Among Toronto music venues, Hugh’s Room live has always stood alone – a wonderful quiet space where musicians could be heard. A place that gives voice to the broad ‘roots’ canon of North American and Global Music representing our rich multicultural fabric. Hugh’s Room has hosted some of Canada’s most iconic musicians, including Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Murray McLauchlan, Dan Hill, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The McGarrigles, and Sylvia Tyson, as well as international giants like Al Stewart, Jesse Winchester, Odetta, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Jeff Daniels, Tom Rush, Albert Lee, Maria Muldaur, David Lindley, Richie Havens, Fairport Convention and countless others.
Where We Have Been
Founded in 2002 by Richard Carson in memory of his brother Hugh, a musician who died of cancer, our long-time home at 2261 Dundas West holds many memories for the thousands of Hugh’s Room Live patrons and artists. Our decision to leave was imposed on us by the financial pressure of increased rent. Nevertheless, in hindsight it as the right choice given what the live music industry has endured the last three years. “2261” will always remain a special place in our hearts, but as the music industry responds to massive structural changes brought on by the pandemic, technological innovation and other factors, Hugh’s Room Live must adapt and take this opportunity to build for the future. As audiences return to live performance, we want to fulfill our vision: to be the recognized leading intimate small to mid-sized concert venue for established and emerging artists. But we have dreams of being so much more.
Where We Are Now
In 2021 we gathered a group of Hugh’s Room Live stakeholders to take a deep dive into our what the future looks for our community and we came away with some big ideas. At the same time, we successfully stage over 100 performances – at first virtually and as live performance returned we programmed Hugh’s Room artists at several venues in the west end of Toronto. With the support of agencies such as FACTOR, The Canada Council for The Arts and Ontario Creates we have through 2022 and into 2023 been able to present a wide range of shows at 3030 Dundas West, Revival in Little Italy, Tranzac in the Annex and The Paradise Theatre on Bloor. While keeping musicians employed and audiences engaged, we continue our search for a new permanent home.
Where We Are Going
The events of the last few years, both for us and the live music industry as whole, have convinced us that Hugh’s Room Live will only thrive if we own our own venue. While a number of options have been pursued we have yet to reach this important milestone. Thanks to the tremendous support of our community and decision-makers across all levels of government we have made considerable progress. Still, we have yet to realize the full financial viability to secure a venue such as 296 Broadview. That venue remains available, and we continue to pursue this and other options. We will find our new home eventually – because we must.
What We’ll Do When We Get There
When Hugh’s Room comes back, we of course want to do and be everything we were before – creating a wonderful convivial listening room for fans and the great artists who grace our stage. But we have even bigger plans. Bigger visions call for more space. Our goal is to become the hub or meeting place for Toronto’s diverse music community. A new venue will allow us to engage more fully with community groups and partners, offer educational programs, studio space and masterclasses and provide opportunities for all artists, including BIPOC, LGBTQ and marginalized community groups throughout the city. We also plan to make our site available for the use of community groups that currently lack space for their meetings and other services.
The Hugh’s Room Live Team
Brian Iler, Board Chair
Brian is a cofounder of Iler Campbell LLP, a community organizations activist, cofounder of the Northwind Folk Festival, and music lover who has played an integral part in bringing back Hugh’s Room Live.
Jim Thomas, Alternate Board Chair
A Director of HRL since 2019, Jim is a jazz flautist who has decades of senior management experience in business and government, including Ontario Deputy Minister positions.
Quisha is President of QW Productions Corp., a leading recording studio, and is an accomplished songstress, performer, arranger and singer-songwriter. Quisha serves on the Hugh’s Room Live Programming Committee.
An American jazz trombonist, composer and educator, Ron has played with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra since its inception in 1993. He is a member of the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin and was appointed to the Oscar Peterson Chair in jazz performance at York University in 2009.
Adam is an emerging arts manager and programmer. He provides high quality project and financial management for numerous festivals including Doors Open Toronto, Weengushk International Film Festival and AM/PM.
MJ Perry is Vice-President and Owner of Mr. Discount. She is founder of WTFest and a member of the Board of the Empire Club of Canada. Her current semi-retirement project is to complete a PhD, and she is helping HRL forge new partnerships and reach new communities.
Michael Capotosto CPA
In addition to holding multiple past CFO positions in the hospitality industry, including expansions of Prime Restaurants and The Great Canadian Bagel, Michael is a Toronto musician who plays with several bands and serves as the Hugh’s Room Live Board as Treasurer.
A seasoned marketing strategist, Barbara brings a wealth of Marketing and Communications expertise to the Board. She has worked with many of the world’s leading brands including Lufthansa, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Lockheed Martin, Labatts, Glenfiddich and Japan Tourism. Barbara chairs the Hugh’s Room Live Marketing Committee.
Laura Fernandez is the host of Cafe Latino on JAZZ.FM91 and a tireless advocate for Canadian artists and particularly for those in the Hispano-Canadian community. An accomplished visual artist and musician her latest album Ok, Alright was released in 2020. Laura is also an award winning real estate broker and a key leader in the search for a new Hugh’s Room venue. In 2015 she was named one of the “10 Most Influential Hispanic Canadians”.
Richard started Hugh’s Room in 2001 in honour of his late brother, Hugh. He managed it until 2017 and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to HRL.
Former manager of the acclaimed Lynn Crawford restaurant Ruby Watchco, Mary joined HRL in 2018 as General Manager. As a musician, she has performed at the club and knows the music community. Mary oversees all aspects of HRL’s operations, including programming.
Executive Director (Interim)
A former member of the Hugh’s Room Board, Michael assumed the role of Interim Executive Director for Hugh’s Room Live in October of 2022. Former Operations Director for JAZZ.FM91 and Policy Advisor on the Culture and Entertainment Industries for Toronto Mayor David Miller, Michael brings decades of experience in venue operation and event production to Hugh’s Room Live.
This project is funded in part by FACTOR, the Government
of Canada and Canada's private radio broadcasters.
Ce projet est finance en partie par FACTOR, le gouvernement
du Canada et les radiodiffuseurs privés du Canada.
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