Arts organizations students can get involved in

Photo by Safina Husein

Coming into Laurier as a Toronto-bred, big city kid, I thought the only cultural attractions in Kitchener-Waterloo were the swarths of geese that congregated around campus. Now I work for a non-profit theatre company in Kitchener and every day I eat my words. There are so many fantastic arts organizations hidden in Laurier’s backyard, and they all want to engage students. I reached out to three local artistic directors to learn about their stories and how Laurier students can get involved.

Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (KWCMS)

As a former music student, the KWCMS holds a very special place in my heart. The society began in 1974 when Jan Narveson, a Harvard Doctorate and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, sought to create chamber music venues for musicians in the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. 48 years later most concerts take place in the KWCMS Music Room — the renovated second floor of a house outside of Waterloo park, a 10-minute walk south of Laurier.

Jan is now 82 years old and has been inducted into the Order of Canada for his charity work in the KWCMS. He serves chocolates, apple cider and coffee during concert intermission.

“We have been putting on a [Laurier] student composer concert every year for quite a few years now (every Feb. 1 or so since 2011) — arranged by the CIA (Composers and Improvisers’ Association of the Faculty of Music’s students) … we’d love to have more students attending our concerts. They get big cuts on ticket prices, and goodness knows there are a lot of them, in great variety! One of the Faculty’s students, Veda Hingert-McDonald, has been helping us with social media, putting up some posters, and so on.” – Jan Narveson

Button Factory Arts

South on Regina Street sits a former nineteenth century button-making factory. In 1994 the City of Waterloo decided to turn the abandoned building into an arts hub.

The empty space now serves as an art studio, a gallery space and gift shop, creating employment opportunities for over 100 artists of different ages and varying levels of experience every year. Button Factory Arts is also a rentable venue that acts as a home-base/rehearsal space for many other arts-organizations, making it an important arts centre in the Waterloo region.

“[In addition to students getting their first class free] … we’re always looking for volunteers … and we also look for help when we’re installing our shows. So if [students] want to get more experience for something like that in real life, we’re the place to do it.” – Heather Franklin, executive director of Button Factory Arts


NUMUS is the oldest contemporary music organization in the Region of Waterloo. It was formed in 1985 by composer Peter Hatch, who also led the organization as Artistic Director for NUMUS’ first 10 years. Laurier professor Kathryn Ladano now serves as Artistic Director. In addition to being recognized as one of Canada’s foremost producers and presenters of contemporary music, Kathryn tells me that one of her biggest priorities for NUMUS is to offer more meaningful opportunities to emerging artists, strengthening its community connections, and continuing to push the envelope, making each season better than the last.

“NUMUS is always in need of volunteers! We generally put together a roster of volunteers in September of each year, which is comprised mostly of students. These students help us out in our box office and merch table at events for the most part. So it’s a fun environment and it allows all volunteers to see our shows for free. Volunteers also enjoy being able to engage with the artists we program before and after shows” – Kathryn Ladano, artistic director of NUMUS

As a Laurier alumnus, one of my biggest regrets is reducing the city of Kitchener-Waterloo to the intersection of King and University plus Phil’s.

The three organizations listed here barely scratch the surface of a city that’s rich with beautiful stories. As students, we should explore that — the vitality of this region and its people depend on it.

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