Growing up in Kitchener, Cory Crossman felt like a lot of adolescents feel: “All I wanted to do was get out of town as a kid. I needed to be in a place where live music was thriving; I needed a scene.” Fortunately for us, Cory didn’t leave. He decided to stay right here and create his own live music scene.
Fast-forward ten years and the result is the fourth annual KOI Festival this September 13 and 14, featuring more than 150 bands playing at eleven local venues. Several thousand people gathering for a weekend of music is, by anyone’s definition, a pretty good scene.
How does a disaffected, teenage punk rock musician become a promoter, civic booster and local economic engine? For Cory, it all started by working with his older brother Curt’s street wear clothing company, Arc Cloathing (not Clothing). “I was 18 and in charge of ‘marketing.’ We figured the best way to get our clothes in front of our target audience was to put on live music events.”
It worked. Not only did Arc thrive, but Cory’s talent in music and marketing also took him on the holy grail of youth-oriented rock music tours — The Warped Tour.
Entering his 20’s, Cory’s thoughts about Kitchener continued to evolve. “Curt and I got tired of people knocking Kitchener and complaining about the live music scene. We were raised here and I love this place, so we realized we had to do something.”
That “something” was the first KOI Music Festival, four years ago. “It was a crazy idea but we had 130 bands play in 10 venues and 1 outside stage in 12 hours!” This crazy idea resonated with city hall and local business and soon Curt and Cory had solid partners for their annual festival.
“KOI Fest would not be happening without the support of the city, the venues, the fans and most of all the local bands. The downtown Kitchener BIA has been an especially valuable partner and supporter.” This support was instrumental in the latest successful venture, the first annual KOI Music Conference, dubbed as KOI CON.
Held in mid-May, this conference brought hundreds of musicians and music industry people together at Kitchener’s City Hall for a day of presentations, panel discussions and one-on-one mentoring. The evening showcased their passion of live music at local venues.
The secret to Crossman’s success lies in his ability to straddle both sides of the fence. On one side is his punk rock, DIY ethos — he didn’t ask for approval of his vision, he forged ahead against the odds and made it happen. On the other side is his ability to work within the system — he joined civic organizations, rallied local businesses and worked tirelessly to align his vision with the goals of local government.
The KOI Music Festival and Conference stand as testament to our community coming together to transform a young man’s dream into a reality that benefits us all. KW is a better place to live because of the Crossman brothers’ passion.
For more information or to volunteer visit: Koimusicfestival.com and youtube.com/koimf