Arts Resume                         See also:  Technical Resume

John Henry (Jack) Cole
111 Chestnut St.                        (519) 578-6298
Kitchener, Ontario
N2H 1T9

SUMMARY (originally prepared for the KW Arts Awards, 2001)

In 1995, as a lifelong lover of folk music, I decided to do something to extend KW's folk community and help spread the music.  The Old Chestnuts Song Circle - an informal gathering for group singing - has grown to include concerts, workshops, benefits, and  a newsletter which helps bind the folk community together.

A trip to The Woods Music and Dance Camp re-kindled a love of folk music and singing.  It introduced me to real, live folk musicians, and opened my ears to the brilliant concept of the "Song Circle".  Upon return from Camp, I knew that the music had to find a permanent place in my life, and in my community.

So began the Old Chestnuts Song Circle. Eventually the Old Chestnuts took root and grew into all that follows…

… as a Founder…  

  • In 1995, I founded the Old Chestnuts Song Circle, which has over 200 members from ages 8 to 80.  While most are amateurs, there are also some professional musicians.  We meet each month in our living room - as many as 45 of us - to sing and share songs. When Covid made indoor gatherings impossible, I pivoted the Circle to an online and outdoor event. Online or in person, I act as the host, keeping the circle moving and entertaining.
  • In 1999, I was a founding member of the Grand River Dulcimer Club, which formed after a successful workshop in our home. This was the only mountain dulcimer club in Canada, before it was retired in 2007.
  • In 2001, I was cofounder of the Chequegnat Festival, an afternoon and evening of music, crafts, food, and games in the open backyards of five neighbouring homes.  Ten musical acts were featured, and 175 people attended from as far away as Toronto. Since then the numbers have grown to about 300, with musicians from across Canada.
  • In 2001, I co-organized the first Central Frederick Artisans Craft Tour (now the Frederick Art Walk), a walking tour of artists’ studios, including my wife’s pottery studio. I created and maintained the Art Walk web site until 2022. In 2021, because of Covid, my wife and I were the main actors in pivoting the Art Walk to an outdoor, 2 day event.
  • In 2002, I co-founded an umbrella organization to promote folk music in the region.  The Grand River Folk Community invited sixteen presenters and clubs to its first meeting, and has grown steadily since then.
  • In 2006 I launched Folk Night at the Registry, an annual series of 6+ concerts, in conjunction with the Registry Theatre.  This is the most comprehensive folk music series in KW in many years. I have been volunteer Artistic Director since the program began. In 2022, after shuttering the series since March 2020, we relaunched Folk Night with a live stream component, which I believe is one of the most ambitious and high quality online offerings available.
    In addition, Folk Night and The Registry together produce the Roots Weekend every spring, featuring concerts and workshops. These events are produced by an entirely volunteer team, and revenue is donated to support the other programmes offered by the theatre.

… as a Presenter and Producer…

  • House Concerts. The Community section of the March 2002 Canadian Living magazine includes an article (to which I contributed) about house concerts. The story describes them as "part musicale and part party…the absolute best".  They are an essential oasis for traveling musicians, providing an outlet for their art as well as amenable food and lodging. House concerts (ours are always not-for-profit) often make such a tour feasible.   My wife and I began inviting people to concerts in our home in April of 1996.  As far as I am aware, the Old Chestnuts house concert series is the longest running, among active presenters, in Southern Ontario. Some musicians that we have hosted:
    • Eileen McGann, Juno Nominee (BC)
    • Modabo, ECMA nominee (New Brunswick)
    • David Francey, Juno winner (Quebec/Ontario)
    • Bill Gallaher & Harmony Road (BC)
    • Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer (US)
    • Rick Fielding (Ontario)
    • Eve Goldberg (Ontario)
    • Paddy Tutty (Saskatchewan)
    • Katherine Wheatley (Ontario)
    • Cathy Miller (BC)
    • Robin Laing (Scotland)
    • Aengus Finnan (Ontario)
    • Darrell Grant (New Brunswick)  
  • Larger concerts. As performers develop a following, it is possible to evolve their house concerts into larger venues.  I have organized, publicized and hosted concerts in local churches and halls, including The Registry Theatre in Kitchener and The Button Factory in Waterloo.  These events have featured both local and touring musicians, including:
    • Eileen McGann, Valdy, Penny Lang, Shari Ulrich Trio (BC)
    • Pied Pumkin 2001 Reunion Tour and 2005 (BC and France)
    • Trilogy (Alberta)
    • Maria Dunn, Lizzy Hoyt, Scott Cook (Alberta)
    • Connie Kaldor (Saskatchewan)
    • Cara Luft (Manitoba)
    • Haines & Leighton (PEI & Ontario)
    • The Dixie Flyers, The Pomelos, Finest Kinda, DALA, Trent Severn (Ontario)
    • David Bradstreet, Brent Titcomb, Rick Tayor, Heather Dale (Ontario)
    • James Keelaghan, Aengus Finnan, Brad Nelson, Boreal (Ontario)
    • Friends of Fiddler's Green, Lynn Miles, Paul Mills, Sylvia Tyson (Ontario)
    • Ken Whiteley & Mose Scarlett, The Marigolds, Katherine Wheatley & Wendell Ferguson (Ontario)
    • Tamarack 20th Anniversary, Craig Cardiff, The O'Pears, Suzie Vinnick, Rick Fines (Ontario)
    • Steel Rail, Genticorum, Ian Tamblyn (Quebec)
    • Dave Gunning, J.P. Cormier, Laura Smith, Naming the Twins, James Hill (Nova Scotia)
    • Modabo (NB)
    • Lennie Gallant (PEI)
    • Ron Hynes, The Ennis Sisters, The Once, Matthew Byrne (Newfoundland)
    • Joe Crookston, Brother Sun, John Gorka, Si Kahn (US)
    • Christine Lavin and Don White, Mark Rust, Bil Staines (US)
    • Peter Yarrow, Joe Jencks, Tom Rush, Mustard's Retreat (US)
    • Jez Lowe (UK)
    • The Tannahill Weavers, Archie Fisher (Scotland)
    • and many, many more.

      The Registry Theatre has become home for Folk Night at the Registry, a 6-8 show concert series, running since 2006. I am the Artistic Director for Folk Night, which has often been called "the most successful series" presented at The Registry. Folk Night has included a Who's Who of Canadian folk musicians, as well as rising and established stars from the US and abroad.
      I created the Folk Night web site and ticket store, to support the series with minimal overhead.  

  • Workshops. Concerts are wonderful entertainment, but workshops are ways to learn.  I have organized workshops in singing techniques, harmony singing, songwriting, ukulele, and mountain dulcimer.

  • Online Events. In March 2021, during the Covid lockdown when music gigs were non-existant, I created and produced an online concert featuring 4 Canadian perfomers and the authors of Rise Up Singing. All proceeds, from over 120 nationwide and international viewers, were divided among the performers.
  • Tributes/Benefits. Every community has its heroes. One in our community was Merrick Jarrett, a folk singer, story teller, teacher and mentor.  I co-organized an April 2002 tribute concert, featuring over a dozen musicians, with all proceeds going to the Hopespring Cancer Support Centre.  Each spring we celebrate Merrick with a special concert as part of the Folk Night series.  
  • I performed as a guest at a John Denver tribute at The Registry Theatre in Kitchener, which featured Kevin Ramessar.
  • In 2011 I conceived and co-developed a tribute concert to Harry Chapin. Proceeds from the 3 shows in London and Kitchener supported the local food banks and Harry's World Hunger Fund. The WHF Foundation contributed t-shirts and Chapin merchandise to sell, and over $7000 was raised. Performers at these shows were myself, Michael Kelly Cavan, Chris Lobsinger, Dan Patterson, Andy Tulloch, and Elaine Froese.
  • In 2008 I conceived, produced, co-developed, and performed in a concert remembering Stan Rogers, which was staged in Kitchener and London. The show was re-launched with Paul Mills, Brad Nelson, Anne Lederman, and Dan Patterson, in 2013 and 2015, playing in Kitchener, London, Hamilton, Brampton, and Orillia. The sold-out 2015 shows were fund-raisers for the Stan Rogers Festival, in Canso Nova Scotia.

 … as a Performer…

  • GreenWood is an acoustic trio of James Morgan, Jean Mills and myself. We harmonize vocally and play guitars, dulcimers, whistles, recorders, harmonicas, drums, and more.  We have performed three benefit concerts for Amnesty International, as well as opening sets in venues from Waterloo to Toronto, at the Chequegnat Festival, the Sandhills Festival, and other local events.
  • As a solo artist, I have performed at folk clubs; hosted, MC’ed and given opening sets at local venues; played at the Central Frederick festival, and at the Black Walnut Folk Club summer series in Victoria Park. I have performed at an exhibition opening at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, a local songwriting festival, and at the Latitudes Storytelling Festival (2008).
  • In 2000, I was asked to create a "Singing Our Songs" night as part of Millennium Mondays, on stage in Weber Park.  Five other musicians and I led a group of 50 neighbours in singing favourite folk songs.  I created a booklet of 24 songs which was distributed to the audience to help teach the music and encourage participation.
  • In 2004 I organized and participated in a workshop-style performance at the Central Frederick annual festival.
  • In 2005 I hosted and participated in a "traditional roots" workshop as part of the Kitchener songwriterfest.
  • In 2005 I organized music for and participated in the opening of the Downtown Community Centre.
  • In 2006 I performed at a memorial concert for Merrick Jarrett in Toronto and a fundraiser for Artscan Circle
  • In 2008, 2013, and 2015 I was producer and a lead performer for a concert remembering Stan Rogers (see above)
  • In 2011 I was producer and a lead performer in a tribute to Harry Chapin (see above)
  • In ~2005 I work-shopped the role of Funny in Ken Brown’s original musical Witness, at The Registry Theatre.
  • In 2016 I premiered the role of “Musician” for the first production of the play A Rose Upon The Blood
  • As listed above, I have performed in tribute shows to several artists

… as a Writer…

  • The Old Chestnuts Song Circle Newsletter is published occasionally, between song circles.  It brings Circle events to subscribers, along with news and reviews of area concerts, and articles of general interest to the folk music community.  It is emailed to nearly 200 subscribers from coast to coast and around the world, mailed to 30 more, and posted on the Old Chestnuts Web site for countless others.  There have been more than 50 issues.  I am the editor, publisher and main contributor to the newsletter, and creator of the Web site.
  • My love of music and writing have been combined in song writing, and one of my songs (The Canadian Tire Song) was included on a fund raising CD for the Black Walnut Folk Club. Of one of my recent appearances, The Record’s Robert Reid wrote "Old Chestnut Song Circle guiding spirit Jack Cole opened…In addition to a couple of popular original songs…he offered inspired covers…".

… as a Supporter…

  • Supporting Canadian songwriters is a passion for me.  Besides presenting them in concerts, I sell and pre-sell their products.  Pre-sales often enable folk musicians to complete recording projects.
  • Rise Up Singing is a group singing songbook that has sold well over a million copies. The authors drafted me into the production of a second volume, Rise Again, containing another 1200 songs. I recommnded and championed Canadian content and participated in the overall song selection process. Many Canadian songs, previously unknown to the American authors, were selected for the book, including several from local songwriters.
  • I help to promote local musicians by offering them opening and feature spots at concerts and at Chequegnat.
  • I have assisted several artisans, organizations, and musicians by creating and/or and maintaining Web sites for them. Among them are:
  • I was an MC and singaround host at the Mill Race Festival of Traditional Music for several years.
  • In 2004 I was a panelist at the Ontario Council of Folk Festival's annual conference
  • In 2009 I created and co-presented a seminar on Canadian folk music for a professional development seminar at Conestoga College

… as an Optimist…

Not all ventures prove successful, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth trying! Some enterprises  that did not take flight:

  • The Balladeers, a proposal for a History Channel TV series, that has yet to be accepted. The weekly series would feature a regular host and guest musicians, who would perform songs about historical events and tell the stories that go with them.
  • A proposal for the Centre In The Square’s 20th Anniversary Community Festival was unsuccessful. The proposition (a joint proposal of the Old Chestnuts, the Black Walnut Folk Club and the Mill Race Folk Club) was for a community singalong night, led by local and nationally known folk musicians.
  • The Singing Kettle Coffeehouse was a short-lived venture in St. Jacobs.  The Kettle was a monthly venue with a featured performer.
  • A proposal for a Canadian Folk Music course at Conestoga College has not yet been accepted.  This is by far the most important!

… Recognition…

For these various activities, I  was honoured to be nominated for a 2001 KW Arts Award, in the Open category.  In 2008 The Old Chestnuts Song Circle was nominated for the YMCA Strong Community Award. 

In 2010 "The Old Chestnuts Song Circle presents Folk Night at the Registry" received the Kitchener-Waterloo Arts Award in the "Festival or Event, Community Achievement" category.

Some Notes of Appreciation…  

 "You definitely had the show to end all shows in Kitchener; they've had some good ones since, but yours is the one they still marvel about."  - Val Hennell, Manager of Pied Pumkin.

"I know I speak for all of us when I say that your contribution to the Trilogy project was unsurpassed and our relationship was not only good in a business sense, but it strengthened friendships that will last forever.  Our visits to Kitchener and to Chestnut Street were always a bright spot on every tour: we always knew everything would be perfect when we got there.  Thank you for your professionalism, your hard work to build our audience in the area, your hospitality and your friendship.  We want to clone you."  - Cathy Miller (Trilogy)

"Jack Cole of Kitchener, Ontario, showed once again that he is a good person to have on your side.  Not only did he encourage me to do the book; he volunteered to pre-sell it so that I would have money to put towards production costs. A man of his word, he did exactly that and without him this book wouldn’t exist. Thank you Jack."  - Bill Gallaher, in the Foreword to The Bill Gallaher Songbook

"It's an absolute joy to watch your love and commitment cause you to contribute so much to your music community and everyone all around you.  Maybe you don't hear it from your community often enough, so on behalf of the music community I want you to know we (that's every single person whose life you touch) all love you very much....and you deserve extra large king-size cudos...!!!" - Mary Anne Epp, local folk singer, about the Canadian Living house concert article.

"I am SO glad you folks do what you do for the music community.  Tonight's concert would have been a wonderful experience no matter what, but knowing the rarity of these performances, and how hard you worked to make it happen made it even better." - Rosemary Stewart, Stratford Folk Guild

"In a few short years, Jack Cole has turned Kitchener-Waterloo from just a name on the map to a prime and valued destination for folk and acoustic performers.  The spirit and enthusiasm for roots music that Jack has engendered among the people of this community through song circles, house concerts and large events is an extraordinary achievement.   Because of Jack Cole and what he has accomplished as an arts organizer, with all of Canada to choose from, I made the decision to hold my official CD release concert in Kitchener last fall, and it was the highlight of my international touring year." - Eileen McGann, 2002 Juno Award Nominee

"Thanks kindly for letting me play during your awesome day.  What a great event for a great neighbourhood." - Matt Osborne, KW musician and Chequegnat performer.

"I have had the great pleasure of performing at a house concert in Kitchener-Waterloo organized by Jack Cole. I can say in all honesty that the concert that Jack produced was the most rewarding and enjoyable of any and all the house concerts we have performed at, before or since. I do not make that statement lightly.  There are many variables inherent in the format;  the performer, the host and the audience, any one of which, if left unattended could detract significantly from the success of the evening. I was astonished at Jack’s ability to organize every aspect of the event in such a manner as to leave all involved feeling they were in the most capable of hands.

The audience was limited to the perfect number for the space, they were personally welcomed and introduced to the format of the evening, and were made to feel integral to the evening’s proceedings. The same may be said for the performers. We wanted for nothing and were thrilled to find ourselves in front of a warm, friendly and informed audience. The audience singing that evening has yet to be surpassed in our experience. It was a thing of beauty, as was the whole evening.

I would say in closing that if recognition is coming to Jack for all his efforts in the promotion, in Kitchener-Waterloo,  of Canadian folk music, then it is long over due, but richly deserved. He has earned the respect, thanks and admiration of many in the folk community. More power to him." - David Francey, multiple Juno Award Winner

"Making music should not just be left up the those who have become professionals.  Making music is an essential form of personal expression that benefits the emotional and psychological well-being of everyone.  Jack Cole has encouraged many people to feel confident about making music.  He has invited people into his home, encouraged and supported many in this.  He has been tireless in his advocacy of grassroots music making, and of folk music in particular." - Brad McEwen, President, The Mill Race Folk Society