History of the Big Bucket Band

History of the Big Bucket Band

In September of 2008, Salus Ottawa, a community mental health agency, began a music appreciation program. The program, then called a “Music Circle”, was designed to bring together musically interested people in the community to learn more about music and to share music making. In the beginning this was a fairly informal, open group that attracted 10 – 12 regular participants with a wide range of experience and musical taste.

Within three months several members of the “Music Circle” expressed a desire to become a practising band with the capacity to rehearse and play in public. The group began to meet weekly. Over a several month period, the band developed a repertoire in preparation for small Salus Ottawa events. In 2009, the band, then called “The Bees”, played at larger Salus Ottawa events and began to draw the attention of the entire agency and people associated with other service agencies.

In 2010 Salus Ottawa asked “The Bees” to host a coffee house where the community could meet to enjoy the band and participate in an open mic format where any artistic voice could be expressed. After two pilot coffee houses “The Bees” and Salus Ottawa agreed to host coffee houses, permanently, on a monthly basis. This coffee house continues till today and has become an integral part of Salus Ottawa programming.

In late 2010 Salus Ottawa and members of the band began discussions with representatives of the Royal Ottawa Hospital Outreach Team and The City of Ottawa to establish another coffee house in the community. A pilot of the coffee house ran in a city facility at Frank and Elgin Streets. After three months an agreement was made to formalize the program as “The Creative Cafe” and a second monthly open mic was established. This Frank Street “Creative Cafe” continues to be hosted by The City, ROH Outreach, Salus Ottawa and the band, now called “The Big Bucket Band”.


In the short period after establishment of “The Creative Cafes” The Big Bucket Band began to play occasional open mics for other agencies and associations in Ottawa. The Big Bucket Band was becoming known for presenting a solid musical show and importantly, a welcoming stage for an audience that also had a desire to showcase their own talent. “The Creative Cafes” have proliferated. There have been up to five monthly “Creative Cafes” all fronted by The Big Bucket Band. All “Creative Cafes” are held in partnership with other supportive agencies that include The City, The ROH, Ottawa Community Housing. “Creative Cafes” enjoy a strong and growing following.

While “Creative Cafes” remain an important focus of work for The Big Bucket Band, they have also played for many other gatherings over the last three years. This includes events with chaplaincies, community support agencies, several recovery based organizations and social action groups. The Big Bucket Band is now excepting invitations for private events.

In 2012 The Big Bucket Band was featured in a documentary film, “The River Runs”. The documentary about The Big Bucket Band was premiered at The Mayfair Theatre and presented a vivid picture of the band itself and the role that music and art plays in recovery. The documentary was followed by other contacts in the media and a wider appreciation of the band.

In 2013 The Big Bucket Band was nominated for an ROH Inspiration Award for its commitment to community service in the recovering community. The Big Bucket Band continues to operate with that commitment and to supporting the participation of marginalized people in art and music.

In 2015 and 2016, The Big Bucket Band was awarded grants from The Carlington Art Initiative to provide music lessons in the Carlington area. Salus Ottawa provides the staffing of one supporting social worker. The Big Bucket Band provides teachers and instruments to students that might not otherwise have access to lessons and instruments. The lessons are free of charge to students.

The Big Bucket Band started as a program in Salus Ottawa. The big Bucket Band continues to enjoy a strong relationship with Salus Ottawa but is no longer a program in that organization. The band is now a stand alone group that works in partnership with Salus Ottawa and other organizations and agencies in Ottawa.