Sandra Butel – Value-Based Approach to Festival Experience
In this issueEngage - Volume 9, Issue 1 Winter/Spring 2019
Sandra Butel’s involvement with the Regina Folk Festival (RFF) stretches back far beyond the time she has been at its helm as its CEO and artistic director. She recalls attending RFF with her parents as a child. Even then she knew the event was so much more than just an outdoor music festival. She’s spent the last 21 years shaping it into an expansive experience that educates and enlightens audiences, as well as entertains them.
“I think my background in sociology has given me a bit of a different perspective on how I look at things,” says Butel. “I started out by trying to figure out how I can best serve the RFF community because after all, they’re the reason we exist. Over time though, I realized that the audience perhaps wasn’t necessarily a true reflection of the entire community and that there was room for a wider diversity of people in our audience, so I started applying a more values-based approach to my work.”
“I’ve always said that I’m not in love with the music – I’m in love with the audience. I’m trying to create and nurture an experience for people and the music is a tool for me to do that.” ~ Sandra Butel
This new focus included emphasizing that folk music is, in fact, world music, and in its broadest sense a form of human expression that allows people to share stories and experiences that ultimately brings the audience together in a profound shared experience that is both enriching and entertaining.
“I’ve always said that I’m not in love with the music – I’m in love with the audience. I’m trying to create and nurture an experience for people and the music is a tool for me to do that. So I don’t stand there watching the artists, I stand there watching the audience watching the artist.”
Her values-based focus is also evident in her leadership style, and has become increasingly so over the past few years. “I’m at the stage of my career where I’m asking myself what I want my legacy to look like. I certainly don’t want to be one of those leaders who take up too much room or air, preventing others from growing, so I’m learning to let the ego go, and it’s been such a beautiful and liberating lesson.”
Butel has pulled back from managing the day-to-day operations, allowing her team to lean in and share a sense of ownership for the RFF. This shift has allowed her to concentrate on creative funding opportunities; finding ways to make the RFF more welcoming and inclusive of a more diverse audience; and, planning for the future of the festival.
“I’ve learned that my role isn’t to micro-manage the entire operation but to instead help move it forward, grow, thrive and succeed. I want to ensure there is room for the next generation because this is what is going to ensure the RFF remains strong and ultimately, more sustainable.”
The Regina Folk Festival receives support through SaskFestivals, a Saskatchewan Arts Board program supported by funding from SaskCulture through the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture and Recreation.