Q&A: Sloan, Whitehorse and Others to Celebrate the Life of the Late Jon Box

By Karen Bliss 2/4/20 | www.samaritanmag.com

Jon Box — photo credit: Heather Wright
Friends and family of the late music industry veteran Jon Box are gearing up to celebrate his life this Saturday (Feb. 8) in a manner he would’ve liked: a concert to raise money for charity. 

Sloan, The Dirty Nil, Whitehorse and Terra Lightfoot will all hit the stage at Toronto’s Opera House — along with others artists and speakers — in support of the Unison Benevolent Fund, which provides emergency relief and funds for members of the Canadian music industry; and Toronto-based Dr. Jay’s Children’s Grief Centre which provides support for young people experiencing loss.

Box, who was vice-president of label partnerships and business development at Universal Music Canada, lost his battle with mental illness last September at the age of 45.  

“We’re in good shape for Saturday,” “Parkside” Mike Renaud of Hidden Pony Records & Management tells SamaritanmagTickets for the all-ages evening are $40. All net proceeds will be shared between the two charities.

“I do want to highlight that really the evening has been curated and put together by Jon’s wife Heather,” he adds. “Her strength throughout this process has totally blown my mind. On top of everything she’s dealing with, she’s been incredible to work for and it’s really been an honour for Adam [Abassakoor (vice-president, commercial affairs and label partnerships at Universal Music Canada) and I to ride by her side. It really is shaping up to be a wonderful tribute to Jon.”

Samaritanmag asked Renaud to shed some light on the event, as well as the man whose sudden loss shook the tight-knit music community and led to this fundraiser as a way to honour his memory and life.

How did you know Jon and what was he like?

I met Jon when my label Hidden Pony came over to Universal in the EMI merger. I honestly didn’t know what to think of Jon the first couple of times I met him. He was honestly a bit of an enigma in the beginning. But slowly I started to realize the power of Jon Box. He was the most passionate person I had ever met about music but also the “lore” surrounding the music biz. If you were lucky enough to have been in a foreign city with Jon, he was the guy who would pull you into his orbit and you would wind up in places with people you’d never expect. He cared so much about every label and artist on those labels and if you called upon him he always had a creative solution to anything that might be in your way.

I understand he was involved with some of the Universal charity outings and fundraisers?

Jon organized internally the sock drive for Six Shooter. He ran internal fundraising initiatives in support of the Gord Downie Fund at Sunnybrook [Hospital]. He organized an annual music industry outing to the Blue Jays where he would buy the tickets and charge a premium and donated the proceeds to Musicounts and Unison. He was the head of the philanthropic committee at Universal for a period of time.

Who is organizing this celebration of life?

The nucleus is myself, Adam Abassakoor, and Jon’s wife Heather Wright, however so many people have stepped up to help the night. Denise Ross at Live Nation, Ticketmaster, The Opera House, crews, bands, friends and other labels have all been incredible.

How did you decide the charities?

The family chose the charities we are supporting that night, which are the Unison Benevolent Fund as well as Dr. Jay Children’s Grief Centre. He supported Unison and their mental health advocacy was important. Jon’s daughters have used the services of Dr Jay.

How much would you like to raise? Will there be a silent audition?

As much as possible.  There is an amazing silent auction that includes some very special donations from various companies and supporters of Jon's. 

How or why were Sloan, The Dirty Nil, Whitehorse and Terra Lightfoot selected to perform? Did Jon work with all of them?

These are all bands that had a close personal connection to Jon and that he did work with, Sloan in particular.

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* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.