A History of Musical Venues

Category : History

Level: 10

Guiding Question: Where is music performed and for what purpose?


This lesson can act as a short unit in which students are asked to critically reflect on where and why music is performed in their lives and then compare these experiences to new learning about historical musical venues in Toronto. The timing, content, and delivery of the following lesson should be shaped according to your timetable, class length, and age of participants. Please make adjustments, edits, and/or additions as you and your students see fit.

Materials: projector, computer, speakers, class access to website (tablets, computers, or lab)


Open discussion questions and activity:

Where is music presented and for what purpose?

Make a collective list of places music is presented throughout students' lives.

Which of these involves paid entry? If they all do, can you think of places where music is performed for free?

Reorder the list to start with smaller community based music making (friends, family) to presentations that bring together multiple social groups.

Review the historical inquiry process (if students are not already familiar with it). Refer to Pages 105 and 106 of the Canadian and World Studies Grade 9 and 10 Curriculum. Allude to this process while presenting the Le Coq D'or venue. Ronnie Hawkins and Jackie Shane played this venue. Lead discussion of how this venue changed in relation to the neighbourhood, laws, and musicians.


Activity: Venue Jigsaw

Break your class into groups of four (“home groups”) and have each group member research one of the four venues listed below:

The Bamboo

The Riverboat

Horseshoe Tavern

Le Coq d'Or

Each student will prepare a brief report about the venue’s history and demographic features, using the online exhibition as their primary source of information and the following questions as a guide:

When was the venue built?

Was it originally for music?

What is/was the venue’s location (neighbourhood, cross-streets, or exact address)?

What was/is the capacity?

What sort of licenses did/does it have (food/beverage)?

Who were/was/is the owner(s) of this venue?

Did ownership change at all? How did that effect the music played there?

What are two or three significant moments in the venue’s history (e.g. memorable performers or performances, changes in ownership, renovations, etc.) worth reporting to your home group?

Name 5 artists that are associated with or have played this venue. Is this venue associated with specific communities of musicians and listeners, and/or specific genres of music?

Students can consult with other members of their “expert group” to verify the information they discover and learn more about their selected venue. (They move groups to sit with other students researching the same venue).

Once students have shared their research (in original groups), they can reflect, in large or small-group discussions and/or in writing, on the following questions:

What sort of historical documents and/or artefacts did you encounter in your search?

What did these artefacts offer you?

What are the limitations of these artefacts?

Where, outside of the exhibition, did you do research?

Which venues had more and/or less historical information and artefacts available? Why might this be the case?

What are some of the similarities and differences you noticed in terms of size (capacity), location (neighbourhood), ownership, and the musicians, listeners, and genres associated with each venue?

Why might the venues be similar and/or different in these ways?


News Report (this can be done individually or in pairs)

Students can use the information they gathered during the jigsaw to write a news report based on a real or fictional event taking place at one of Toronto’s historic venues. For example, students could write about the venue’s opening day, a change in the venue’s ownership, or a particularly memorable artist who performed there.

Students and teachers may use this activity to further explore significant and/or controversial moments in the venue’s history, as well as to consider how place, neighbourhood, gentrification, and other socioeconomic factors (e.g. race, ethnicity, gender, and class) shape our encounters with music in particular spaces.


Design an ideal venue for your neighbourhood.

Consider the following:

What will the name be?

Where will it be located?

Why is this a good location?

Who will perform here?

Who will attend?

What will the capacity be?

What is the mission of the venue?

Why does it need to exist?

How will it be connected to people in the surrounding area?

What other factors might you need to consider?


The work produced in this lesson does not need to be formally assessed (assessment of, evaluated), however, here are some suggestions for doing so. If you wish to evaluate this work (assessment “of”) it is suggested that you co-create success criteria along with students.

1. Brainstorm

2. Sort and Categorize

3. Make and post a T-chart

4. Add, revise, refine

From Gregory, K, Cameron, C., & Davis, A. (2011). Knowing What Counts: Setting and Using Criteria

A sample of Success Criteria (with rubrics) are given below for reference

See below for curriculum expectations covered a sample of student created success criteria.

Sample Rubric Criteria for News Report (Rubric on a scale of 1-4)

Knowledge and Understanding: Understood topic and made use of factual information

Thinking: Processed facts and research to summarize

Showed evidence of the historical inquiry process (gather and organize, interpret and analyze, evaluate and draw conclusions, communicate)

Communication: Clearly phrased ideas and meaning

Application: Drew conclusions from supporting evidence.


We have listed grade 10 History curriculum objectives below however this work could easily be adapted for other grades and/or subjects.


A1. Historical Inquiry: use the historical inquiry process and the concepts of historical thinking when investigating aspects of Canadian history since 1914; A1.2 select and organize relevant evidence and information on aspects of Canadian history since 1914 from a variety of primary and secondary sources A1.3 assess the credibility of sources and information relevant to their investigations A1.4 interpret and analyse evidence and information relevant to their investigations, using various tools, strategies, and approaches appropriate for historical inquiry