The idea of diversity has become a polarizing topic in the public discourse over the past couple of years. The western world has experienced an influx of refugees fleeing their war-torn homeland in search of asylum, which has prompted debates from politicians, to the common folk, on how sympathetic a country’s borders should be. Divisionary walls have been hotly debated, immigrants have been detained, while religious institutions have experienced unsettling acts of terrorism. More than ever, one’s physical attributes, be it the colour of their skin or the presence of devotional veils, have become fodder for much broader issues.
In the face of such divisiveness, Canada has continued to exercise compassion by welcoming individuals of all creeds and ethnic backgrounds from around the world. The country has a proud tradition of multiculturalism, and is celebrated as an essential facet to Canada’s DNA. Additionally, Toronto can be viewed as a microcosm for the nation’s inclusivity, where whole neighbourhoods have become diasporic communities, such as Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Danforth.
The Canadian music scene, much like the nation itself, has also become a beacon for diversity. When maneuvering through Toronto’s downtown core, one will stumble upon a venue that caters to a music fan’s eccentric tastes. The Rogers Centre or the newly renamed Scotiabank Arena provide massive stages fit for major star wattage, while a short streetcar ride westward is home to places such as The Velvet Underground and the Great Hall, which allow lesser-known experimental artists to perform. On any given night, a wealth of musical talent can be found captivating their fanbases, bringing together unique identities.
The Danforth Music Hall, which recently celebrated its centennial anniversary, has become a nucleus for musical hodgepodge. Since its inception in 1919 as a theatre space for the performing arts, this Music Hall was reborn as a concert hall that has become known for showcasing talent from a kaleidoscopic range of personas and genres. When viewing the upcoming events page on their website, one will discover an exceptional roster of acts taking centre stage: indie-pop darling Clairo, Norwegian electronic producer Cashmere Cat, country crooner Jim Cuddy, as well as homegrown alt-rockers The Beaches. However, the Music Hall has also opened its doors to other forms of entertainment, allowing stand-up comedians and Drag Race royalty to enlighten audiences with their respective practices.
Jay Cianfrini, the Danforth Music Hall’s general manager, reveals illuminating details behind the business’s vetting process for choosing talent to grace their stage. First and foremost, Cianfrini notes how he and his team, “have always been very aware of the diversity of our wonderful cities art and music scene.”
The venue is keen on tapping into various avenues to reach the broadest audience possible, utilizing their social media channels to promote the sheer range of their acts on a nationwide level. Scrolling through the Music Hall’s Twitter feed showcases constant updates on new performers who will be appearing at this east-end mainstay, revealing a breadth of talent on a national, and international level.
Cianfrini remarks how this is the main reason they have been the busiest club sized venue in Canada for about five years now. “We host so many different events and bring out so many different groups of individuals that they see for themselves the ways in which we are representing all walks of life and culture,” he said.
As a result, Cianfrini states how the artists that perform at the venue, “always leave with a great experience and talk about how amazing our city is. That is a great reward for what we do here.” This appreciation drives the Danforth Music Hall to continue in its quest to create an immersive space for people from all walks of life.
As important as it is to showcase a heterogenous mix of talent, it is equally important for the audience to feel accepted upon entering the Danforth Music Hall’s doors. Cianfrini and his staff rigorously work in tandem to ensure that they create a cordial environment that promotes a sense of unity and harmony.
“Our crowds can always feel like they’re in a safe space that is open minded and aware of the world around us,” Cianfrini said. Everyone from the front of house staff and security guards have been given proper awareness training when handling a medley of individuals, ensuring a respectful and symbiotic relationship between the guests and the faculty.
Cianfrini reveals a rather illuminating and personal reason why he and his team make valiant efforts to represent Canada through the Danforth Music Hall: “I grew up in Toronto and have always been very proud that no matter where I am in the world everyone acknowledges our multiculturalism and that we’re a safe city.” This inherent pride has resulted in a venue that positively displays the congeniality this nation has been able to withhold, even in times of social turmoil and regression.
Feature Image by Kate Orlova