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Peter G. Goral - Social Media Strategist - ArtEnvy Inc.

In conversation with Tom (Toomas) Treumuth, Canadian Artistic Director, Estonian Music Week

I recently sat down with Tom Treumuth, the Canadian Artistic Director for The Estonian Music Week which is bringing together what promises to be one the most exciting musical festivals of it's kind. The festival, which will take place in key Toronto entertainment venues throughout the entire week of May 24th to 29th is in celebration of Estonia's 100th Anniversary of Independence. Musicians and Singers from Estonia will be joining a roster of Canadian artists to bring together a magnificent collaboration of music and culture.

Peter: Tom, I can't begin to imagine what your calendar is like right now with this brilliant event scheduled for May, and so first of all thank you for taking the time to sit with me and offer our readers your thoughts and insights on the Estonian Music Week. I'm interested as I'm sure the readers are in what this 100 year anniversary of the independence of Estonia means to you on a personal level?

Tom: It means a lot actually. I’ve been in the music business my entire career but being part of Estonian Music Week is really the icing on the cake as I’m an Estonian born here and oh so proud to be one!

My parents both immigrated from Estonia due to the tremendous turmoil the country was in and they, like many others, were extremely fortunate to be welcomed to Canada as displaced persons. My entire childhood included Estonian events such as folk dancing, camp, scouts and playing keyboards in a band at Estonian parties (including of all places Tartu College where I now hang out at the EMW meetings). All this had a profound effect on me that has become part of my DNA.

I also produced the one and only Estonian Men’s choir CD many years ago and was part of the choir so it's wonderful to be so fully integrated into the community again. So anything I can do to help make the EMW event successful means everything to me personally and I’m even speaking Estonian again, although it had gotten a bit rusty over the years!

AVARUS Ensemble - Tallinn, Estonia - Classical, Jazz

Peter: That's absolutely terrific Tom, and while I was aware that music played a significant role in your life and career, I learned something more about you today, and so thank you for that. Now, without giving away too much, I was wondering what kinds of things can you share with us so that we can get a feel of what goes into assembling such an event?

Tom: Well Peter thats an excellent question. Piret, (our Festival Coordinator who’s doing a marvellous job) and I work closely together and it's mind boggling how much detail is involved in orchestrating such a large scale event! I would not be surprised if the number of emails going around totals many thousands by the time this is over. We of course also have a great committee and there are plenty of meetings and phone calls happening daily. A key responsibility is dealing with the artists and their managers to coordinate travel, artist fees, hotels, equipment rentals, rehearsals, sponsorships, venues, contracts, receptions, conferences, publicity, social media and many other details.

I would be lying if I said it's hard work - digging a ditch is hard work! But it's really all about being organized and sorting out the moving pieces, which can seem never ending. I personally love the mental high of helping with this but there are always challenges. You can’t satisfy everyone and there is no guarantee all the venues will be packed. And that's just before the artists arrive. Once they are here, it can feel like lots of birds chirping as everyone has needs and there are always surprises that come up. But everything will get figured out in the end.

ESTONIAN VOICES - Tallinn, Estonia - A Capella, Jazz, Folk, Pop

Peter: Tom, I think I saw most of that answer coming, and it's clear that there are, as you suggest, many moving parts to even a standard show, but the Estonian Music Week is 5 days long with lots of performances and arrangements to be set up. Perhaps you'd share your own thoughts on how you see this music and cultural event being received by the city of Toronto?

Tom: Estonia may be a small country that some people have barely heard of, but I believe the event will share our culture and especially our unique spirited music with those who simply haven’t been exposed to it yet. I believe it will be addictive to those who give it a try.

By having almost an entire week of concerts downtown in Toronto's best venues, supported by major media, you will no doubt hear about this event and that's only positive for Estonians and the city. And with Toronto being so multicultural (and being known around the world for its diversity) I have no doubt EMW will be very well received.

VOX CLAMANTIS - Tallinn, Estonia - Gregorian, Early & Contemporary

Peter: That sounds very exciting Tom, and I must say that you have whet our appetites for more. Can you highlight some of the music and cultural values that exist in Estonia and if you can, offer us some insight as to what to expect at some of these concerts?

Tom: Having made my career in music, exploring new sounds from around the world has always been important to me. That interest, combined with my heritage has meant Estonian artists have always been on my radar. I believe what's happened to Iceland’s surging popularity (with artists like Bjork, Sigur Ros and others) is also possible for Estonia as we certainly have our share of quirky, highly innovative artists that are now on the world stage for everyone to enjoy.

Estonian cultural values I believe are really inherent in our artists as the lyrics and music come straight from the heart and are a deep reflection of the turbulent history the country has gone through in the last 100 years and more. Voices in particular like those of Grammy award winning choir Vox Clamantis and Estonian Voices (both of whom are playing EMW) always seem to resonate with everyone with their at times ghostly qualities that are hauntingly beautiful - a magical sound for listening audiences. Estonian harmonies just seem to always sound unique and therefore distinctive resulting in either an exhilarating and or emotional concert experience.

EMW will feature remarkable jazz from newly signed ECM artist Kristjan Randalu, truly one of the world's most compelling pianists of his generation, as well as a classical/jazz concert by the Avarus Ensemble (festival openers), who are remarkable in that they defy categorization. Rounding out our visiting Estonian program are Kadri Voorand a truly stunning singer/composer who has won many awards including best jazz vocalist and best jazz album of the year, Maarja Nuut, an eclectic violinist/electronic singer songwriter, and bassoonist Martin Kuuskman who is also Grammy nominated.

We also have some adventurous rock-oriented acts featured on our ESTONIANS ROCK evening: Pia Fraus and Eriki Parnoja. And as a bonus everyone will be entertained in between sets by the very cool DJ Sander Molder.

On the local Estonian platform, we have the amazing duo of Tiina Kiik and Rosie Lindau, the mesmerizing vocals and haunting compositions of Kaili Kinnon, the electronic futuristic sounds of Kara Lis Coverdale and the hard rocking sounds of The Leslie Spits.

And we just recently secured singer songwriter Kerli for our event. She is the most successful Estonian pop artist in the world, with 600,000 Facebook, 80,000 Twitter and 40,000 Instagram followers. She will not be performing but we are very excited that she will take part in a music panel and attend our concerts and receptions.

AND that's not all!

I have also invited a select few Canadian artists to join the roster:

Quartetto Gelato:

An amazing classical quartet of very talented musicians with a fun fact that founding member Peter’s mom is Estonian! This is classical music performed with an added emphasis of FUN and they are paired with Estonian Voices on our last evening at Lula Lounge.

QUARTETTO GELATO - Toronto, Canada - Classical Crossover

Justin Gray and Synthesis:

Justin Gray is a contemporary world music ensemble that explores a captivating cross-cultural blend of Indian and Western Music. They will be performing on our opening evening and also guesting with Avarus for some interesting original music.

JUSTIN GRAY & SYNTHESIS - Toronto, Canada Contemporary World Jazz

Elizabeth Shepherd:

This four time JUNO award nominee has been hailed as a Jazz virtuoso with a pop sensibility and praised by critics worldwide for her arrestingly original writing and soulful delivery. Part of a new wave of jazz musicians bringing the art form to a new generation of fans, this twice nominated Polaris Prize nominee also is part of a wonderful evening of female artists performing at Hugh’s Room. She is joined the same evening by Estonian's Kadri Voorand Quartet and Kaili Kinnon. Like all our shows, one not to be missed!

ELIZABETH SHEPHERD - Montreal, Canada - Jazz, Soul

DIANA:

This is a Canadian synth pop band whose debut album Perpetual Surrender was a long-listed nominee for the prestigious 2014 Polaris Music Prize. It was followed by a second album Familiar Touch in November 2016. They will be joined for the ESTO ROCKS evening with Pia Fraus, Erki Parnooja, Sander Molder, Kaili Kinnon and The Leslie Spits. An evening of great music awaits those who come to party on Friday evening at Lee’s Palace.

DIANA - Toronto, Canada - Synthpop, Indiepop

Peter: Tom, that is one extremely incredible line up and I suspect that it is going to be a huge success based on all the effort that you and the team has put into this really exciting event. I realize I may be jumping the gun here, but what do you anticipate to be the result of your efforts and can you see perhaps facilitating something similar in the future?

Tom: My goal when joining the EMW team was to look beyond this being a one-off event. Being in the music business my entire life, one thing I have learned is that artists trying to succeed in other countries must continue to tour abroad regularly and build on their initial buzz and fan base. This means that the buzz we'll create in Toronto for these Estonian acts should lead to more touring activity - not only in Toronto but across the country, given the fantastic range of festivals looking for imaginative acts like ours. So yes, I would love for Estonian acts to come here regularly and continue to build up a fan base, not only with Estonians but with all kinds of music lovers.

Another wish I have is for local Estonian Canadian acts to start traveling regularly to Estonia and abroad to showcase their music as I honestly believe it will resonate greatly, not only with Estonians but other Baltic and European countries. Hopefully a version of this festival will continue in future years.

I'm also hoping to compile a comprehensive mailing list so we'll have a way to share future cultural events with those who are passionate about Estonian music, film and art. So if you haven’t subscribed to the EMW email blasts yet, please do so now! And tell your friends about EMW as I’m confident they will thank you later.

One final thought - I believe that music, art and film are important cultural unifiers and that's what we are hoping to do with this event.

Cheers to everyone who has read this and comes out to support this wonderful event.

Thank you Peter for the great questions!

Peter: Thank you Tom, your insight has only added to the curiosity of many of our readers, and I'm positive that your efforts along with that of your team will be duly rewarded by virtue of many people coming to see and hear what you have so diligently put together for The Estonian Music Week in Toronto, this May 24th to 29th 2018. Brilliant job!

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