9:45am - 10:30am

Thursday, February 11 - Panel Discussion #2

Working with Suppliers and Platform Developers

Session Description: How have our suppliers, venues and entertainers survived the pandemic? We’ll talk about virtual, digital, drive inn and drive through experiences and what 2021 has in store.

Speaker Bios:


Matt Sobhy Matt has been involved in the development of many different initiatives & companies revolving around the music and events industry over the past 15 years. Notably, he has developed artists, built a music studio and produced media for large brands all under a company now known as Prevail Media Group. He also co-owns and directs a company that specializes in the “event experience” called X Events and has worked some of Canada’s largest festivals as well as internationally.

Mark Bingeman began his hospitality career with a B.A. from Michigan State University. Upon graduation, Mark held a variety of managerial positions with both Marriott and Hyatt Hotel Corporations throughout the United States. Upon returning home in 1994, Mark joined the family firm, Bingemans Inc., and received hands-on experience within the various business units. In 2004, Mark assuming the helm of Bingemans Inc. and has continually maintained an active hands-on approach to the business. Bingemans Inc. is a hospitality firm which operates five separate units.


Michael Bacon has over 20 years experience in the music business managing several bands and artists, including 80’s sensation the Spoons and Canadian recording artist Suzie McNeil.  He has also served as Artistic Director & Production Manager for the Lakeshore Mardi Gras festival in Toronto for several years, and Production Manager for the Port Credit paint the Town Red Canada Day festival. To respond to the new restrictions & protocols, Michael has designed effective properly managed and socially distanced outdoor entertainment plans, activated outdoor concerts, and had some artists continue to perform outdoor concerts throughout the pandemic.

9:00am - 9:45am

Thursday, February 11 - Panel Discussion #1

The Way We See It

Session Description: Join a group of leaders from our “Festivals of Distinction” to discuss the 2020 pandemic, their digital and virtual transformation’s, plans for 2021 and what they think the “New Normal” will be.

Speaker Bios:


Anita Gaffney Since being appointed Executive Director of the Stratford Festival in 2012, Ms Gaffney has guided the Festival towards financial stability while supporting the introduction of a number of new initiatives. Ms Gaffney joined the Festival in 1991 as a Publicity Assistant, and over the past 29 years has held a variety of positions, including Director of Marketing during the theatre’s years of peak attendance. An active member of the Stratford community, with an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and a degree in English Language and Literature from Western University.

Myles D. Rusak is the Executive Director of The Sound of Music; he’s an award winning Non-Profit Industry leader, life-long musician and former actor.

His foray into the non-profit world began nearly 20 years ago with the AIDS Committee of Thunder Bay.  He has since been in transformative leadership roles with several organizations. Myles has spent close to 15 years as a Non-Profit consultant specializing in Charity Concerts, Major Special Events, Board Governance, Strategic Planning and Fundraising. In 2014 he was awarded the prestigious Morton Shulman Award for Outstanding Leadership in the Industry.

Myles is a firm believer in all things community-oriented and is truly grateful to hold his position with Sound of Music.


Mark Monahan is the executive and artistic director of the RBC Bluesfest, the CityFolk music festival, and the Ontario Festival of Small Halls. Founded in 1994, the Ottawa Bluesfest has expanded from a one-stage, three-day event into a multi-staged, ten-day music showcase featuring some of the best performing talent on the planet. RBC Bluesfest has become the landmark event of the Ottawa summer, and according to Billboard Magazine is one of the top-10 music festivals in the world, attracting more than 300,000 music fans each year. Mark has also coordinated the creation of Festival House, a central artistic hub for many of Ottawa's festivals―such as CityFolk, Festival of Small Halls, and many others―to grow and thrive.

Marie Zimmerman Marie Zimmerman is the Executive Director of the Hillside Festival in which capacity she oversees outreach, finance, operations, risk management and HR, and teaches songwriting.  For over 15 years, she has worked for five Canadian arts festivals in music, dance, jazz, film and literature, acting as Artistic Director, publicist, HR consultant, emergency plan architect, strategic planner and Treasurer.  She is one of the founding members of the Guelph Fab 5, a collective of local arts festivals.  The Hillside Festival won the 2019 Clearwater Award for public leadership in sustainable event production.  They have won 13 other environmental awards since 2010. 

Erin Benjamin President & CEO of the Canadian Live Music Association since its creation in 2014, Erin Benjamin has worked in the music industry for over 25 years - first as a touring and recording artist and then as executive director of both Folk Music Ontario (2001) and the Canadian Arts Presenting Association (2008). Founder of the Ottawa Women in the Music Industry group and a passionate, highly-regarded leader, Erin currently serves the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Tourism and Cultural Industries pandemic-response Ontario Music Panel as co-chair, and on Ontario Creates, National Arts Centre and Algonquin College advisory committees. Based in Ottawa, she sits as a board member for the Ottawa Film Office, the Ottawa Board of Trade, the RBC Ottawa Bluesfest and the Unison Benevolent Fund.  In 2017 she enjoyed roles as both the vice-chair of the Ottawa Juno Host Committee and co-chair of Canadian Music Week. In May 2019, she was honoured with the United Way’s Community Ambassador of the Year Award for her work in producing the impactful “After the Storm” benefit concert, raising tens of thousands of dollars for victims of Ottawa’s devastating September, 2018 tornadoes.

Tala Kassar has been working in the media space for over 15 years. With a background in consumer publishing and advertising, she has strategized and executed multi-platform advertising campaigns for key global advertisers such as Proctor & Gamble, Kraft Canada, Rogers Media and a number of organizations in the financial service industry. Her campaigns included a number of widespread events across Canada with a high demand for the latest and greatest in innovative ideas, in order to meet multiple retailer sales targets and keep attendees engaged and returning year after year. Tala found a passion for helping event organizers find the source for success. She began teaching at Centennial College, and soon after, co-founded Digiteau AVX Event Solutions, which is aimed at providing innovative digital technology solutions for events.

10:30am - 11:00am

Thursday, February 11 - Panel Discussion #3

1 on 1 with the Honourable Lisa MacLeod 

Session Description: FEO CEO Dave MacNeil sits down for a one on one chat with the Honourable Lisa MacLeod - Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. They will chat about the COVID-19 Pandemic, the effects it has had on our industry and what the Provincial plan is moving forward.

Speaker Bios:


Honourable Lisa MacLeod - Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.

Lisa MacLeod is Ontario’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and has been elected to the Ontario Legislature since 2006.  Minister MacLeod has previously served as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, and as the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues where she addressed the United Nations on human trafficking as a Canadian delegate. 


Throughout her career, Minister MacLeod has been an outspoken advocate for mental health support, anti-bullying initiatives, and suicide and drug prevention. 


While in opposition Minister MacLeod held key economic and social portfolios in Finance, Energy, Education, and the Treasury Board and received all-party support for making Queen’s Park Family Friendly (and was awarded the prestigious EV award from Equal Voice for her commitment to women in politics), protecting live horseracing in Ontario, Rowan’s Law (Canada’s first concussion legislation), Lebanese Heritage Month and Trans Day of Remembrance.  Minister MacLeod also previously Vice Chaired the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.  She served as Co-Chair of the Quebec-Ontario Parliamentary Committee, the Canadian Women’s Parliamentary Association Ontario representative, and as a member of La Francophonie Parliamentary Association of Ontario.  Minister MacLeod has traveled to Madagascar, Israel, China, India, and the United States for parliamentary and trade missions in recent years. 


Prior to elected office, Minister MacLeod obtained a BA (Hons) from St. Francis Xavier University, completed Masters coursework at American Military University, and worked in the management program for Sobeys Inc.  Minister MacLeod has also worked at all three levels of government, was a commentator for current affairs on TV, radio and in print and has authored a cookbook, ”I’d Rather Be Baking Cookies”. 


Minister MacLeod has volunteered her time with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Nepean Hotspurs Minor Soccer Association, the Nepean Wildcats Minor Hockey Association, and Manordale Public School and has dedicated countless hours to supporting the food cupboards in Nepean.  She has been awarded the Royal Canadian Legion Friendship Medal, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and received a commendation from St. John’s Ambulance as well as the Pink Concussions Award.

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