The Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound based in Waterloo Region uses unusual venues to present a very eclectic range of musics from new classical music to electroacoustic, musique actuelle and sound installation. Innovative and collaborative, the Festival works closely with other organizations to co-present activities or to include activities within our schedule. Our main centre of activity takes place in the Waterloo Region.
The focus of all events is the act of listening. Featuring a mix of local, national and international artists, concerts have featured ensembles from traditional ensembles such as string quartet, orchestra, choir to turntable art, multi-media, anachronism and dance. Concerts are presented indoors and out, in traditional concert halls and churches as well as alternative spaces, including abandoned buildings and parkades. Guest composers and performers have included international artists such as Brian Eno, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Diamanda Galas, Negativland, DJ Spooky, Ikue Mori, Bob Ostertag and Pauline Oliveros as well as Canadians Murray Schafer, Martin Tetrault, Gordon Monahan, Michael Snow, John Oswald, Tim Brady and Hildegarde Westerkamp. A priority of the festival is to also feature local artists — these have included the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, NUMUS Concerts, the Canadian Chamber Ensemble, Dancetheatre David Earle and the Penderecki String Quartet.
Sound installations are an integral part of the festival. The 'inner Ear' festival-within-a-festival presents a variety of work in collaboration with the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, the University of Waterloo School of Architecture and local galleries. Public workshops, symposia and sound walks as well as in-the-school educational events are also an important part of Open Ears, whose outreach involves a huge community effort with literally hundreds of volunteers and professionals involved, from students of local public schools and universities through to professional orchestra musicians, city counselors and local business people.
The festival promotes cross-disciplinary enhancement and the strengthening of the artistic community through joint projects. It has encouraged urban renewal through the reinvestigation of alternative spaces and rethinking our experience of architecture. In 1999 we were given an award by the Kitchener Downtown Business Association for our work in helping renew the troubled downtown Kitchener core. In 2008, the City of Kitchener identified Open Ears as one of its 'pillar' festivals. In 2009 we were recognized with a KW Arts Award.