The Day the Music Died

by Rob Sysak, June 22, 2020

 WQW Remembers: 

Covid-19 has brought lots of sadness to the world; taken lots of lives and destroyed so many others. 

WQW, like other neighbourhoods, have lost many of our businesses, our members our friends. 

For the next few weeks, I will be writing about some of the businesses’, that WQW has lost due to Covid-19. I am looking forward to sharing some of the memories and moments that I have been lucky enough to have experienced with them. 


The Day the Music Died 

“TIFEM is no more”, I was told,” Covid-19 has taken another business”. I remember how I felt like I just got punched in the gut. The Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music …gone after 10 years…WOW 

TIFEM and I joined WQW at almost the same time; they like a lot of WQW businesses are, I guess I mean were, more than just a member to me. They have played an integral part of some my most special WQW memories and moments. TIFEM was music and so much more. 

TIFEM Music and crowds on Queen | Howie Celebrating Canada Day in Trinity 

What made them unique was their: 

What made them successful was: 

Howie, his wife , and his mother, who worked every Friday, so her son could have at least one day off a week! So Cool. They were full of energy, magic, positivity, and so much musical talent! The teachers they employed were just the same; they all became part of the place., part of its aura. 

I got to know Howie very well, very quickly. He and his team became a very participatory member in WQW events and were fantastic at creating their own events. From providing musicians for WQW AGMs, making Santa feel welcome, celebrating “Queer Street West” to hosting events in the laneways TIFEM was a valuable member of WQW. 

For me, what made Howie and his team EXTRA AWESOME, was that they would allow me to visit every day at lunch, grab a guitar and use one of the rehearsal rooms! Those many hours in those not so large rooms are times I will treasure forever! I always felt welcome and left there each day knowing I was improving. 

The Guitars of TIFEM | Julien Bradly – Combs give guitar lesson in rehearsal room 

Ill share a secret with you, please do not to tell my chair; sometimes those lunches lasted a few hours! I got good enough on guitar (practice helps!), that I became part of a band! Nick, Ricardo, and Rob! 

Howie even let the “Trio” rehearse in his basement studio which led to performances that are part of some of my favourite life memories! Thank you for that Howie! 

“Sire Roberto, it is always a pleasure to see you. the sunshine is hard not to enjoy. I look forward to seeing/hearing you guys rock out tomorrow at aprox 6:15…” 

Nick, Ricardo & Rob playing at a School Event 

Soon after opening TIFEM started offering 

Boy did that become a great success for TIFEM and students. Every Saturday or Sunday, when passing TIFEM you could hear the laughter and joy of the young crowd inside. Smiles on all the kids and parents! 

When learning to play the Ukulele became THE THING; TIFEM became one of Toronto’s top 5 Ukulele teaching places, according to BlogTO. They even were able to have James Hill teach a class! 

TIFEM turned 10 years old in December of 2019! To help celebrate that milestone they hosted an open mic that everyone was invited to! Amazing nigh and an amazing end to 2019 

As WQW has grown in popularity, days have gotten busier, and sadly for the last few years I have not visited TIFEM or Howie as often as I used to or wanted to. I told myself, “tomorrow, I’ll see Howie tomorrow”. 

All of Howie’s events that I attended, the times I spent learning there, for the candies I would eat every day and for the big hugs from the great man himself; all of these things helped me not only become a better musician but made life better and full amazing memories. 

Thank you, Howie, you and all your team at TIFEM will be missed 


“…At my first lesson, if you would have told me that a year later I would start playing in an all-girl rock and metal cover band. Or that I would play a show at the Bovine. Or that two years later I would be collaborating on writing original songs, basslines and lyrics with Malahat, my new band. Or that I’d ever be in a place in my life that I could not only play bass but also sing in front of a roomful of people. I would never have believed you. Nobody’s been more surprised by my progress than me. TIFEM paired me with a teacher who gets me, who makes every single lesson fun and who helps me believe anything is possible. Roey is an incredibly generous, supportive teacher. And he answers all my questions! (I have a lot of questions!) Oh, definitely the people and the community—I found my bandmates through TIFEM! But it’s the vibe too. When I started lessons I was in a place in my life and career as a writer where I hadn’t been a beginner at anything for a long time. Beginning was humbling, but somehow being vulnerable in such a positive atmosphere created some kind of alchemy that opened me up. I think in a roundabout way the experience made me a better, more honest writer. And a stronger, more hopeful person too…”