A popular image of yoga is a room filled with people stretching their way toward better health and less stress. But yoga is not restricted to a yoga mat, or confined to an incense-filled yoga studio. The tools of yoga are designed to help people lead better lives in the real world. At its heart, yoga is about relationships—with yourself, your family and friends, and your community.

At Tone Studio in Owen Sound—still in its first year of business—helping the community stands alongside the studio’s more obvious offerings—yoga classes, dance lessons, and musical performances. Earlier this year, when the Owen Sound bandstand faced closure after years of neglect and lack of city funds, the studio joined with the rest of the community to raise funds to save this classic Arts and Crafts-style architecture.

“Like other members of the community who sprang into action when the very existence of the bandstand was threatened, I had an immediate urge to do something to save it,” said Kathryn Braul, owner of Tone Studio.

Built in 1920, the bandstand in Queen’s Park has served as rehearsal, performance, and meeting space since the city band gave its first summer concert there in 1922. Old photographs show pleasure boats docked in the river, with people enjoying themselves in the park—a much different image from the fenced-off, condemned structure of the past year.

For Braul, the bandstand also reminds her of yoga. “When I first came to Owen Sound,” she said, “I attended a ‘pay what you will’ yoga class lead by Clare Preuss in the old bandstand in Queen’s Park.” Even then, the bandstand was suffering. The teacher brought comforters to cover the deteriorating floorboards so the students could do yoga.

Fixing the bandstand has been on the minds of many people for some time, but the city of Owen Sound was unable to provide the $100,000 needed for repairs. Undaunted, members of the community formed the Owen Sound Bandstand Project committee late last year to raise funds to preserve the long-time community meeting space.

Fortunately, much of the bandstand can be saved, with plans to build a new foundation and floor to support the original structure on top.

“From probably about an inch above the floor up can be saved. So the pillars, the roof, the railings, within reason — we may need to replace a railing or two — can be saved,” Francesca Dobbyn, spokeswoman for the Owen Sound Bandstand Project group, told the Owen Sound Sun Times.

While the bulk of the work on the bandstand is being done through donated materials and labour, $10,000 is still needed to complete the project. The bandstand committee has recently launched a “One Million Pennies” campaign to close the funding gap, timed appropriately with the Canadian government’s announcement of the end to the penny. Donations, though, are also accepted in other coins and bills.

Even before the launch of the pennies campaign, Tone Studio was using its own community space in the Heritage Church at 900 1st Avenue West to raise funds for the bandstand. In addition to donating some of the proceeds from its regular Wednesday noon Community T’ai Chi class, Tone Studio hosted a special evening of music in February, with all proceeds going to support the bandstand.

The winter concert was a fortuitous meeting of yoga and community at Tone Studio. The studio’s manager, Shannon Crow, had been planning an open house to show off the new studio. With interest among the studio’s teachers for kirtan—a type of devotional chanting done in a call-and-response style—the studio invited Canadian kirtan artist Brenda McMorrow to perform with her band.

McMorrow is well known within yoga circles, performing with Grammy award winning cellist David Darling, muscians Jai Uttal and Dave Stringer, and touring with her band across the U.S., Canada, Italy, and Germany.

The timing of the concert was perfect, with Braul deciding to donate the funds for the concert to the bandstand fund. “In this way we served our yoga community with spill-over benefit to the greater community,” she said.

In spite of a heavy snowstorm that night, the concert was huge success. Over 40 people braved the weather, and raised $380 for the bandstand. At this point, the Owen Sound bandstand committee is still actively collecting funds in order to finish the restoration by the Victoria Day long weekend in May.

For Braul, Tone Studio is starting on a path that the bandstand began almost a century ago, building a beautiful space where the community can join together. “Creative energy resides here. I hope that those who attend yoga, dance, or music events here will be inspired by its beauty and history to honour its legacy.”

Braul doesn’t see Tone Studio as competing with the bandstand, though. Yoga is a very inward looking practice. This self-reflection comes across in the studio’s space—a calm sanctuary with no direct view onto the city outside, only the light from the world filtering in through several stained glass windows.

“The little bandstand will,” said Braul, “provide us with balance and another perspective.” Open on all sides, the bandstand gives a wide view into the community. A perfect place to practice yoga in the summer.


Written by Shawn Radcliffe