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About the Music Gallery

Established in 1976 by members of the Canadian Creative Music Collective (CCMC), the Music Gallery occupies a unique position within Toronto’s musical ecology that allows us to present, encourage and promote leading-edge contemporary music in all genres. For over 40 years, our mandate to foster innovation and experimentation in music has remained constant, and today, we are Toronto’s pre-eminent presenter of genre-defying concert music.

Our History

In the beginning, there was music.

Over its 40-year history, the Music Gallery has been many things to many people. When it was founded in 1976 by Peter Anson and Al Mattes, it quickly became a hub for collaboration, creative exploration and musical performance. The artists who came were sonic adventurers, mad musical scientists, drawing from many traditions and even inventing some of their own. Their approach to musical innovation and the resulting legacy of their creations lives on in the Music Gallery and its activities today.

From those early days as an artist-run centre, the Music Gallery has led a truly remarkable journey. We have hosted extraordinary international residencies. We have held festivals. We helped introduce Musicworks—a magazine devoted to promoting experimental music—and ran Music Gallery Editions—a record label that published recordings from our live performances as well as collections of Iroquois and Inuit music, folk music from Tadoussac, Quebec, and some of the earliest recordings of whale song.

We have been a concert hall, a workshop, a recording studio and a clubhouse. And at times we have struggled—for a season, we were homeless. At least twice, financial troubles nearly destroyed us. Through the ups and downs, through successes and failures—throughout four wild decades—the Music Gallery never lost its commitment to the music and the artists who make it.

In the photo (left to right): Peter Anson, Michael Snow, Casey Sokol, Nobuo Kubota, Bill Smith, Graham Coughtry, Alan Mattes, Larry Dubin.

1970s
  • The Music Gallery is established by the Canadian Creative Music Collective (CCMC)  in a converted warehouse space at 30 Patrick St. near the Ontario College of Art (now known as OCAD U) and Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. This venue had informal seating for 100.
  • CCMC band members included Michael Snow, Nobuo Kubota, Casey Sokol, Peter Anson, Larry Dubin, Bill Smith, Greg Gallagher and Al Mattes.  Paul Dutton, John Kamevaar, John Oswald, and Jack Vorvis came later.
  • Inspired by the artist-run centre movement, the Music Gallery is founded as a space for the creation, development and performance of new music.
  • Artistic direction by Peter Anson and Al Mattes.
  • In cooperation with art publication Only Paper Today, the Music Gallery introduces Musicworks Magazine as a supplement. Musicworks continues today as a print magazine covering a range of creative music and sound.
  • The Music Gallery plays host to a month-long celebration of John Cage’s 65th birthday with concerts, lectures and workshops.
  • Music Gallery Editions is launched. From 1977 to 1981, the record label  releases 27 LPs of recordings from the Music Gallery, including work by CCMC, the Artists’ Jazz Band, the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, the Glass Orchestra, James MacDonald, Lubomyr Melnyk, David Mott, Al Neil, the Nihilist Spasm Band, John Oswald, Peggie Sampson, Casey Sokol, and Sonde, as well as collections of Iroquois and Inuit music, folk music from Tadoussac, Quebec, and recordings of whales.
  • Artistic direction by Al Mattes.
  • Musicworks begins publishing independently out of the Music Gallery’s offices.
  • Technical Director Paul Hodge joins the staff.
  • The Music Gallery produces the first Ear it Live movable festival of improvised music. The festival continues through 1981.
  • The creation and exploration of newly invented/modified instruments was a tenet of the Music Gallery’s mission statement, evidenced in concerts featuring specially tuned instruments (Gayle Young), and homemade instruments (The Nihilist Spasm Band), among others.
  • Western Front, 4 musician-artists from Vancouver present their new shadow puppet play.
  • Residency by Evan Parker.
  • The Music Gallery is the site of the first annual Electronic Music Festival sponsored by A Space Gallery, the Music Gallery and the Canadian Electroacoustic Community. The festival would run until 1988.
  • Sandor Ajzenstat joins the staff.
  • Presentation of Bill Smith’s photo exhibition “Imagine The Sound” which led to the production of Ron Mann’s award-winning documentary of the same name.
  • Pauline Oliveros’ first visit to the Music Gallery.
  • Residency by Derek Bailey.
1980s
  • Residency with Misha Mengelberg.
  • As part of the fourth annual Festival of Electronic Music in February, the Music Gallery features Maryanne Amacher and Micheline Coulombe Sainte-Marcoux, among others.
  • Fear of Blue by Tom Dean and Margaret Dragu was commissioned by the Music Gallery, Artspace, and A Space. It occurred at Artspace in Peterborough. The Music Gallery rented a yellow school bus to transport people from the Music Gallery to Peterborough and back again.
  • The now defunct CKLN-FM 88.1 FM begins a weekly showcase called Radio Music Gallery, featuring live recordings from the Gallery.
  • A group of University of Toronto students establish Continuum Contemporary Music and begin performing at the Music Gallery.
  • The Music Gallery moves to 1087 Queen St. West, in the basement of what was once West Toronto’s first YMCA, and is now the Great Hall.
  • Residency by Barre Phillips.
  • The Music Gallery travels to the Holland Festival and brings CCMC, The Four Horsemen, The Glass Orchestra,   John Oswald, Gordon Monahan, and Victor Coleman.
  • The Music Gallery puts out a Canada-wide call for sound sculptures, resulting in a large-scale outdoor summer sound sculpture festival. A number of works were chosen and installed, including three pieces in High Park (one by Stephen Heimbecker which was a spiral of wind-chimes atop a huge pole), a piece in Allan Gardens, and a piece in Nathan Phillips Square.
  • The original CCMC band members step down from The Music Gallery’s Board of Directors.
  • Jim Montgomery becomes Artistic Director.
  • Pioneering Canadian performance artist Vera Frenkel takes part in residency at the Music Gallery, Mad for Bliss.
1990s
  • The Music Gallery is averaging 65 concerts a year. Funding is coming from multiple levels of government. The gallery has solidified its reputation/role as a major forum for the presentation of electronic music, multimedia productions, dance, contemporary jazz, experimental and world music.
  • The Music Gallery presents a chamber opera, Meme, featuring a libretto by BpNichol, with music written by David Mott.
  • The Music Gallery moves to a multi-purpose space at 179 Richmond St., which created a safe space for experimentation and innovation. The Music Gallery becomes the hub of Toronto’s burgeoning new music community.
  • The Music Gallery presents a two-concert event at the du Maurier Theatre Centre at Harbourfront featuring non-western experimental music.
  • The first Music Gallery event at Nathan Phillips Square featuring Clock Destruction by the iconoclastic Graham Kirkland which, true to the title, featured the destruction of a very large clock.
  • The Music Gallery co-produces Living in a Virtual World with the CBC, a four-concert series taking place at Glenn Gould Studio, featuring Margaret Leng Tan.
  • Compilation CD Masterpieces of the Music Gallery is issued.
  • The Music Gallery opens the Richmond Street location, presenting 31 concerts in the span of a week in celebration.
  • The Music Gallery returns to Nathan Phillips Square presenting Listen Up from Montreal, which featured the Bicycle Choir lead by Claude Shrier. All sounds were produced using pedal power in various ways throughout the square.
  • The Music Gallery starts a graphic arts show, Art in View, using the lobby as exhibition space. Each year there were five exhibitions profiling individual visual artists.
  • The Music Gallery presented three artists as part of a collaboration with Victoriaville Festival entitled Victo T.O. These artists became part of an international exchange featuring groups from Europe. It was through collaborations like this that The Music Gallery solidified its reputation as a touring destination for various national and international artists.
  • Evan Parker, Sainkho Namtchylak “Mars Song” is recorded.
  • The Music Gallery collaborates with the Images Film Festival, screening some of their films at the Richmond location.
  • The Music Gallery takes part in The Body Electric, and electric guitar festival involving curation by Tim Brady. The festival was connected with organizers in Montreal and Vancouver.
  • The collaboration with Victoriaville expands to involve 10 different groups who were presented in Toronto by the Music Gallery, while Victoriaville presented artists affiliated with the Gallery.
  • The Music Gallery takes part in the Toronto Improvising Musicians Festival (TIMS).
  • The venue is hosting up to 150 concerts a year.
2000s
  • The Music Gallery presents Island Music— a free series of concerts on Toronto island at Gibraltar Point. There were indoor and outdoor concerts including performances by Louise Bessette and others.
  • The Music Gallery’s archives (from 1976 to 2000) are donated to York University.
  • The Richmond Street space is slated for redevelopment and the Music Gallery is evicted.
  • The 2000-2001 season is marked by the “Guerrilla Gallery,” with shows taking place at venues across the city.
  • The Music Gallery makes its home at St. George the Martyr Church.
  • The Music Gallery Insitute begins – free lunchtime performances by emerging artists who are exploring new work.
  • Fresh Ears takes place under the imprint of the Music Gallery Institute, designed as a series for family audiences which would appeal to adults and children. Barry Prophet was a key contributor to the series.
  • The Music Gallery presents Free Lunch Music, involving a series of free noon-hour concerts. Free Lunch Music included 20 shows, five of which were curated by Max Woolaver, the incumbent priest at St. George the Martyr.
  • In October, in response to MG’s worsening financial health, board chair Daniel Cooper calls a Town Hall meeting.
  • The community reaffirms the Music Gallery’s importance as a hub for creative music.
  • A new mission and artistic programming structure is established. The Artistic Advisory Committee is created.
  • John Gzowski and Jonathan Bunce become co-Artistic Directors.
  • Dewi Minden becomes executive director.
  • Launch of the X Avant festival and four programming streams: Jazz, Pop, New World, and Post-Classical.
  • SoundAxis at Nuit Blanche (in the courtyard).
  • Gregory Oh begins curating the Post-Classical series.
  • The Summer Courtyard Series begins.
  • Artistic Direction by Jonathan Bunce.
  • Sun Ra Arkestra and Coleman Lemieux dancers at Palais Royale.
  • Wavelength Music employs Music Gallery space for several festivals and other events
  • First Mechanical Forest Sound recording at the Music Gallery.
  • NXNE-related event.
2010s
  • Wavelength 500 – Wavelength’s weekly music series concluded with a festival launched at the Music Gallery.
  • X Avant V curated by Greg Oh features Jeff Mills, the Halo Ballet.
  • Launch of Emergents series supported by Roger Moore.
  • David Dacks becomes World curator, succeeding Andrew Timar.
  • Los Angeles’ Dublab Collective featuring Julia Holter, Matthewdavid plays all-night Tonalism event as season finale
  • A new financial crisis leads to a reorganization of staff and austerity measures in order to reduce the Music Gallery’s deficit.
  • Artistic Direction by David Dacks.
  • Radio Music Gallery returns via StudioFeed.
  • Monica Pearce becomes executive director.
  • Weird Canada retrospective.
  • A Tribe Called Red plays at the Black Box Theatre/The Great Hall Downstairs.
  • Flux Quartet plays 6 hour Morton Feldman String Quartet #2.
  • Launch of Departures series, curated by Tad Michalak, supported by the Shelagh Elaine Brooks Gill Foundation.
  • Chelsea Shanoff becomes curator.
  • MG celebrates the centenary of Canadian composer-inventor Hugh Le Caine. Events include a retrospective and commissioned remixes of Le Caine’s classic sound pieces by Boundary, Sandro Perri, and Elaquent.
  • Lisa Conway, Pantayo record 7-inch singles at MG.
  • Genre-based programming streams are eliminated.
  • The Music Gallery celebrates its 40th season.
  • David Virelles Gnosis world premiere.
  • MG helps to launch Norma Beecroft’s ebook Conversations with Post World War II Pioneers of Electronic Music.
  • Board and staff hold a community-wide strategic planning process to launch MG:40: Setting the Stage for our Next Forty Years, which focuses on three strategic pillars: Artist Development, Equity & Diversity, and History & Legacy.  

This timeline was developed through a combination of our records and community consultations.
Please email president at musicgallery.org to contribute to the timeline or to suggest any corrections/updates.



Our Staff

David Dacks
Artistic Director

Monica Pearce
Executive Director

Adam Bradley
Production Manager

Kristel Jax
Marketing Coordinator

Paul Hodge
Technical Director

Sandor Ajzenstat
Lighting Director

Chelsea Shanoff
Curator

Tad Michalak
Curator (Departures Series)

Marko Cindric
Patron Services Supervisor

Danny Karl Munshi
Patron Services

Elizabeth Eccleston
Patron Services

Johan Seaton
Patron Services

And Also Too
Graphic Design

Claire Harvie
Photographer

Kevin Jones
Photographer

Terry Lim
Photographer

Board of Directors

Christopher McKinnon
President

Dave Darby
Chair

Woto Nyomba
Treasurer

Laura Dymock
Secretary

Meghan Meisters/Iskwé

Alanna Stuart

Matthew Fava

Laura Mayo

Nabil Rachid

Rea McNamara

Cristina Naccarato

Artistic Advisory Council

Karen Ng
Anne Bourne
Ian Cheung
Adam Scime
Muhobo Mohamed
Bekah Simms
Bruce Russell
Victoria Cheong
Kat Estacio
Jeremy Dutcher
Olivia Shortt
Joe Strutt