Sound Seekers

SOUND SEEKERS: Music among the trees — local musician hosts concerts in a treehouse for charity

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani.

Photo of Jesse Stewart by Tony Fouhse.

Crabbing about Ottawa’s lack of live show space is kind of a municipal sport. You hear it from the rawkers, many of who are still frowning about the closing of beloved hovel Bumpers, and from classical types lamenting the city’s lack of a decent downtown concert hall.

The entrepreneurial and enthusiastic respond to this dearth by hosting shows in non-traditional venues. I’ve seen gigs in brunch pubs, churches, at that stage behind Parliament Hill, in Centretown apartments, at house concerts, and in that big, empty space beside the Hurdman Transitway Station.

Add a new venue to that list: A Nepean treehouse. It’s a fancy jobbie that was handcrafted from $3,000 worth of cedar by Jesse Stewart, a music professor at Carleton University. He started building it in his backyard two summers ago for his son and daughter, now aged 11 and eight.

“When I was building the treehouse, a thought kept coming back to me: There are kids in this world who don’t have a roof over their head, clean water, or food,” he says. “Could I use the treehouse, in however modest a way, to improve childrens’ lives?”

He decided to start hosting intimate 30-60 minute concerts in the treehouse. Stewart will play hand percussion instruments for a maximum of three people in exchange for a donation to a children’s charity.

Interested concert-goers can go to and contact Stewart to arrange a workable time. No money changes hands. Rather, it’s an honour system. You give to the charity via its website or via mail and let Stewart know the name of the charity and the amount given. Stewart keeps track of the amounts so that he can assess how effective the concert concept is as a fundraiser.

“There is no minimum donation required,” Stewart says, “But my hope is that people will see this as an opportunity to contribute above and beyond what they are already giving.”

The treehouse sits about 12 feet up in a silver maple that is about 40 years old. It’s an eight-by-eight-foot space with 10-foot ceilings. You get there by climbing a steep set of stairs to a landing, then you climb a vertical ladder and enter through a hatch in the floor.

Stewart has made a name outside of academia. His recording with Stretch Orchestra received a 2012 Juno award for Instrumental Album of the Year. He’s also writing a book called Jazz Plus. Each chapter explores jazz in relation to another genre, including hip-hop and country.

Rolf Klausener, singer-songwriter with The Acorn, and a regular on the Ottawa music and resto scene, hosts a reveal party with business partner Marlene Power, she of the nature-based educators Carp Ridge Forest Preschool, on Thursday, June 7 at Babylon (9 p.m., admission by donation).

They are unveiling the concept and lineup of the Arboretum Festival, to take place Sept. 15 at the old Ottawa Jailhouse and in the Arts Court yard. The announcement takes place at 9:45 p.m. There will be an Art Is In grilled-cheese sandwich bar, along with featured beers by Beau’s and Kichesippi breweries, with music by DJs Adam Saikaley, Jose Palacios, and Pawel Skorupski. Organizers will also announce a series of fundraising events leading up to the September festival, including pop-up dinners and keg parties. For more info, see