Hamilton: A City of Music

Our City of Music

The term “music city” – once reserved for North America’s famous songwriting and recording centre Nashville – is now being used by fans, musicians, and industry people to describe cities big and small around the world that have vibrant music scenes and music-related economies that are actively promoted.

In Ontario the music sector has been given new attention due to funding that was made available to municipalities, music companies, and music promoters through the Ontario Music Fund. Hamilton and several other municipalities have responded.

From the start, Hamilton’s efforts to self-identify as a city of music has been characterized by enthusiastic participation flavoured with diversity, entrepreneurial spirit, and even skepticism.

Hamilton, Ontario can make a strong case for itself, based on the music city characteristics:

  • Diverse community of musicians
  • A thriving music scene
  • Spaces and places for performances and rehearsals
  • A receptive and engaged audience
  • Many music-related businesses

Hamilton declaring itself a city of music is authentic, well substantiated and aspirational. We embrace an ambitious view which comes by understanding our past, acknowledging our present, and believing there is room to grow, improve, and expand Hamilton’s music industries.

Hamilton's Music Landscape – A Few Highlights

Hundreds of award-winning and emerging singers, songwriters and musicians call Hamilton home or have a significant association with this city. A remarkable number of musical artists turn out to be connected to Hamilton in one way or another, and the number in proportion to Hamilton’s population signifies a demographic and cultural reality.

Astounding Depth and Diversity

Some (and we mean only some) of the artists that come to mind, in no particular order, are Jackie Washington, Dirty Nil, Arkells, Caribou, Daniel Lanois, David Braid, Diana Panton, Floria Sigismondi, Harrison Kennedy, Ian Thomas, Jack De Keyzer, Tomi Swick, Jeremy Fisher, Junkhouse, Monster Truck, Rita Chiarelli, Ronnie Hawkins, Steve Strongman, The City Harmonic, The Killjoys, Tom Wilson, and Terra Lightfoot. A deeper look brings out more names: composers/film scorers Paul Intson, Robert Bruce, Charles Cozens, Nathan Fleet; producers Michael Birthelmer, Dave King, Carl Jennings, Bob Doidge, Amy King, Michael Chambers, Dan Hosh; sidemen Bill Dillon, Jesse O’Brien, Frank Koren, Andrew Aldridge, Sean O’Grady, John Price; jazz players Darcy Hepner, Adrean Farrugia, Mike Malone. This list goes on, and on. 

Bill Watson photo of musicians in Hamilton

Bill Watson photo of musicians at the Harrison Kennedy fundraiser in front of Hamilton’s historic LIUNA Station, across from live music venue This Ain’t Hollywood, James Street North district.

In Hamilton’s music community, the closer you look the more amazing people you find.

In the area of workforce collectivism, the Hamilton Musicians’ Guild has more than 600 active members. It is the fastest growing local of the American Federation of Musicians, and represents a workforce of significant size and activity. The Hamilton Musicians’ Guild is hosting the Canadian Conference of Musicians August 12-13, 2017.

Dozens of musical groups and organizations, orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, military bands, ethnic bands and choirs, jazz bands, community choirs and choral groups make Hamilton their home.

Hamiltonians of all age groups are proud supporters and audience members of the historic Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Hamilton Music Collective is a charitable organization dedicated to funding music education in the Hamilton community. Several unique educational opportunities exist only in Hamilton because of organizations like the internationally renowned Hamilton Children’s Choir, the Hamilton All-Star Jazz Band, the National Academy Orchestra (a training orchestra), Impact Percussion, An Instrument For Every Child, and the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts. 

The Hamilton International Guitar Festival has now completed its seventh season.

Some History of Hamilton’s Musical Activities and Organizations

  • Hamilton Choral Society (became Hamilton Philharmonic in 1949) founded in 1883
  • Hamilton Orchestral Society (1884)
  • Hamilton Conservatory of Music (1897)
  • Bach Choir (1932)
  • Bach Elgar Choir (1946)
  • Hamilton All-Star Jazz Band (1984)
  • Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (1965)
  • Festival of Friends (1976)

Highlights From the Present – Media and Festivals

Hamilton hosts annual music festivals and national signature events like the Festival of Friends, Supercrawl, ArtsFest, Brott Music Festival, and six (6) times host of the JUNO Awards. Hamilton is the host city for the 2018 Canadian Country Music Awards.

Looking into the crowd. Photo by Ivan Sorensen

Ivan Sorensen photo from the Choir Choir stage, looking out to the Supercrawl audience.
September 2016

Our local broadcast, print and Internet media – commercial, not-for-profit and private – actively support and regularly cover music in Hamilton. The Hamilton Spectator, McMaster University’s CFMU-FM 93.3, Mohawk College’s The Hawk radio, CBC Hamilton, CJXY-FM (Y-108), CHFX-FM (KX 94.7), Hamilton Magazine, Urbanicity, VIEW Magazine, Cable 14, Greater Hamilton Musician magazine, I Heart Hamilton, Cut from Steel all provide their unique voices to get the words and music out.

Live Music Venue Alliance

The Hamilton Live Music Venue Alliance was established in 2016 and may be one of the first of its kind. The Alliance is a cooperative-like organization of local Hamilton bars and clubs committed to working together to build audiences and opportunities for live music in Hamilton.

Live music is regularly performed in over 100 Hamilton clubs, bars, cafes, churches, museums, patios and other venues including two world-class concert facilities at FirstOntario Concert Hall / FirstOntario Centre. 

Nine out of 10 Hamiltonians attend local festivals while eight out of 10 indicated that live music was one of their top five (5) favourite activities (2011 online survey for Hamilton’s Cultural Plan).

Businesses Supporting Music Management, Rehearsal, Production, and Performance

Hamilton is home for a variety of music businesses such as talent management, tour organizers, live music booking agents, record labels, recording studios, live music venues, record retailers and music equipment, music video producers, festival organizations.

There are several privately owned, high-quality rehearsal spaces in Hamilton.

Hamilton recognizes musicians as entrepreneurs and offers a city grant program for emerging and established artists.

Hamilton hosts the Artist Bootcamp for Entrepreneur Musicians in partnership with Canada’s Music Incubator, and has hosted the Music Manager’s Forum roundtable discussions.

Hamilton has dozens of private music schools, in addition to three post-secondary music education programs at Mohawk College, McMaster University, and Redeemer College.

The more you look, the more you pay attention, the more reasons you have to love our Hamilton, our city of music.

MUSIC TEAM – Hamilton Music Industry Working Committee (MIWC)

Our Goals
  1. Strengthen the local music industry in the greater Hamilton area
  2. Grow audiences and appreciation of music
  3. Increase access to music experiences
  4. Cultivate music creation and talent
Short Term Actions and Goals for 2017

Some Short-term Actions/Activities of the Music Industry Working Committee (MIWC):

  • Design and launch the Hamilton City of Music website. The site will have a news blog, event listings, playlists, and a music artist/industry directory.
  • Host an industry Hamilton City of Music brand launch party in September 2017 to celebrate this new initiative, and to step forward, together, as a community of musicians and music-related businesses who love our city, and who are happy to work together to make Hamilton the best place to raise a child.
  • Write and research local music news stories, announcements, events, people, and places for publication on the Hamilton City of Music website.
  • Develop a social media communication strategy to engage and connect members of the music community in new ways.
  • Launch and promote the new website event listing based on the OntarioLiveMusic.ca listing service to serve live music venues, event promoters, artists, and to help build local audiences and music tourism.
  • Serve, promote, and unify the music industry sector by deploying the website music directory.
  • Look for new ways to practically help specific niches of artists and businesses within the local music community.
  • Partner with major music festival, Supercrawl, to help increase awareness and education.
  • Implement a pilot program of musician loading zone permits for the Live Music Venue Alliance (no charge permits to allow musicians to use loading zones close to music venues)
  • Hamilton musician displays in local record stores to increase public awareness and support local artists.
  • Organize and implement workshops/half-day conference for musician entrepreneurs in 2017.
  • Organize a Music Career Day at Mohawk College, September 2017.
  • Introduce the concept of a Hamilton Music Week on a date to be determined 2018.


Members and Sub-Committees


The members of the Hamilton Music Industry Working Committee volunteer their time and contribute their skills as representatives of Hamilton’s diverse music industries and musicians.

  • (Interim Chair) Mark Furukawa: Owner of Dr. Disc, DJ and Music Advocate
  • Glen Brown: Music Teacher, Musician & Publisher, Hamilton Musician Magazine
  • Kojo Damptey: Music Artist/Music Curator
  • Nathan Fleet: Musician, Filmmaker and Educator
  • Antonella Giancarlo: Manager, Partnerships and Communication, Hamilton Public Library
  • Janna Malseed: Vice-President, Hamilton Musicians Guild
  • Judy Marsales: Musician and Music Advocate
  • Aaron Hutchinson: Musician and Sound Artist
  • Lou Molinaro: Co-owner and Talent Buyer, This Ain’t Hollywood
  • Kurt Muller: Associate Dean of Media and Entertainment, Mohawk College
  • Marie Nash: Communications and Events Manager, Hamilton Chamber of Commerce
  • Brodie Schwendiman: Owner, The Casbah
  • Diana Weir: Executive Director, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra

Past members:

  • Jeffrey C. Martin: President, Quorum Communications Inc.; Songwriter/Musician
  • Madeline Wilson: Artist Manager, Special Event Producer, Concert Promoter and Arts Advocate; Front Room Entertainment
  • Dan Medakovic: Singer/Songwriter
  • Paola Palazzo: Vice-President of Talent, Live Nation Canada
  • Scott Warren: General Manager, Core Entertainment (FirstOntario Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall and The Studio)
  • Carol Kehoe: Former Executive Directory, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Laura Lukasik: Former Manager, Communications and Partnerships, Hamilton Public Library
  • Alysha Main: Artist Manager and Consultant, Ridin’ High Records
  • Reg Titian: Owner, Titan Creative Entertainment Network Inc.

City Staff Support

  • Debbie Spence: Business Development Consultant, Creative Industries, Tourism and Culture Division, Planning and Economic Development Department
  • Jennifer Mueller: Senior Project Manager, Creative Industries and Cultural Development, Tourism and Culture
  • Jacqueline Norton, Film and Music Officer (now retired) – former city staff lead person initiating the Hamilton Music Strategy


  1. Live Music Venue Alliance
  2. Musicians and Artists
  3. Music Education
  4. Marketing and Promotion
How We Communicate To You

We are the members of the Music Industry Working Committee, and we are committed to opening new pathways of communication with musicians, ensembles, and music-related businesses across the greater Hamilton area. We are excited about tapping into the potential of gaining a refreshing and growing sense of community, cooperation and shared values with all kinds of people, organizations, and businesses! We all win when we help each other in practical ways.

This website, cityofmusic.ca, is our main method of communicating in depth to the general public. Our website team will liaise with any member of the committee if you wish to contact one of the committee members through our editor.

We also maintain social media streams on a daily basis, and we try our best to respond and acknowledge your engagement with us on social media. On Facebook and Twitter we are @hamontmusic. On Instagram we are @HamOnt_Music. We are also on YouTube as Hamilton Music Industry Working Committee where we maintain our playlists.

You can email us about being considered for one of our playlists. See the instructions on that page.

If you place a directory listing, you can contact us at directory@cityofmusic.ca to make a change or an update. If you use the contact form on a directory listing, the listing owner will respond to you directly, which is just between you and them.

We communicate regularly via email to the members of our email update list.

If you email the editor at editor@cityofmusic.ca we will respond within 48 hours, but likely much quicker than that!

Contact Us

Contact the Music Industry Working Committee website team:

Subscribe to email information updates

Facebook: http://facebook.com/HamOntMusic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/HamOntMusic

Instagram: http://instagram.com/HamOnt_Music