The Dawson City Music Festival gets a new building

The people behind the Dawson City Music Festival never thought small.

It takes dreaming big to get musical artists from around the world to come to the Klondike for a weekend in July and convince most of the community to buy into the idea.

But they’ve been doing it every year, non-pandemic, since 1979, and now the folks behind the festival will be doing it from a new building.

The Dawson City Music Festival (DCMF) is opening a new headquarters, with something the city has never had: a full recording studio.

“DCMF’s role in the community is changing,” said festival president Devon Berquist. “We are very happy to support the creation of new music, as well as the presentation of music through the festival and community programs. Being able to support local musicians at all stages is really something we look forward to.”

It took a lot of work to get there.

The aftermath of the fire that destroyed the home of the Dawson City Music Festival in 1996. Documents, photos and files dating back to the festival’s inception in 1979 were lost in the fire. (Photo by Glenda Bolt)

The festival’s first house was destroyed by fire in 1996. They moved to a log cabin on a lot downtown. The building had a lot of quirks and not much storage, but in this small office the staff and volunteers were able to turn the festival into a nationally recognized event.

The festival set aside money each year for the purpose of building a new house, and in 2010 they were able to purchase the land. This triggered the next phase of the plan: the design of a newer and larger building.

“Our board at the time were very aware that there was no option in the community for recording of any kind,” festival executive director Tim Jones told AFP. ‘era.

“We saw a need in the community for something like this. There was a long-standing dream for a bigger, better, more sustainable space.”

In 2019, the council successfully secured funding from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor). Other funders, such as the Community Development Fund and Yukon Lotteries, stepped in and after years of discussions, the project was underway.

Festival President Devon Berquist at the site of what would become the new Dawson City Music Festival headquarters. (Photo by Alex Hakonson)

“It was a bit slow,” Berquist said. “We planned a four-year construction project and once the financing was secured, we were put in a position to either accept [the money] and shorten the time frame or deny core funding. »

The old log cabin was moved from the site and construction began in late 2020. The pandemic forced the festival into a hiatus, allowing staff and volunteers to focus on the new building.

The finished product is a two-story corporate headquarters that includes a classroom and recording studio on the first floor, and expanded offices on the second. The project cost $684,000, but that doesn’t include man-hours or the cost of installing recording equipment once things got to this stage.

The studio in the new DCMF building will be available for recording and rehearsals. (Photo by Devon Berquist.)

Jones said while the festival will continue to attract artists from out of the territory — and they’ll be welcome to use the studio while in town — the focus has always been on the Dawson community. .

“It’s about creating a community hub,” he said. “It’s an infrastructure that encourages people to stay in Dawson, encourages people to show their children that there are paths to growing as a creative artist, to bringing their name and their music to the world.”

Jones left the Yukon over ten years ago, went to law school and now works in Toronto. But a piece of his heart will always be in Dawson.

“The way DCMF has been able to leverage grant funding, community investment and volunteer time to create this space is due to the legacy it has built over more than 40 years. this record of the DCMF being one of the best- and most-loved arts organizations in the country. And that’s no exaggeration; it’s something I hear every time I tell people in Toronto where I worked.

“It’s everyone’s legacy. Whoever has worked for the festival over the years, the building is a tangible representation of that work.”

Some of DCMF’s newest board members. From left to right: Jen Migliorini (Treasurer), Devon Berquist (President) Nick Wozniewski (Secretary), Alex Hakonson (Vice President), Andrea Vincent (Executive Director). Absent: Emily Farrell, Tyson Cutler. (Photo courtesy DCMF.)

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