively between the artist and teacher. Professional development workshops in the arts and curriculum support documents are now offered to teachers through KITS. 2004: Muskoka Children’s Choir Initiated MLMF initiated the Muskoka Children’s Choir, under the direction of music instructor Wing Chow. This community choir is open to children aged 6 to 12, and has performed at many locations throughout Muskoka. The choir received a silver medal in the community choir category at the 2005 Orillia Kiwanis Music Festival. The Festival won Best Live Entertainment/Theatre in Muskoka Award.

2005: Kaleidoscope Arts and Music Summer Camp Initiated

In July 2005, MLMF initiated the annual Kaleidoscope Arts and Music Summer Camp for children aged 3 to 12. This weeklong program offered a variety of visual arts, music and theatre activities, instructed by professional artists and musicians in the community. The first MLMF CD entitled “Festival Favorites” was released.

2007: Theatre Programming Added and Off-Season Program Expansion

MLMF partnered with a new family theatre group, Mirador Productions and continues to partner with them today. MLMF added to its off-season programming by producing the CBC Radio's dramatic reading of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", featuring a CBC celebrity reader as well as local personalities. This was repeated in 2008. MLMF received the Ontario Trillium Foundation Arts in Culture "Great Grants Award" for its Kaleidoscope Arts Education Program, community building and engagement.

2008: Festival Selected as National ArtsSmarts Partner and Initiation of Aboriginal Festival

MLMF became a national partner of ArtsSmarts offering ArtsSmarts programming through KITS to over 400 students annually, and engaging over 50 artists and 18 educators, making it the largest ArtsSmarts program in Ontario. Also in 2008, MLMF attracted a new Resort development partner, Red Leaves, with whom we initiated an annual Aboriginal Festival on the shores of Lake Rosseau. Ojibway, Mohawk, Métis and Potawatomi peoples have participated in this Festival sharing their multi-disciplinary artistic culture. A blues festival in was held in partnership with Muskoka Lakes Winery, called “Blues in the Bog.”

2009: Inaugural Slide into Summer Water Festival, Chautauqua Network Partnership, KITS expansion.

MLMF launched the annual Slide into Summer Water Festival, a shoulder-season event with such partners as Red Leaves Resort, The Rosseau, a JW Marriott Resort and Spa, Clevelands House Resort, and Canadian Heritage. This Festival offers visual and environmental arts exhibits, literary events, lectures and a big band concert and fireworks. Also in 2009, MLMF became a partner in the Chautauqua Network, a group of organizations and individuals with a focus on Arts education, committed to the communication and implementation of the Chautauqua concept of building community by supporting all persons in the development of their full potential intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically. Membership in this network connects MLMF to a large U. S. market. In the second year of the ArtsSmarts partnership, the KITS programming reached over 1300 students making it the third largest ArtsSmarts program in all of Canada.

2010: Chautauqua Reading Circle Launched

The Chautauqua Reading Circle was re-established building on the historical Muskoka Chautauqua, which brought recognition to Muskoka in the early 1900’s as the literary capital of Canada. The Chautauqua Reading Circle produces an annual reading list based on a particular theme, and presents authors’ readings and book signing events.

2011: Muskoka Literary Trail Inauguration and Strategic Planning

New in 2011, MLMF will inaugurate the Muskoka Literary Trail, an exciting initiative linking several different literary events and organizations around Muskoka. With events occurring throughout the district during the spring, summer and fall, literary enthusiasts can follow the trail to exciting author talks, book festivals, readings and presentations. Featured author-presenters this year are Linden McIntyre, Steve Paikin, Carol Off, and Jay Ingram, among others. Partners include the Chautauqua Network, Canadian Federation of University Women Muskoka Chapter, Trillium Lakelands District School Board, North Words Literary Festival, Alcuin Book Society, Metroland Media, and Muskoka Lakes Museum. An in-depth strategic planning process was undertaken between Dec. 1, 2010 and Mar. 31, 2011 leading to a revised mandate for MLMF and a detailed action plan. The final report is to be produced in April, 2011. From time to time MLMF has experimented with a variety of other programs (e.g. music cruises on Muskoka Lakes), continuing with those that have been most successful.