Country Style!

Client: Brockton Area Family Health Team

Venue: Harvest Room, Hanover, ON

Program: U Rock

BAFHT 139DxO Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver all boast dozens of hotels and convention centres that are perfect for Rock the Stars events.  They have professional staff, reliable amenities, and many options for room sizes. But it is really interesting for us when an event takes us someplace new. Last month we were near Hanover Ontario at a beautiful facility called the Harvest Room. This is an event space made up of several new buildings including a small cottage with a large fireplace, high ceilings and an modern kitchen. Our bands rehearsed here and in the “Stable” next door, a stone building with a green roof heated only by fireplace. It was a cool fall day but the staff were quick to get a fire going for us and the stable heated up immediately.

BAFHT 120DxORock the Stars is an activity that can be completed in any room. We enjoy the challenge of making a space work for us. In this case it meant setting up one of the bands in the kitchen area, even using the counter top as a keyboard stand. Rehearsing two bands in what was essentially one big room was accomplished by learning the songs at a comfortable volume. This allowed excellent communication between band members and facilitators. At performance time the bands cranked up the guitars, hammered the drums and sang with complete abandon and the cottage came alive with the sound of rock.

Big thanks to the great staff at The Harvest Room for all their assistance in making this wonderful event so memorable.

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A Guide to San Francisco

San Francisco is one of America’s great cities with a wealth of things to do and see. I’ve been fortunate to call the San Francisco Bay Area home for the last 6 years. If you are planning a trip to San Francisco here’s some tips and a list of favorite things to do.

Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz Island 
It’s a little creepy as you peer into cells that housed some of America’s most dangerous criminals but the tour is engaging with sights you’ll recognize from the many Hollywood movies filmed there. Not only is the history fascinating but the island is beautiful with an amazing view of the city skyline. Tip: the ferry ride & visit will take most of a day. Book online in advance. Space on the ferry is limited and often sells out.

Union Square Shopping
In the heart of downtown, Union Square offers shopping that runs the gamut from Target to Barney’s. Most of the major brands have stores there including Burberry, GAP, Gucci, Armani, Tori Burch, and Levi’s. Westfield Shopping Center is enormous and everything an upscale downtown mall should be.

Bike Trip Over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito SF1 003
From downtown take a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf and rent a bike from one of the many vendors there. Follow the bike trail west with great views of the bay & Alcatraz, then stop at the Golden Gate Pavilion before crossing the bridge. Once in Marin follow the signs to Sausalito, a charming seaside town filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. Rather than ride back to the city, take a ferry which delivers you to the Embarcadero and a short ride back to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Napa & Sonoma
The 2 most famous wine growing regions in California are about an hours drive north of the city. Worth an overnight stay if food, wine, and rustic rural scenery is your thing. Tours are available from the city if you don’t want to drive. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a fun way to see the area. | |

SF4 050b

Haight Ashbury / Golden Gate Park
Haight Ashbury is an eclectic neighborhood of shops & restaurants that immediately transports you back to the days of flower power, incense, and music on every corner. Start at Central Ave and stroll the 6 blocks to the entrance of Golden Gate Park. The park itself is a beautiful place to walk with an opportunity to visit the California Academy of Sciences, de Young Art Museum, and the stunning Japanese Tea Garden.

Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean
Lands End is the western most point of the city and features the historic Sutro Baths with wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean. Heading north and east from the visitor center is a lovely walking trail with panoramic views of the entrance to San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Walking Tours
SF1 029
San Francisco is best scene by walking. From downtown you can head in any direction and explore wonderful neighborhoods including, Chinatown, North Beach, the Embarcadero, Hayes Valley, Fillmore, Mission and Castro. Guided walking tours are a great way to learn about the city, its history and architecture.

Monterey Bay
About a 90 minute drive from SF, you can take the Pacific Coast Highway with it’s magnificent ocean views and surfing beaches or take Highways 101 or 280, then 85 and 17 through Silicon Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains. Once in the area highlights include the Santa Cruz Boardwalk & Pier, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Whale Watching, 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach, and Carmel. |

SF4 079bWeather
San Francisco has a unique micro climate that makes summer the 2nd coldest season. The key is to dress in layers as you can easily go from t-shirt to sweaters and jackets over the course of a day. Daytime temperatures are typically in the 60’s or low 70’s. Once outside of SF it’s a different story with average temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s, except along the coast.

San Francisco is a walking city with a good public transportation system consisting of buses, street cars, subway (BART), taxis, and ride share. There is no need to rent a car if you are planning to stay in the city. Overnight parking is expensive and traffic is congested. If you are planning to travel outside the city, rent a car for those days only.

Trip Planning Resources

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A New Twist on a Classic Program!

Client: A Professional Association

Venue: Hilton Fallsview, Niagara Falls, ON

Program: Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest

IBAO2015a_IMG_0056DxORock the Stars has an energizing new program. Introducing “Battle of Bands Lip Sync Contest”.

Like our popular Battle of the Airbands activity, participants form bands, create a group name, select costumes and prop instruments and compete in a competition.

IBAO2015a_IMG_0189DxOIn the new program, inspired by Battle Rounds on the hit TV show “The Voice”, bands compete in pairs, lip syncing 60 second versions of popular songs. A winner is declared by applause after each pair of performances. The winning team then selects a new song and prepares to battle another winner in the next round.  Bands are either advanced or eliminated until a champion has been crowned.

IBAO2015a_IMG_0144DxO“Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest” is a great ice breaker, an excellent team building activity and an exhilarating way to engage and entertain a large group of people. The program can be completed in less than two hours and can also include a DJ or a live band.


Rock the Stars recently facilitated this program for a national professional association meeting in Niagara Falls. We had been advised that getting them to participate may be difficult but as soon as we got the first team on stage, all heads turned to watch. Soon everyone wanted to be involved and bands were forming throughout the venue.

Bands jostled for wardrobe and quickly worked out choreography. The first round featured sixteen stellar performances, with eight chosen to advance. By the time the second round began a large crowd of curious tourists had formed on the sidewalk outside the venue. Inside, participants whose bands had been eliminated crowded the front of the stage to cheer on their colleagues and to assist in selecting the finalists.

In the championship round, a raucous and theatrical rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was pitted against a slick and stylish version of “Single Ladies”. The audience chose the winner with applause loud enough to make pedestrians outside the venue want to join in.

After the event the associations members said this was the best activity their group had ever done. It brought them together in a new and exciting way and helped build lasting relationships.

To learn more about Battle of the Bands Lip Sync Contest visit

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Mardi Green!

Client: Multinational Bank

Program: You Write the Song

Venue: Hard Rock Cafe Toronto

TDCT2015a 44DxO Over the years Rock the Stars has customized many events to fit themes supplied by clients. Our musical repertoire is large and diverse and our costume selection is quite adaptable.  This has allowed us to produce disco, country and even hair metal themed events.

However, we had yet to do a “Mardi Gras” theme until now. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and although our musicians can play almost any style, performing as a Dixieland Band was a first.

TDCT2015a 121DxOWe began by thinking of the costumes. The client provided dozens of masquerade masks and thousands of Mardi Gras beads and we provided scores of bright feather boas, and preselected hats and sunglasses to match. We added classic New Orleans themed songs to our song writing program repertoire, including songs by BB King, CCR, and ZZ Top.

To kick off the event our band performed a blistering version of Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade”, a song that swaggers like Bourbon Street after midnight. Turning the program over to the client, the bands created excellent and memorable songs with themes ranging from hockey fanaticism to mortgage rates. Our facilitators assisted, mingling through the tables as lyrics were being written, and offering input. The group was extremely creative and competitive and knew exactly what they wanted to say.

The performances were judged by an excellent panel whose between song commentary seemed to push each band to perform better than the one before. The performers moved off the stage and through the audience, singing often hilarious new renditions of old New Orleans favorites. In the end the winning song was a sweet and sentimental ode to a retiring coworker.

This event was close to perfect and much of the credit can go to the excellent staff at the Hard Rock Toronto and their beautiful venue. Thanks, as always, to Sales and Marketing Manager Anjuna Grewal for being super attentive to details, and to their in house audio tech Mike for being the super pro that he is.

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MPI Signature Series 2015

Rock the Stars was honored last week to produce an event for MPI Toronto’s (Meeting Professionals International) Signature Series. The Series is designed to showcase innovative ideas and experiential events. We partnered with the Hard Rock Cafe Toronto and held the event in their beautiful, 2nd floor event space on Dundas Square.

Rock the Stars musical team building activity.There are unique challenges that come from doing a showcase f0r a group of meeting professionals. First, the schedule required compressing our 2 hour ‘You Write the Song’ program into a 45 minute slot. Second, the usual relationships and common purpose that exist between coworkers were not present. Finally, people took time out of busy schedules and paid to attend; we needed to insure their return on investment was a good one.

Rock the Stars musical team building activity.

The solution? We kicked off the activity with a blistering version of “You Shook Me All Night Long”, boldly stating that the meeting was about to transform into something quite different. Next we presented a short, song writing master class using the lyrics of “We Will Rock You” to describe how messages can effectively be delivered through song. (Twitter photo taken by @csoverall)


Rock the Stars musical team building activity.With this as their inspiration, we formed the group into smaller teams who immediately began writing; creating new works from popular songs to reflect their thoughts about the meetings industry. People wrote about MPI and the Toronto events business, sharing their passion and point of view, all through song lyrics.  The experience of writing together began to create bonds between guests that were strengthened when groups entered the wardrobe area and tried on costumes.  After collaborating to create their songs and choose costumes, they now looked like real rock bands! (Twitter photo taken by @marcelo_yyz)

Rock the Stars musical team building activity.Each team then took the stage to perform their song, backed by the Rock the Stars band. The performances were enthusiastic and filled the room with laughter. The stage at Hard Rock Toronto has hosted some of the world’s biggest bands, enhancing the experience of participants, assisted by great sound, stage lights, and professional A/V techs.

We were very fortunate to partner with Hard Rock Toronto for this event. All their staff are amazing, the food is delicious and the venue is perfectly suited for Rock the Stars events.




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Merck Rising!

Client: Merck Canada Inc.

Venue: Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto, ON

Program: You Write the Song

MCI2015a 17DxO Evergreen Brick Works is a remarkable multipurpose facility deep in Toronto’s Don Valley yet only a short distance from the city center. It is a reclaimed brick factory that boasts beautiful public grounds, an outdoor skating rink, an upscale bistro and event/meeting rooms that suit groups as small as a dozen or up to a thousand guests.

Our program was perfectly suited for one of the upstairs meeting rooms, but the group was also free to explore the rest of the facility and had lots of questions about it’s origin and revitalization. After a quick tour it was time to begin the program. This was a competitive group and we warmed up with a trivia icebreaker. Then we moved to the main competition, challenging the teams to rewrite the lyrics to popular songs. For this task we moved downstairs to Long’s Cafe BeLong, a beautiful resto/bar with very accommodating staff.

MCI2015a 22DxOWhen the lyrics were completed, the bands picked rock star costumes, did a photo shoot and rehearsed for their performances. It was only when they hit the stage that their new lyrics were revealed. The Chariots performed a new version of “Sweet Home Alabama”, complete with three part harmonies. Best of the West turned “Summer of 69″ into an ode to a medical condition. The winning team, who coincidentally named themselves The Winning performed a choreographed version of “Proud Mary” that perfectly described the life of a traveling salesperson.

Big thanks to all the staff at Evergreen Brick Works for providing Rock the Stars such a wonderful venue for this musical team building event.

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Musical Vision

Client: Autodesk

Venue: Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Program: You Write the Song

IMG_3896DxOFundamentally, song writing is about using simple rhymes, metaphors and allegory to tell a story or explain an idea. Our ‘You Write the Song’ program is often used to inspire co-workers to view a product or service in a new way. The process of song writing asks them to distil a concept into its most basic elements which are then put in a musical form that makes it memorable.IMG_4057DxO

For this event our client, a global high tech firm, was re-writing their vision statement and looking for input from the broader team.IMG_3983DxO The group was formed into smaller teams and given 60 minutes to rewrite popular songs to reflect the values and themes contained in the vision statement.

‘Sweet Home Alabama’ became ‘Bring Home Transformation'; ‘Proud Mary keep on burning’ became ‘Proud people keep on learning’. Once the songs were written each team performed their creation dressed in rock star costumes. And perform they did with teams doing an amazing job selling their lyrics to the rest of the group. In the end it was the songs that connected people to the vision statement in an atmosphere of fun and excitement.

Thanks to the beautiful Hyatt Regency San Francisco for their support in making this a memorable event.

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The Beat on the Street!

Client: Equifax

Venue: Vinci Room, Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, ON

Program: Play with the Band

How can you improve a street party? If it is February in Toronto, move the party  into a cozy and luxurious Four Seasons ballroom and include an interactive rock band. This is what our friends at Equifax did for their sales team last night. Simulated food trucks lined the perimeter of the room, serving wonderful and delicate morsels that were exactly what you would expect from one of Toronto’s finest new hotels. A Snapshot Photobooth, with fabulous host Christine and her team, was set up in the foyer to capture party goers in rock star poses and costumes. And the Rock the Stars band dived deep in their immense song list to serve up interactive performances.

Jan kicked off the night with his version of “Wonderwall”, and Mark soon followed with an incredible run through “Suspicious Minds”. But most of the entertainment was provided by large groups joining our musicians on stage. During some songs, like “Billie Jean” and “Jessie’s Girl” there were so many people rocking and singing on the risers that it was as if the band had been engulfed by the dance floor. Everybody cut “Footloose”, they all were “Takin Care of Business”, and the “Sweet” suite trilogy of “Sweet Caroline”, “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Sweet Child ‘o Mine” was played in its entirety.

Big thanks to all the staff at the Four Seasons for all of your assistance before and after this event. We hope to work with you again soon.


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Brew Ho Ho Ho!

Client: DHX Media

Venue: Amsterdam Brewhouse On The Lake, Toronto

Program: Play With the Band

It is great to get out of town, visit a new place, see the country, see the world. But it is really really great to visit a venue that lets you see your home town from a new and different perspective. This was the first time we had been at the Amsterdam Brewhouse On The Lake and the experience was fantastic. To begin, it sits on a pier jutting out into Lake Ontario, sandwiched between the harbour and the glass cliffs of the city. It is a brewery, a restaurant and an event space – all at the same time. Huge brewing vessels are behind a glass wall on one side. Flat screen TVs are hung high on another side, to not obstruct the view of the lake. The event space features a wrap around balcony and the best view of the harbour. It is only separated from the restaurant by curtains but the vastness of the space makes the areas feel distinct.

In short, it was a great venue for this holiday party for DHX Media which featured our Play With the Band program. Nothing brings a party to life faster than co-workers gathered around microphones, belting out great tunes backed by a world class band.

And it was these performances that really made the evening special. This group had some great singers and performers. Those that were a little more shy formed into groups for comfort and solidarity. The perfect songs were picked. We had perennial pub favourites like “Home for a Rest” and “Don’t Stop Believing”. We had rock anthems like “Eye of the Tiger” and “Living on a Prayer”. We heard new pop classics like “Royals” and “Rolling in the Deep”, performed with a surprising amount of muscle. We heard “Billie Jean” followed by “Rebel Yell” followed by “Mr Brightside” followed by “Wannabe” followed by “Lean on Me”. Basically, this group picked and sang our band’s favourite songs.

This was our fourth annual holiday event for the great people at DHX Media and we hope this tradition carries on for a very long time. Happy New Year to all!

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5 Reasons Music Builds Better Teams

There is more rationale than ever to incorporate music into team building activities. Here are 5 reasons why this trend continues to grow.

DC2014 3DxOnah2014 45DxOmdtc2014a 26DxOInclusive: Music has no borders. It is created and enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone likes and feels empowered by music in one form or another. As a group activity, diversity is celebrated and rewarded.

Creative: Music stimulates creativity. It’s effect in team building inspires people to think about their company, product or team in a new and more intuitive way.

Mental Wellness: Music puts people in a positive frame of mind making them more receptive to new ideas and challenges. Playing and performing music elevates this effect to a higher level that stays with people after the event is over.

Collaborate: Music has enabled communication amongst people since the dawn of humanity. Learning to create and perform music as a group improves the listening and collaboration skills that lead to greater team productivity.

Remember: Music is deeply associated with memory. It becomes a sound track, kindling memories of learning and experiences that last a long time, extending the impact of the team building and meeting.

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