In 2007, I recorded and released my first CD, a little three-song effort titled “I Remember.” The songs were all done in honour of the place where my parents grew up, a town called Wallaceburg, Ontario. And in particular, the CD release was meant to be a bit of a campaign to support an event called “WAMBO” (Wallaceburg Antique Motor and Boat Outing) because of how much it meant to my grandfather, Murray Newkirk.
On Saturday, August 8th, I’ll be back in Wallaceburg to do a performance and support the event – and the town –as best I can. It will be my first appearance there since 2008. I intend to do what I can to honour and celebrate the memory of my Grandpa Newk and two other late, great Wallaceburg citizens and friends, Chip Gordon and Al Mann.
WAMBO, now in its 27th year, is a wonderful weekend celebration that brings its town back to its heyday of casual Sydenham River traffic, wooden boats, cool cars, music, sunshine, family time and smiles all around. It almost feels like the 1950’s version of Hill Valley in the film “Back to the Future.” Seeing the town so alive as it becomes on WAMBO weekend does almost feel like you’ve gone back in time.
I have vivid memories of visiting Grandma and Grandpa for WAMBO. I treasured seeing my grandfather like a kid in a candy store, so proud and excited at all activity. He would marvel at the scores of Chris Craft wooden boats that used to be made not far away, in Algonac, Michigan.
Somewhere along the line, I wrote a song about it, and then let it sit around for many years, collecting dust. Then, after a career change in early 2007, I worked up the courage to call long time WAMBO chairperson, Chip Gordon, and asked if he’d be interested in having a kind of “theme song” for the event. He immediately asked me to come visit him at the Wallaceburg and District Museum to hear the song. He also asked town historian, Al Mann, to be at that meeting, which took place on a cold, icy day in February of that year.
I met Chip and Al at the museum and played them my “WAMBO song” (which eventually became titled “Wallaceburg”). By that time, I’d written a second song referencing my family’s history in the town, a song called “I Remember.” So I played that song for them, too, and they liked it also. It was then that Chip suggested that two songs were better than one, but that three songs would be even better! So, I responded by writing a third tune for the project, a song called “Glass” which references the old glass factory that was the engine of Wallaceburg’s economy for so many years and uses it as a bit of a metaphor for the honour in simply taking care of your responsibilities and working your way through life as best you can. “Glass” remains one of my favourite lyrics I’ve ever written.
Al kindly dug into his historical archives to provide me with photos to use for the project. Chip set me up to perform on both the Friday night and the Saturday of WAMBO that year. He even asked me to come and sit as part of the WAMBO planning committee, and I proudly attended a number of those meetings for a time.
My grandpa, Chip and Al have all since passed on, but the event remains. I got to know the current Chair of WAMBO, Bill Wolsing, during that time 8 years ago. And it was Bill who has made it possible for me to come back. He is doing an enormous amount of work to preserve the event and I am entirely grateful that he’d bother to have me back.
Life moves along pretty quickly. Looking back, I am really glad I took on that project. I am certain it meant a lot to my grandfather, especially considering he was in the latter stages of his life. And in the process of doing something that, at the time, was important to both of us, I met and became friends with all kinds of wonderful people. I am genuinely excited about going back to visit and see as many of them as I can.
So if you’re in the Chatham/Kent area on Saturday, August 8th, please think about stopping in to WAMBO for a visit. I’ll be somewhere downtown in the early afternoon, sharing those songs from “I Remember,” as well as a few from my other two CDs and some other favourites that go along with sitting by the river on a summer day.
Also, I’ll have all 3 of my CDs (“I Remember,” “No Schedule Man” and “Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man”). I will donate every single cent of any sales at WAMBO back to the event, in honour of my Grandpa Newk, Chip Gordon and Al Mann, three wonderful souls who loved the town completely and will never be forgotten.
“Home sweet home.
Hope to see you there.
I love music.
Other than the love of my kids, family and friends, there remain few things that can supercharge my soul as much as a live musical experience that reaches me in some kind of deep, personal way. And boy, did I get charged up at a charity event a little over a week ago, thanks to a band called 7T8.
If you look at the music page of my website, you’ll see that I’ve dabbled in recording and releasing a few of my own musical creations (which represent a fraction of what I’ve actually written over the years). And you might also see that it’s mostly acoustic, bordering on folk music in some cases. And that’s fine.
But I have always been a rock and roller at heart. It’s just that, to record and perform as a rock outfit, you need more people, more gear, more money, more space, more time … more everything. And so to share the few creations I have, I’ve chosen songs that I can just show up and play with my acoustic guitar and nothing more.
The point is that I’ve been through the process of recording, releasing and performing some of my own music. I know from experience that it’s not easy. Far from it. And I can only imagine how much of a challenge it would be to try and record a rock band, especially on a tight budget, and have it come out sounding good.
Last week, I met a band that’s done it. And I’m really impressed.
On March 20th, I volunteered my time to March of Dimes Canada to serve as Master of Ceremonies for their “Rock For Dimes” event here in London, Ontario. It’s essentially a “Battle of the Bands,” with terrific corporate and community support.
At “Rock for Dimes,” each band gets the opportunity to perform for a half hour. They’re judged on their musicianship, audience response, originality and overall level of quality. Most of the bands churn out classic (and some current) rock cover songs and do a fine job of it.
Before I tell the story of what happened at “Rock for Dimes,” perhaps I’l share a bit about my own musical background first. That might help make it clear why I feel I reacted so strongly to this particular experience.
I’ve been a member of a rock cover band before. Back in the late 90’s, some friends in a group they called the “River Band” approached me about joining their group as rhythm guitarist, backup vocalist and … songwriter. They had spent years playing the local clubs around Sarnia and through Lambton County (in Ontario Canada) as the “Whiskey River Band,” but when the local AM country station flipped it’s signal to an FM rock format, they dropped the “Whiskey” from their name and went for more of a pop-rock feel, and anticipated they’d want some original rock music to play. So they approached me, and asked me to write them some songs. And I did, and to this day I know I wrote some really good ones (maybe you’ll get to hear them one day).
The River Band got paid pretty well and worked steadily, thanks to the constant efforts of the band’s leader, my pal Sean Robbins (Sean was a master at getting the band booked). I jumped in with both feet, learned 40 or 50 songs within a couple of weeks and went to work as their rhythm guitarist and had a great time. But I knew all along that the payoff was to start performing and recording original music. Otherwise, I felt, what’s the point?
Coming in to the summer of 1999, we rehearsed a song I’d written that, at the time, we called “Rock the Boat” (I’ve since renamed it “Sunken Soldier”). We performed it on live TV as part of a charitable telethon in London, and got terrific feedback from it. You see, to be on TV, we had to perform original music, as we didn’t have the rights to play any one of the dozens of cover songs we’d always play in clubs and bars. So we played our own song and instantly heard from people that liked it.
A couple of weeks later, we were set to be one of the headlining bands at the annual Canada Day festivities in Centennial Park in Sarnia (some video of that show still exists, with me playing and singing lead on Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69”). Our plan for that night was to perform “Rock the Boat” as part of our set to show the thousands of people who were there that night that we did, in fact, have our own music in the works. But what happened instead is that we were a little short on time and were asked to cut a song or two from our set. Despite my protests, my bandmates chose to cut “Rock the Boat,” and though we went and played that gig and had a great time of it, I knew then and there I would leave the band, because they’d had the chance to put their own work out front and didn’t.
I was not there to sing “Mustang Sally” and “Crocodile Rock.” I tolerated the cover songs so we could get to original songs. But the other guys felt the opposite (which, by the way, I completely understand. They were good at what they did and got paid pretty well to do it. I just wasn’t there for the same reasons, so I left shortly afterward).
During that time, I was always told that “You can’t go into a bar and get away with playing original music.” I always thought that was a load of bull spoken by people too scared to try. It takes guts to get up on stage at any level. But it takes real fortitude to share and stand behind your own creations. I knew I could do it, and I did, the next spring, with a band I called “Freight Train.” But that’s another story.
Writing original music, especially good original music, is harder than it looks. And to get a band to work up a good arrangement of a song is, in my opinion, even more difficult. And even after that, you’ve no guarantee the audience will like it. So it’s a lot easier to just play popular songs, where all that work is done for you.
And so, with all that in mind, let’s jump back to present time and the business at hand. I was truly intrigued when I was reading the band bios in the program at this year’s “Rock for Dimes” event. I saw that one of the bands was going to try something new. Here’s a bit about each band from that night:
There was a group called the RJ Conspiracy. I knew them from last year. They’re a group of guys who work as accountants during the week and come together to gig now and then and they do a great job with their classic rock tastes. Their take on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” stood out to me. Their singer, Rick Jankura, later told me it was Peter Frampton’s version of the song. I really liked it.
Another group that had returned from the year before was a band that calls themselves the Attic Apostles. They’re a great group of guys who put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into their performance. I was happy to recognize John Raposo, their lead singer, and to get the chance to chat with him a bit. Anyone who gets up on stage and sings has my respect, and John has mine. And I was especially pleased when they took on a really tough song from one of my favourite bands, the Trews, with a wailing rock track called “Hold Me In Your Arms.” I also liked their choice of other cover songs.
A band called Oui B Jamon was back for another go. They’d actually won the event a couple years before and they are indeed a neat outfit. Though their keyboardist was the lead singer and seemed to be the focal point, it’s the guitarist, Norm Emblem, who stands out to me for his slick style and smooth sound. He was the only one to play a slide all night, and he looks and sounds cool and laid back when he plays. I enjoy watching him cruise through tunes like Skynyrd’s “Call Me the Breeze” or Thorogood’s “Move It On Over.”
One of the two new bands for this year was a group of police officers who had named their act Duty Calls. I chatted with a couple of them. Great guys. And they did a terrific job on stage with a cool mix of covers. As with Attic Apostles, Duty Calls had me smiling when they finished their set with a Trews song called “Fleeting Trust” (a great track).
Each of those bands were fun to watch and they all did a great job. It’s just that, for me, it was all stuff I’d heard before, in one way or another.
So I was very much intrigued when I read the bio of the other new band for this year, a group from Cambridge that called themselves 7T8. I liked the name straight away. But what I liked even more was reading that, though they’d started as a cover band, they quickly began to gel with each other and write their own music, and had not only begun to play some of it live, but they had also recorded and just released an EP of their own music as well.
That had my full attention.
As the band was setting up for their set, one of the members approached me, shook my hand and said, “Hi! I’m Shane. I’m the singer for the next band, 7T8. I just wanted to thank you for being the MC. You’re doing a great job. Is there anything you’d like to know about our band?”
Nobody else had asked me that, though I’d have welcomed it.
I asked Shane (who I instantly liked), “I read about you guys. Are you going to play a whole set of your own music?”
“We’re going to do a mix,” Shane said. “We’ll play some of our own songs and some other songs people will know.”
I remember my heart jumping a little bit. Shane had confirmed for me that we were going to hear something new that night. A little voice popped into my head that pleaded, “Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck. Please don’t suck.”
Let me tell you. They didn’t suck.
Impressed, I thanked Shane and wished him good luck and got out of the way as the band finished their quick set up.
A few minutes later, they nodded that they were ready, so I went back up on stage to introduce them. As I came to the end of my introduction, they sensed the timing and started playing what was, essentially, an intro to their own first song. It was the kind of sensing of momentum that most others never seem to take advantage of, and it’s always baffled me why more bands (and performers in general) don’t pick up on that sort of stuff. But the guys in 7T8 were tuned in.
As they tore in the opening chords of their first song, the hair went up on the back of my neck. I didn’t know what the song was. I’d never heard it before. But I knew I liked it, and that I was going to want to hear it again. The air in the room changed instantly. For me, it was one of those soul-grabbing, stupid-smiling, spin-you-around-the-room kind of moments that happens all too rarely.
At a time like that, it’s a lot of fun to observe people’s reactions. The crowd seemed momentarily disoriented at this band that was suddenly thundering new sounds at them with swagger and style, whereas they probably knew every other song that had been played earlier in the night, with those bands maybe not having the throttle pinned all the way to the floor the way 7T8 did. And yet, they weren’t upset. The band sounded too good for that. It was a strange mix of excitement and confusion that lasted about two minutes.
After that, 7T8 had the room. They owned it.
After grabbing the crowd by the collar with their opener, a rip-snorter of a song from their EP called “Outta My Head,” they instantly transitioned into a rollicking version of the song “Paralyzer” by Finger Eleven. Later came their EP title track, “Rebirth,” “My Hero” from the Foo Fighters and then another of their own songs. By the time they reached the end of their set, 7T8 had made it clear the competition was over for that night. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand, and finished their performance with a hair-raising rendition of the Billy Idol song “Rebel Yell.” I’ve always been lukewarm to “Rebel Yell,” but if 7T8 had made a recording of their version of the song available for sale that night, I’d have bought it without even thinking about it.
After they were done, the crowd yelled for an encore, and I don’t think they were being in any way disrespectful to the other bands. They just genuinely wanted to hear more from 7T8. I did too.
7T8’s set that night reminded me of how I’d felt so long ago, that you could play your own songs for an unfamiliar crowd, if your songs were strong enough and if you were confident about it.
I was buzzing from the experience. I was so glad I was there to see that performance. And perhaps I am overstating it, but I can only share what my sincere reaction to it was, and I felt like I’d been a part of something very rare and a whole lot of fun. It’s the kind of emotional response only music can generate for me, and it can’t be manufactured. It just happens.
As soon as I got home that night, around midnight, I chose buying and listening to 7T8’s EP over going to sleep, and I am still happy with the choice. They somehow got that right, too. It’s a fine first effort, and sounds great at maximum volume in my car. If you’re interested, you can download it HERE.
I love music, and want to thank March of Dimes for having me as their MC again to help remind me why. I also want to tip my cap to all the bands that were there that night, not just 7T8. They were all great and worked hard and played well and supported a great cause.
I think I’ll go pick up my guitar.
Here in Ontario, Canada, over the last many weeks, we’ve been getting a pretty steady dose of “Extreme Cold” weather alerts, colder-than-average temperatures, and snow.
Lots of snow.
People are quick to crank and moan about the weather. And many business people I’ve encountered find weather an quick excuse for when things slow down. My question this month is, Does the weather really affect what you do and how you spend your money?
In my day job, I work as a marketing consultant and sales executive for a group of popular radio stations in Ontario, Canada. Understandably, I am asked about other various forms of media a lot, and I’m happy to offer my perspective, as I have experience in buying and implementing most of them. I also believe that each communication tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that a healthy mix as part of a strategic plan is probably best.
But when I am asked about Facebook for marketing small businesses, two words immediately come to mine: Be careful.
I recently asked, in an online poll on my website (www.kevinbulmer.com) and through comments received from Twitter (and, yes, Facebook) how people currently felt about Facebook. I asked because I wanted to get a feel for why, if at all, people still used that particular social media tool, because I feel its important to know, as marketers, why people are (or are not) engaged with any particular media. Marketers want to go where the people are. Or at least, where they think they are (but I’ll get to that).
The average response I got back more-or-less matched own personal feelings about Facebook: that I keep it more as an extended “address book” for far-flung family and friends than anything else.
However, there were a few people who responded to my question by cutting right to the heart of the matter, including this response on Twitter (read the bottom post first, then the top):
Now, this may be of no consequence to you if you’re on Facebook simply to know that you can reach out distant family members without having to keep track of phone numbers and email address (although, you may not be seeing all the content you wish to see, but we’ll get to that later). But if you’re running a small business and are being tempted by the seemingly inexpensive allure of growing your following on Facebook, sit up and pay attention.
And be careful.
If you’re thinking of paying for a Facebook ad to grow your business page’s following, please watch this video from Veritasium first:
Here’s a bit about my own marketing experience on Facebook:
From 2007 through 2011, I was part of an event management company called CPT Entertainment Inc. We ran a variety of consumer-based trade show-type events, and used Facebook as part of many of our marketing campaigns, along with radio, outdoor signage, TV and some print. Back then we felt we got decent value for our Facebook advertising. One example would be the time we arranged to have one of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR race cars on display at one of our events. We used Facebook to put an ad out that targeted people who “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr (or NASCAR in general) and lived within a certain geographical radius of our event. We felt we got good response to the ads. We could tell from the analytics and the comments we received, as well as through the attendance at the event itself.
But, as indicated in the Veritasium video (above), things have changed since then.
Forward to present day: I have a Facebook page for my own business, Kevin Bulmer Enterprises. Whenever I post something there, Facebook only serves it to between 5 and 10% of the people who actually “like” the page. I know this because it gives me those analytics with each post. And it always –ALWAYS – asks me if I want to “boost” the post to have seen more often.
In other words, it wants me to pay to have my post seen by people who’ve already “Liked” the page.
I tried it. Once. It was money wasted.
In fairness, I do believe it’s up to me to re-engage people. But still, I can’t help thinking that if someone had “liked” my page (and thereby given consent to see my updates), they should at least occasionally see that I’ve offered some new content, without me having to pay for it, shouldn’t they?
When I think about it in reverse, I looked to the pages that I’ve personally “Liked,” and realized that there are a number of them that almost never show up in my Facebook News Feed, even though I want to see their updates (to try to combat this, I leave my News Feed set to “Most Recent” and scroll all the way through, as opposed to “Top Stories”).
Still, even though I consider myself informed and I knew I was not having a good experience with my “Kevin Bulmer Enterprise” page, I decided to take it one step further and try a little experiment, figuring that maybe if I started something from scratch, my experience would be different.
Here’s what I did:
I created a Facebook page for a musical rock and roll project I’d been working on for a while, called “Mutineer” (I’ll write more about it another time). I posted it as a rock band page, put up some content and then set about creating an ad campaign. I designed an ad for the page, set a budget of $10 to be spread over a week and set the ad to target only people who ‘Liked’ the bands Extreme or Volbeat, were 18 years of age and up and lived in either Canada, Great Britain, Australia or Denmark.
I thought that a pretty specific set of criteria.
And so I found it very interesting that the first page ‘Like’ I got was from a “person” named Denis Johnson. Denis has no posts on his timeline, yet he has 39,955 Facebook page likes (including 2,766 Music “likes”).
I’ll say that again: this “person” has over 39,000 Facebook page Likes.
Do you know any actual human being that actually “likes” over 39,000 pages on Facebook?! Neither do I.
Here’s a sample of some of the other “people” who liked this page shortly afterward:
– Choudry Khalid Mahmood Anjum (Page likes: 10,139)
– Sandra Berdan (Page likes: 8,712)
– Jango Gurug Gurug (Page likes: 5,961)
– Saif AL Hakeem (Page likes: 5,290)
– Saddi Mir (Page likes: 5,615)
– Tahir Rasool (Page likes: 6,748)
By contrast, I looked at my own personal Facebook profile and saw that I had 96 different page “Likes” (and, as noted earlier, I don’t even see all the updates from those pages). I can’t even imagine how much work it would be to get my volume of “Likes” up to, say, 5,000!
It wasn’t long before I realized I was only experiencing exactly what the Veritasium video (above) warns about, and so I cancelled the rest of my ad campaign. I’d wasted enough money.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Facebook does not have value to businesses. What I am saying is that, if you’re going to us Facebook as a marketing tool, be careful. Accept that there are no real short cuts with Facebook any more than there are with radio, television or any other medium.
Quality wins. The cream rises. Quick fixes are a fallacy.
I’ll be the first to admit I use Facebook poorly. I’ve thought many times about deleting my page, but have decided to keep it going simply because, every now and then, someone new finds me there. But as for growing my business, I still find that the best technique is to get out in the community and get to know people.
Are you determined to grow your following on Facebook? Then roll up your sleeves. Engage people and other organizations. Add value for them. Create and share good content. Interact. You can build a monster following on Facebook, but you better do it organically.
In other words, I’m sorry, but you have to actually work at it.
Or, try and grow the quick way at your own peril.
I’ve been fortunate to get to know a great many interesting and inspiring people. I’m grateful to have learned a lot from each of them.
One of those people is Rob Hogendoorn.
The Senior Pastor at Forest City Community Church in London, Ontario, Rob is one of my favourite people to be around. He is, to me, the epitome of both a friend and a mentor, and he is always generous with his time.
In my conversation with Rob, he shared some great perspective that I feel will be extremely valuable to any goal-oriented person, such as the need to have a clear vision to begin but also remaining open to new detours and opportunities, the importance of finding and empowering the right people, and why it’s necessary to be both persistent and patient.
Another key takeaway from my chat with Rob had to do with the idea of “overnight success,” and what it truly takes to achieve the kinds of results worthy of being labelled as such. Rob also reinforced for me the reality that sometimes things don’t go the way you expect them to, and not only is that still okay, but it can actually prove to be even better and more memorable than if things had gone according to plan all along.
Here is my conversation with Rob Hogendoorn.
KB: How did you find your way to London (from Vancouver)?
Rob: It was a combination of things. One is that my wife grew up here, so we had some connection to London. And we lived here for a little bit after we got married.
When you get out into British Columbia, you get so taken by the majesty and the beauty of the place, and the softer climate and all of that. And that’s why people rarely move back. And we had that for five years. We were like, “This place is just amazing – it’s just so beautiful.” But somehow we had just kept a soft spot in our hearts for London.
And then a situation turned up where I was able to find a bit of funding for me to basically pay my salary the first couple of years while I was trying to start a new church here, but it was kind of limited to the London region, this funding. And because the desire was so imbedded in my heart to start a certain kind of church, because that was all taking shape in my mind while we were living in Vancouver, and then the opportunity came and a little bit of that financial means – I had four young kids under the age of 8 and I thought I at least need to feed them and clothe them while I’m trying to do this thing – we took the opportunity.
So it was that convergence of those two things. But the sense of what it (the church) would be like, the kind of way it would function, that started to take root in my mind in 1989, 1990, 1991 – somewhere around in there.
KB: Can you tell me more about the things that were stirring inside you, both in terms of having the sense of needing to move on and in terms of the idea for what became Forest City Community Church? What was going through your heart and mind?
Rob: I’d say two things on it. One is the vision for how it would look increasingly took shape by the fact that I grew up in a church-going family and gave my life to Christ at a pretty early age. And then when I was a pastor of a church, it was kind of a traditional church and it was a church that was really great for people who were born and raised in it, and never really strayed. But increasingly I started really resonating with the need for 85-90% of Canadians for whom that’s not their story.
Probably 85-90% of Canadians, they might have some perspectives on faith and God but they certainly don’t have a very strong integrated personal experience of God and they certainly don’t have a meaningful way in which that’s lived out in a church community.
And so increasingly I thought, “How could we develop a church that would make sense and engage the 85% of Canadians?” And that’s where the kind of model and method and style and approach and philosophy of Forest City Community Church came increasingly clear in my head and in my heart, and what it would look like and what it would feel like and how it would function.
And then it became a matter of saying, “Okay, what things are going to have to happen for that to happen?” And, “What things am I going to have to try to put in place to see that take shape?”
A lot of it had to do with finding some of the key personalities and leaders who could give rise to some of these dimensions of what this church actually is now, because I couldn’t do it all. So I had to find and build a sub-team of people who resonated with that vision but they could take a different piece of it and push that piece of it out.
So that’s really what I ended up doing in the first five years, was really honing that team of people and supporting them and working with them and then together, all these different aspects of the church’s ministry just started to take shape.
KB: What was the response, if any, from the traditional church community when you first got started? What was that like in the early days?
Rob: You know, it was pretty simple I think, because nobody knew about us. We were nobody. We were just a group of kids, really. I mean I was 30 or 31 years old and all of my other leaders were in their 20’s and we were just a little rag-tag collection of some people doing this little thing. So I don’t think anybody noticed.
KB: And at this stage, you were at Saunders (Secondary School)?
Rob: At that stage we were at Ashley Oaks Public School. After about 5 years, we grew out of that. And then we went to Saunders, and we were there for 7 years.
KB: So the church at this point is more of an intellectual and spiritual entity as opposed to any kind of bricks and mortar?
Rob: Absolutely. And I didn’t feel tension with other churches in the city at all because, first of all, we weren’t trying to reach their people. We were trying to reach people that were not going to church. And most of them were just really quite thrilled about that because many of them would like to have been more effective at that too. But for most of the years, you’re just kind of on your own at it and you don’t even think anybody’s noticing.
KB: What point was it when you realized that this had gained enough traction that you thought, “Wow, we’ve created a going concern here that is going to be somewhat of a long-term, established commitment.” When did that first occur to you?
Rob: It’s a good question. I think that, on one level, I know that for the first 10 years easily, we wondered all the time whether this was going to work.
KB: Ten years?
Rob: (Laughs) Oh yeah. Easily.
KB: I think it’s important to hear that. So many people – and I’ve been guilty of this as well – they think that everything comes right away, or should. And that’s not reality. Every overnight success is born of a lot of time with your sleeves rolled up.
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. It was probably 10 years before I sort of thought, “Wow, I guess this might actually work.” And then the other thing is, I would say this: I still sort of think of it in my heart as this fledgling little community trying to reach into the lives of people who are not super-connected to God. So I still think of us in a very primitive state actually. I don’t think of us as this going concern. I think of us as, “Wow, we’ve got a pretty good start.”
KB: Do you think that’s what allows your curiosity to continue to flourish?
Rob: Yes, I think so. You’re probably right.
KB: So Rob, when you talk about that 85-90% of people who don’t regularly go to church, what it is about Forest City Community Church that does seem to connect with them?
Rob: I guess I would say that there are a number of things but one of them would rise to the top for me. It’s two of our core values are Biblical truth and cultural relevance. Without a strong, truly transformative, authoritative message, you don’t have anything for people. But at the same time, if you’re not engaging people in a truly culturally relevant way and in a way that addresses life today, and communicates in the way that life is lived today and the realities people have today, if you’re not bringing those two to bear on each other, you’re also missing the boat. So that’s what we work really hard to do.
KB: I’m interested in what it’s like for you, where you are the leader here in a number of different senses, in finding the balance in being able to be confident wearing that day after day, but also knowing that you’re an individual that is probably looking for guidance as well.
Rob: A couple of things come to my mind. One is that I think it’s important to not try to do this alone. There’s no doubt that I have a central, visible, pivotal leadership role in this church and this faith community. But I think that if you try to do that in isolation, it’s dangerous because I’m fallible just like everybody else is fallible. So I can get off track. I can make mistakes just like anybody else can. And I’ve made my share. So that’s where you’ve got to be careful.
It’s important for me to have people around me who I am also learning from, bouncing ideas off of, who are either bringing good ideas or confirming ideas I have. So we have a small elder board, a little team. We’ve got some senior staff people and then I also stay networked with pastors of other larger churches in North America that also are communities and not just try to do this in isolation. So that’s the one side.
But the other side of it is that I believe that when you have a calling from God, when you know you have been called to do something, you have to also believe that He’s going to give you what you need to do it. And if you really have sensed and believe that you have that calling, you work very hard to stay close to Him and you experience how He repeatedly, and I’ve seen this for 21 years, how He continues to come through and confirm that call with wisdom at the right time, with resources at the right time with people at the right time. So in that way, you have to keep a healthy sense of humility about your dependence on other people and God while also recognizing the importance of the role you have.
KB: As we’re having this conversation, we’re sitting inside the church. When did this building even become the seed of a thought, and then where did it go from there?
Rob: We started the church with just a dozen people and, literally, in a living room. And then the church started growing in that little Elementary School in White Oaks (a neighbourhood in London, Ontario). And it continued to grow and then we went into Saunders (Secondary School) and like I said, we spent 7 years there. So we were in rented facilities for 12 years before we built anything with physical bricks.
In the Saunders era, as the church was growing and we were reaching people, maybe 3, 4, 5 years in, we started realizing, “Okay, the rental facilities, as useful as this has been, is starting to become limiting to the vision.” And like we mentioned before, when you know what your vision is, it makes it a little easier to say ‘yay’ to that, ‘nay’ to that. When we realized that our vision was starting to get limited by rental facilities, then the option became maybe, “Is it time for us to build a facility that can continue to facilitate the vision and the mission of this church?” So those thoughts and conversations started happening in that era, which would have been about 10, 11 years ago.
And then we started thinking about, “well what would that kind of facility look like?” And so we got some architects and interestingly, our first architects were people who were not church architects at all. They’d never been involved in a church. Because that’s the other thing: you typically will get a church architect, and we decided, no, we don’t want a church architect because they’re going to be thinking about building a church building and we wanted to find an architect that’s going to think a bit outside the box with us on what the facility could look like that could facilitate the vision of the church.
So we did that and then took them to some other places to kind of give them ideas of what buildings could look like. And then we just started the process here of just starting to put numbers down on paper, putting a bit of a design together.
We sort of thought, “Right now we have this amount of people, and if the growth continues, in 10 years from now we’re going to have ‘this’ amount of people, well then we have to find a way to build something that ultimately could be facilitating THAT many people when we don’t have THAT many people to pay for it right now.” So how do we do that?
So we developed a master plan of the facility, just sort of dreaming crazy of what this facility could grow into over the years. But then we broke it down into components and we built the first component. And then 3 years later we build the next component and then 3 years later we built the next component and then a couple years later we built the next component and we just kept adding components as the church continued to grow and as we continue to expand some of our generosity base of people who could actually be part of these expansions. So in a nutshell, that’s sort of how it came to be.
KB: What was it like, the first service here?
Rob: Oh, it was amazing! Actually the first service we had was outside. This was all parking lot, for the first service, where we’re sitting now. And we had our Grand Opening morning – this is a bit of a side point to what you’re asking – and we had announced it at Saunders, that everything was lined up, next week was our opening on Bostwick Road. And that week, the final inspectors came and the Fire Inspector came and there were a couple of things he did not like, that didn’t meet his standards. I don’t blame him, but he just said – and this on a Friday afternoon – he said, “You cannot open this building on Sunday.” And we were like, “Are you kidding me? We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of people that are going to be showing up, because that’s what we said last week (he chuckles)!”
So we had to make a decision. What we did is set up a stage outside in the parking lot, right there (points outside) and we had a little outdoor service, and there were hundreds of people standing here for the very first service. And it was magical, because it was a great moment.
Our Creative Arts Director, who is still on the staff, I remember him getting up and he said something about, “You know, this is just a great reminder to all of us that that’s not the church. This is the church. The church is the people here. The church is not that thing.”
And I think we’ve tried to never forget that.
Though each of Kevin’s CDs have been available for some time through online retailers around the world (e.g., iTunes, CD Baby, etc), it’s been years since the rest of Kevin’s “No Schedule Man” and “Hope Over Hurt” merchandise has been made available online.
Among the merchandise now available for purchase are some “No Schedule Man – No Plan Is All Part of the Plan” and “Hope Over Hurt” lyric t-shirts. Only a handle of each shirt remain from the original “No Schedule Man” CD launch in 2010.
Hard copies of all three of Kevin’s CDs (“Solo: the Return of No Schedule Man,” “No Schedule Man,” and “I Remember”) are in the store as well. Currently, this is the only place to get a hard copy of the “Solo” CD, other than at a concert or other performance by Kevin.
As an added bonus, all orders will receive a FREE one-size black band bracelet inscribed with the words “Hope Over Hurt, Soul Over Skin” along with the Kevin Bulmer Enterprises footprint/music note logo.
When concert-goers take over for the singer and deliver the vocals of a tune as one, my voice sometimes catches and I have trouble singing along. Even in the car, when the mood strikes, I will sing along with a song and, beginning to sing a harmony part, the vibrations will kick in, and my emotions will often swell up and bubble over.
Heck, I’ll even get choked up hearing thousands of people sing the national anthem en masse at a hockey game.
There’s just something about several voices blending together that makes me feel full of hope.
One of the first recollections I have of this sensation came from a Christmas Eve church service. I was just a kid. I recall that my family and I were in the balcony, the perfect spot to absorb some beautiful sounds. I’m sure there were many songs sung that evening, yet the one I recall clearly was “Silent Night.” Hearing, and feeling, all those voices collectively offering such a gentle song into the atmosphere was a wonderful thing to behold. I will never forget the feeling that overtook me when my grandmother, who was standing and singing beside me, began to sing in harmony to the rest of the congregation, during the third verse of the song. I was young enough that I didn’t really know what “harmony” was, but I vividly remember how completely beautiful it sounded and how I immediately became emotional at the sound and didn’t quite know why. It was one of the sweetest things I could ever remember hearing, and I’ve been hooked on harmony and people singing as a group ever since.
I once wrote a song lyric that says, “One voice alone can be enough to lift an angel’s wings.” I love the line, and believe it to be true. But adding a second voice can give you the vibration of harmony. Add even more, and you begin to generate an energy that fuels a real spirit of hope and togetherness.
Regardless of what you celebrate or recognize at year’s end, I bet that music is some kind of key part of it. Have you ever wondered why that is?
Music, to me, is the sound of creativity expressed and hope kept alive. If I’m right, the more voices, the better.
You may have heard the line, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” It’s a phrase not usually offered as a positive observation when trying to reach a goal. I’m reminded of it now, in the throes of an annual collaborative effort to gather as much food as possible for people in need in my community.
This particular “kitchen” is crowded with A-type cooks. And yet it works.
I’m in my third year as part of the organizing committee for the Business Cares Food Drive in London, Ontario. It’s taken me until now to fully accept and embrace that this committee runs counter to most others I’ve experienced. While this three-week-plus sprint to raise food and donations for our local food bank has many different activities and agendas as part of it, the whole thing seems to steer itself in a common direction, driven by good feelings and genuine positive efforts.
I believe there is a strong lesson in it.
The brainchild of Wayne Dunn (current committee Chair and owner of County Heritage Forest Products in London) and Ed Holder (Member of Parliament, London West), Business Cares was born 15 years ago and has since seen all kinds of companies from this area come together to reach a common goal: feeding people in need. Wayne leads by setting the example, creating the timeline and then empowering people to run with the ball. To his credit, Wayne runs harder and faster than anyone else. But when someone comes along with a new idea that could help bolster the overall effort, not only does Wayne not micromanage them to fit the brand or to mold their efforts into the way he might do things, but he is likely to have encouraged and empowered that person or group within moments instead. By doing so, he gives these people a sense of ownership and pride in their end of it. And so they go, and it all rushes forward in a gush of hopeful inertia that concludes by feeding a lot of hungry people.
As a person who works in marketing, I sometimes get antsy sitting at the committee table as we continue to splinter off the main “brand” (Business Cares) to create other off-shoots that are smaller (but very important) parts of the bigger goal. Usually, you want to keep to one defining brand name and stick to it, otherwise you risk confusing people. But the many cooks in the Business Cares kitchen have their own unique ways of contributing and a lot of terrific sub-brands have been the result. Some examples are “Be a Fan, Bring a Can” (where sports fans are encouraged to bring food donations to the Budweiser Gardens arena prior to select dates for the IBL’s London Lightning basketball team and the OHL’s London Knights hockey team), Golfer’s Care” (a one-night event that gathers local golf enthusiasts for an evening of fundraising and entertainment) and what has come to be known as “Metro Weekend” (a two-day volunteer effort of canvassing in front of several local grocery stores). Each of these activities could be their own brands and/or stand-alone efforts in their own right. But they aren’t. It could all end up being confusing. But it isn’t. It’s all part of the machinery and magic that is the larger effort called Business Cares. And it works.
You’ll sometimes hear negative things about big business. You may hear some not-so-nice things about small business, too. And yet I believe that the world of business remains similar to people in general: most of them are good and decent. A select few sometimes cloud it for the rest. But when something like this rolls around, I’m reminded of just how kind-hearted and hard-working most people can be.
Businesses of all kinds get involved. Over 400 companies find a way to contribute what they can to Business Cares. Some challenge other industry competitors to raise the most food. Some rally their staff and adopt the cause as their own. And some simply display a poster and drop box for food. All of it is valuable.
It will all wrap up at County Heritage Forest Products on Tuesday, December 23rd. There will be last-minute cheque presentations and other eleventh-hour surprises that morning. There always are. It is, for me, one of the best parts of Christmas and a reminder that the true spirit of the season does still exist. It is genuinely heartwarming.
Wayne says that “Taking care of business means taking care of people.” Ironically, it’s people that have to take care of any business. And in this case, the businesses come together to help more people. And when those people are empowered and truly believe in what they’re doing, they work, put their egos aside, and are well-equipped to successfully arrive at a mutual, positive goal. Business Cares is proof of this, and I give Wayne Dunn and everyone who participates loads of credit for it.
In my experience, it usually doesn’t work to have “too many cooks.” But this is a crowded, happy kitchen that thrives because it’s driven by genuine good feelings and honest efforts.
You’re welcome to join us.
Please bring more food.