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Hillside runs year-round, and when we are not working at one of our two big festivals—Hillside Inside and the Summer Festival—we are planning them. Your monthly donations help to stabilize the organization, keeping the brainstorming and planning going even in the snowiest months of the year.
Besides the festivals, Hillside plans and facilitates several other events, songwriting courses, and outreach initiatives, including the following programs:
- Our in-the-schools program, Girls and Guitars, addresses a gender imbalance in the music industry that currently favours males (70%) over females (30%) who are the performers, executives, critics, agents, and managers of music-related fields. By placing female singer-songwriters in the schools who will teach children about the power of voice, of continued music practice, the importance of creativity for maintaining a healthy life, and how to write songs that move and inspire, we are hoping to make grassroots change among the upcoming generations. To command a stage and a place in people’s hearts and imaginations is as much a female role as it is a male role, and it is our purpose to teach children that they should not abandon a creative life once they reach puberty (a disturbing trend among girls) because they don’t see themselves as a “good fit” for that world.
- Indigenous Culture: Another in-the-schools program that Hillside offers involves one-hour sessions for elementary and high-school students led by an Anishinaabe storyteller. These sessions allow students to understand more about Indigenous culture through drumming and storytelling circles that use instruments and talismans to teach the mores of Aboriginal peoples. Through this program, students become more knowledgeable about Canadian culture, the fabric of which is comprised of the belief systems of many honourable peoples. The cosmology of Indigenous peoples sees humans as a constitutive part of the land, which is viewed as a spiritual being rather than a material fact. The drum is “the heartbeat of the earth” and the mallets are “Grandmother’s arms.” There are myths and stories that birthed the rituals of the drum and give meaning to the music.
- These sessions teach children about the seasons, the elements, and the directions so that they better understand how this way of understanding the world differs from the Western tradition and how they can be mutually supportive so that we can better prepare our children to be informed peacemakers and empathic community-builders.
Hillside also teaches songwriting courses in ballad-writing, protest songwriting, and a special course for female-identified students called Girls & Guitars.
We feature Youth Showcases at both of our festivals that highlight the prodigious talents of local community musicians and singers.
And we highlight under-represented groups at both of our festivals. At our winter festival, for instance, we offer a popular performance series. Last February (2019), we produced The Sound of Light, which featured black artists in six different venues. In February 2018, we produced Queers on Quebec Street. And every year since 2011, we have been showcasing women musicians in our Girls & Guitars series.
We are also an accessible festival, having made sure long ago that we only ever use accessible venues, that our office is accessible, and that our website is, too. In 2014, we won the City of Guelph Accessibility Award from the Barrier-Free Committee.
We are also an environmental festival. In 2019, we became carbon-neutral after more than 30 years of green initiatives and at least 5 years of measuring every centimetre of our carbon footprint. We have won multiple awards for our green initiatives, from the International Clearwater Award (2019) to Best Green Operations (Canadian Music Week 2016) and the Honour Roll Award from Grand River Conservation Authority, their highest distinction, for “a sustained record of achievement over an extended period of time.” We have also won the Best Greening Award from Festivals and Events Ontario from 2008-2019.
Since 2014, we have been named as a Festival of Distinction by Festivals and Events Ontario. And in both 2017 and 2018, we were one of six finalists for the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
So, you would be backing an inspired and passionate group of people who care about culture and creativity and want to maintain a groundswell of interest in the power of art and music to unite people, educate them, entertain them, and keep them believing in our collective future.
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