An Inside Look at Tara Oram Interiors

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Not so long ago, Tara Oram’s career consisted of “50 percent music and 50 percent television”. After her run on Canadian Idol in 2007, Oram had her own reality show, The Tara Diaries which chronicled her journey as a country singer/songwriter. She also went on to be a judge for other singing competitions and has released two albums, Chasing the Sun and Revival.

However, Tara said that she can now be found, “coming up with design concepts, colour schemes, shopping for furniture pieces/accessories and finding inspiration…” during a typical day in her new career as an Interior Designer. While still pursuing her education, she is also the proud owner of Tara Oram Interiors, located in Gander, Newfoundland.

“Music will always be my happy place, as it is for so many, but, at the moment, I'm solely focused on my new business. It's all a part of the creative process and I'm always listening to music while I'm working…. I left the music industry three years ago, and just this past year, I went back to school for another passion of mine, which is Interior Design” Tara explained.

“The only real transition from music to interior design was when I actually started my design business. That's when it became real for me…. I had always decorated for family and friends, but never took it seriously. My family always told me that I had an eye for it, so one day, I took it to the next level -- I went back to school and started my business.” Tara mentioned that much of her childhood was spent watching Martha Stewart on television, which is where she got her inspiration “for all things regarding the home”.

As she got older, Tara also became fascinated with the designs of people like Debbie Travis, Candace Olsen, Sarah Richardson and the late Chris Hyndman. “[They] were designers that I had always watched on TV…. Sarah Richardson's concepts are perfection. She always has a beautiful balance of traditional, contemporary and cozy with her work.” Tara’s own style may have been influenced the most by Richardson, however she credits all of these professionals with “training” her eye for design. By following in their footsteps, Tara has felt very fulfilled with this career:

“What I love about my job as an Interior Designer, is that I get to make people's every day environments not only beautiful, but functional and organized.” Tara enjoys doing things by hand, which includes creating floral arrangements and accessories. “I strive to make a client's design budget go as far as I can, with creating things myself and creating a space that is to unique to them, while putting my personal touch on the space” she continued.

 “My most rewarding experience so far, has been going into clients’ homes and them saying to me, ‘I just don't think there's anything that can be done and I don't enjoy my home anymore’. Once I'm finished, the look on their faces is worth every hard-working minute spent. There's no greater satisfaction than to have someone enjoy their home. My business motto is ‘Making your house feel like a home’ and I've always believed that a person’s living environment is a reflection on all other aspects of their lives. I believe that an unorganized home is an unorganized mind. Your home should be your escape from the everyday world-- a place that you can unwind and feel at peace.”

Throughout her life, Tara has lived in Newfoundland and Ontario and has incorporated the unique qualities of each province into her work: “I was born in Newfoundland, but raised over half of my life in Ontario. I grew up in Brampton, just outside of Toronto, but fell in love with local agricultural land. My favourite pastime was to get in my car, drive and find small towns and visit their antique/country shops. This gave me my love of country living and decor. I love eclectic design and rustic pieces, and especially refinishing antique pieces.”

When I moved back to Newfoundland, I fell in love with how organic my surroundings were. Old untouched boat sheds, churches and Salt Box houses became my new favourite things to photograph (I also love photography and it is another one of my pastimes) and [they] also gave me new design inspiration.

According to Tara, choosing between her passions is the struggle of her life! “My friends and family call me the ‘Jill of all trades’, and sometimes it's hard to choose one passion and stick with it. I've always liked to dip my fingers in different things, but you have to go with what you're good at. Sometimes, it chooses you! (Even if it's more than one thing!)” Interior Design has chosen Tara Oram and she has many long term goals and dream projects that will take several years to complete:

“Oh! I have so many ideas, that some nights, I can't shut my brain off! One is to open my own little country store. I have the concept and name, but I need to figure out where I'm going to live for at least 10 years, to open it! Another idea I have, is to open a small, 5-10 cabin oceanfront resort in my beautiful, native Newfoundland. It would be important for me to design the resort with local inspiration and tradition, in my own unique concept.”

To see how these and many other ideas will unfold, please visit Tara Oram Interiors on Facebook. You can also connect with Tara here and on Twitter

Flying Solo with Paul McDonald

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Paul McDonald describes himself as a “singer, songwriter, poet, musician, and artist”. He was also a contestant in Season 10 of American Idol. Since then, Paul has been very busy. After being in several bands, he decided to go out on his own and create a solo album with the help of his fans on KickStarter (KS). His 6 song EP called Slow Rising is now available online.  “I wrote and recorded these songs in the summer of 2014 so I’m ready to get them out. I’ve already written 2 new albums since then” he laughed. “I’m planning on releasing this batch of songs in two different packages – the first one being a 2 song EP called Once You Were Mine that I released in early December – but for the Kickstarter crew, they get the original 9 songs that I recorded in the summer of 2014 when the goal was set to release a full length album.” 

Paul says that he “kind of fell into music”. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, he attended Auburn University with a very different career in mind: “My major was Biomedical Sciences. The plan was to be a pediatric dentist but music kind of took over without warning. I always wrote songs and played guitar and piano as a hobby and one night somebody heard me playing at a house party and asked if I wanted to perform at a bar in town. She said she’d pay me whatever I made at the door and let me drink for free. I couldn’t believe it! So I invited all my buddies out to the bar and we sold it out and made the bar the most money they had ever made. From that day on, it was over. I was hooked.  I started a band and continued to tour around the country for a few years. In 2010, I auditioned for Idol on a whim and that took me out to LA for a few years. I got to experience some pretty interesting things on that run. While in LA, I ended up falling for a girl [actress, Nikki Reed] and started a band with her. We put out a few records and then split. Since then I moved back to Nashville and have been working on a solo project. I’ve been playing music and touring for almost 10 years now so sometimes I have to pinch myself. I can’t believe I’ve been able to do what I love for this long.  I keep waiting for the day I wake up and they kick me off the stage.”

Reflecting on his musical career, Paul realized that he has had lots of memorable moments with some of the biggest names in entertainment: “That’s the beautiful thing about what I do. I thank God every day for giving me the gift of music and allowing me to travel around the world and meet so many phenomenal people. Some days I really have to step back and take it all in.  Just recently I was asked to perform at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductions alongside Tim McGraw, Emmylou Harris, and a bunch of other really talented folks. I remember sharing a dressing room backstage with Emmylou and thinking, ‘how in the world did I get here?’ That was a pretty fun one.”

When the American Idol alumni was asked if he was sad to see the long-running series go, he replied, “I think Idol made an amazing run. How many other shows can say they dominated TV and pop culture for almost 15 years? But, all good things have to come to an end. I’m just thankful that I got to be a small part of the show. What a unique and cool experience. Getting to work with such gifted people that are producing a show on that level was such an invaluable learning experience. Looking back on it, I still can’t believe some of the things that happened on that show. I mean, I got to sing with Stevie Wonder, perform in front of Muhammad Ali, and since have become friends with some of my favorite musical heroes. The whole thing was, and still is a trip!” 

“….Before I did Idol I had actually had nothing but bad feelings towards the whole thing – it actually grossed me out a little bit – but the truth is, if you know who you and you’re confident in yourself as an artist and a person before the show, then you can use it to your advantage. You come out on the other side as the same person with a little more experience and a wider audience of people listening to your music.  The folks that end up being stars after Idol would've been stars anyway. If you look at Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, etc. they are stars. They work harder than anyone, can sing their butts off, and the songs are great. That sounds like a winning combo to me. (I love those girls by the way.) The truth is once Idol or any of those shows are over – the magical fairy dust settles and it goes right back to you picking up your guitar or sitting in front of the piano trying to write the best songs and make the best music you can make. If the music is good post reality show stardom, then people listen and if it’s not, then nobody cares, even if you were the winner. You can put all the money in the world into something that’s not good and people won’t care.”

As with anything good there is also the bad, but it’s what you make of it that counts. Paul has faced many adversities over the years and rather than give up, he chose to grow and learn from each situation. Regarding his solo project, the biggest obstacles were the “labels and managers and everyone” trying to pull him in different directions, while trying to create the music that he wanted to, not knowing in the end what kind of music that would be.  “Making the music is always the most fun and the easiest part for me, but I was flying solo for the first time in almost 8 years (musically & business-wise) so I had to figure out exactly who I was as an artist and the kind of music I wanted to make. I also had to go through a string of managers, PR folks, label showcases, attorneys, etc. and get the short end of the stick to understand that there actually is a business to the music I was creating. I had to learn some lessons the hard way. I missed out on those lessons earlier on in my career because people were always running it for me—but flying solo has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve grown more than ever over the past two years as an artist, businessman, and an overall human being.”

“The challenge was finding a common ground musically with my collaborators (especially because I didn’t really know what kind of music I wanted to make yet) and also financially—just paying for it”, McDonald continued. “The project ended up costing way more than originally planned and a very solid chunk of the KS money was immediately taken up from my old manager and the KS fees, so I had to book a bunch of shows and do some solid touring to finish paying for the songs along with the art and videos to give it a proper release. It’s all been a very large learning experience to say the least” he laughed.

Paul’s advice for those with similar struggles? “Don’t give up. That’s a lesson in all aspects of life. Hard work actually pays off. If you put in the hours, things will eventually change for the better. I can’t count the times I’ve been turned down by labels or folks have said my music isn’t in the box for radio, etc. It happens every day. You just have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. Be confident in yourself and if you’re proud of what you’re doing they’ll come to you. Set goals and don’t stop until you get there. If you believe it, it will happen. I promise.”

Initially, Paul was hesitant to fund the album via online donations as he was uncomfortable asking for help. However, he was overwhelmed by the support he received. “In all honesty, I’ve always wanted to try a solo record, but I never was interested in getting funding from something like a Kickstarter or a Pledge Music [campaign] … but after my last band broke up, I was in a pretty dark place and a few people stumbled into my life and really pushed me to do the campaign. I did need help whether I knew it or not. Making music costs a solid chunk of change and the financial help with the KS supporters was more than I could ask for…but more than financial help, it was a personal confidence boost and a reminder that so many people love and support me as a person and the music and art that I’m making.” Paul wanted to thank everyone who has supported his journey so far and hopes to see them “out on the road”.

“Sure, I’ll probably always have American Idol associated with my name, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing,” said Paul McDonald. “Idol was just a small chapter of my life, just like me being a pre-med student at Auburn or a flying monkey in the Wizard of Oz in the high school play, or whatever other crazy roles I’ve played over the past 30 years of my life. I’m not trying to be a superstar. I’ve tasted that world and it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.  I’m just trying to stay true to myself and write the best music I can write in this exact moment in time and hopefully inspire some people along the way.” 





Helping spark a 'Soul Fusion'

by David Scott

Victoria Falana, BA’12 (Kinesiology, Western University) embraces uncomfortable situations. Raised by Nigerian “non-musical” parents in Brampton, Ontario, Falana searched for her voice as a youth, listening to the sounds of Fela Kuti and King Sunny Adé, as well as traditional radio pop. Then names like Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone and Etta James started ringing true.

In order to hone her skills, she performed in competitions in the Greater Toronto Area, like CNE’s Rising Star Talent Competition. And then she arrived at Western in 2008.

Her first steps, however, weren’t exactly full of Purple Pride and parties. An avid soccer player, she had a torn ACL repaired just months before arriving on campus.

“I started my first year on crutches and a wheelchair,” she said. “Frosh Week was horrible. My first few months at Western were pretty sad. I couldn’t hang out; I couldn’t take part in any activities.”

Despite the rough start, later that year, she won the Western Idol competition. The prize, a trip to Europe, opened the door to a future she always wanted, but never expected. With the international bug planted, she reached third year without a clear path. Stagnated personally, she applied for a summer exchange to Denmark.

“It was not something highly premeditated,” she said. “And that’s how life is sometimes. But I wrote a lot of music in Denmark. I’d explore and meet people. I spent a lot of time on my own. It took me a while to get used to Denmark. It was really different.”

Soon afterward, she joined Kinesiology professor Darwin Semotiuk’s Physical Activity in Cuba course, which included a class trip to Cuba. She travelled there in February 2012 during Reading Week.

Although she loved music as a child, her singing and playing various instruments was all self-taught. Speaking with Cuban musicians and experiencing a music that was “very raw” sparked a passion to take action. It inspired a leap of faith. “I’m the kind of person when I say I’m going to do something I do it,” she said. “I’m going to go to Cuba.” And so, following convocation, Falana moved to Cuba.

“(Cuba is) a place where people really honour musicianship and art, and the roles music and art play in that context versus somewhere in Canada, where we tend to put more emphasis on sciences, with science being something that’s ‘respectable,’” she said.

“Intuitively, I’m very percussive. I started studying more rhythms. Being in Cuba was really great for that. That’s very much part of my identity. The rhythms I’ve picked up in different contexts tend to overlap a lot – Cuban rhythms have a lot of African influences.” Aside from learning more music, she was also studying Spanish and sociology (in Spanish) at the University of Havana. “The first week, I just cried every day. I thought, ‘This is impossible. Why did I do this to myself?’ Eventually, it got easier – well, not easier – but it wasn’t as painful.”

She stayed just over a year, and spent that time performing, developing and, eventually, recording her debut five-song EP Things Fall Together with the help of local Cuban musicians.

She wrote four of the five songs. The only song she didn’t write was a cover of Angelitos Negros, written by Antonio Machin, and performed, perhaps most famously, by Roberta Flack. Western Sociology professor Anton Allahar introduced her to the song.

In Cuba, she honed a sound she calls “soul fusion,” her own blend of jazz, soul, afrobeat and R&B.

“I’m doing what I want to do, on a smaller scale,” she said. “I know those things build on themselves. In music, everyone thinks it happens overnight, but nothing happens overnight.”


This article appeared in the Fall 2015 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission. 

Putting It All Together: Michelle’s Public Relations Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Michelle Praymayer is the Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant at Home Hardware Stores Limited for the head office in St. Jacobs, Ontario. With previous employment in the radio and television industries, and as a former student of both Conestoga and Fanshawe College, Michelle has used her promotional and media experiences to excel as a member of the Home Hardware team.

Michelle says that she loves “the variety” that her job brings: “Every day is unique and I get to be a part of so many neat things.” Along with variety, Michelle loves the atmosphere surrounding her workplace: “It’s a family business. It’s a small town environment and most people know each other and are very friendly.... It adds to the charm.”

 On a typical day,  Michelle can be found phoning store owners and customers, picking products to donate to fundraisers, answering emails, creating and editing press releases or newsletter articles, as well as creating product lists. On the not-so typical days, Michelle’s variety of tasks increases! For example, earlier this year, she organized the entertainment for Home Hardware Canada's national Dealer Market event, which included a circus act called, “The Aerial Angels” and she was chosen to coordinate the Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the Home Hardware distribution centre as well. In addition, Michelle has suited up as the mascot, “Handy the Helpful Hound” for Thanksgiving and Christmas parades. Through her work, she was also able to attend the 2014 International Plowing Match which took place in Alliston, ON. Michelle has even worked alongside the experts seen in the Home Hardware commercials, Mark Cullen and Anna Olson!

 Initially, Michelle wasn’t expecting to get the job: “My mom worked there first and brought home the posting. I applied in March... and didn’t get a call until end of May. They hired me in that interview.” Michelle began working at Home Hardware in June 2014 and credits her previous experiences, including volunteer work, for helping her acquire this position. “Say yes to every opportunity” says Praymayer. “Volunteer in the field or a related field early to gain the competitive edge and make you more appealing to the employer.”

 Michelle studied at Conestoga College in her hometown of Kitchener for a career in Broadcasting; This led to appearances on television and radio and many other opportunities. After one year, she changed directions and continued her education at Fanshawe College in London with the Music Industry Arts program. After graduating, Michelle took some time off and returned to Conestoga to become an Event Planner. Michelle says that she is still figuring out what to do with her life. However, she has been able to successfully apply aspects from all of her programs as a Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant for Home Hardware:

 “It’s really neat to see things from my past coming up” Praymayer explains. Michelle worked on entertainment contracts while in school, which is something she has to do at work when booking the entertainment for various events. “I created training videos here [and] I used previous knowledge from my writing skills [I] developed [as a writer for] SportsXpress magazines”. Michelle also had previous work experience in the food industry which has helped her to create menus for other special events. Although Michelle Praymayer may be unclear on what her future holds, it is certain that she will continue to excel at what she does, thanks to her hard work and determination, in whatever field she chooses.

Family, Fiddles and Flying with Tim Chaisson

By Annette Dawm, Workstory Ambassador 

Simply put, Tim Chaisson says that his job is “to write songs and tunes, then perform them in front of people!” but his talent and work schedule is quite complex. In fact, he responded to this interview request while on a plane to Vancouver, BC. At the time, he was heading out to play at some Canada Day festivities! Far from his home on Prince Edward Island, Tim says he loves “almost everything” about his job: “I love traveling, meeting people and most of all, being on stage almost every night.”

Chaisson is from one of Canada’s largest and most prominent musical families: “My family has influenced me so much”, says Tim. “My father is a piano and fiddle player, my brothers and sister were all musicians, and almost all of my first cousins (there's 55 of them!) could play an instrument, sing or dance. There was music all around me, so I consider myself so lucky to have had an abundance of music in my life from an early age. I started playing music when I was 6 years old. I started off with the fiddle then moved over to guitar, singing and song writing. The path involved a lot of practicing as well as performing wherever I could!” In both his touring band and Celtic group, The East Pointers, Tim is accompanied by one of his 55 cousins, Koady Chaisson, who is also a multi-instrumentalist.

As for Tim, he says “it’s hard to pick a favourite” instrument. “Since the fiddle was my first instrument and has such a family connection, I may pick that. I'm by no means a master at all—far from it—but I play fiddle, guitar, bass, mandolin, drums and piano.” With such a wide range of musical abilities, Tim’s music is able to fit into many genres like pop, country, and folk. This means that Tim has found himself amongst some incredibly diverse and amazing tour mates. He has performed with country acts like The Stellas (parents of Lennon and Maisy from the TV series, Nashville) and Johnny Reid. On the other side of the spectrum, he has also hit the road with rock acts like The Trews and The Goo Goo Dolls; all of which have a different sound and a different audience. When asked if he changes his set list based on who he tours with, Tim responded as follows:

“Great question! I love that I'm able to tour with such different acts, but sometimes you do have to change things a little bit here and there. For example, I toured with Johnny Reid solo, so I picked songs that work well when I'm on stage by myself. With the Goo Goo Dolls and The Trews, I had my full band so it was a bit louder – you have to keep up! The fans were different at each show, but what was really cool is that they're all music lovers, so I had a great time.”

Earlier this year, Tim released Lost in Light which was the follow up to The Other Side. Both albums were made possible by donations through Pledge Music, a crowdfunding website. In return for his fans’ generosity, Tim offered some amazing rewards, which made the experience more interactive for everyone involved. “I think getting to meet and interact with the Pledgers was the coolest part [about releasing the album via crowdfunding]. I'm still in the process of doing some house concerts and co-writing some [songs] and it's awesome. I've crowdfunded a few projects myself. It feels good to be a part of the album making process.”  For a few lucky people, Tim even acted as a tour guide of Charlottetown, complete with Anne of Green Gables’ hat and braids. (There’s a photo on Twitter!)

In 2011, Chaisson also acted as a guide on a greater scale when The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate) visited the Island:  “I was the musical director for the event” Chaisson recalls. “Basically, I organized a few numbers that they watched that afternoon. I also performed.” Tim is very proud of Prince Edward Island and he continues to make the province proud as well. At the release party for Lost in Light, he performed for a sold-out crowd of almost 600 people, his biggest audience to date as a headliner!

Tim Chaisson understands that not everyone gets to do what he does, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. According to Tim, “if you love playing music, keep doing it! I have a lot of friends who gave up on their dream of being a touring musician because they felt pressure to take a more conventional work path. If you have a passion for it, don't give up. Keep working at it, music is good for the soul!”

For more information, please visit

You can also follow Tim on Twitter and like him on Facebook.  


From Faber Drive to Abbey Road: Andrew Stricko’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Widely known across Canada by his last name and for being Hello Operator and Faber Drive’s drummer, Andrew Stricko has returned to music with a new band, Kids in Despair (K.I.D). Fresh off the “I Still Live with My Mom Tour” in the United Kingdom, Stricko has discovered he has fans world-wide! He also found out what it was like to walk across one of the most famous roads in music history!

“Aside from music,” says Andrew, “I have a retail job that I do between shows/tours when I have some time off from the band life. It's not 'glamorous' or whatever, but it keeps things interesting and a roof over my head!” he laughs. “To be honest, I don't spend as much time practicing drums or thinking about them that I should. Obviously I love drumming and everything about it, but now that I'm in my late 20s, responsibilities and free time are a thing. I try to do as much music as I can between 'taking care of business'!”

Sometimes Andrew’s retail and music worlds collide as K.ID’s music is often played on the radio while he is working. He loves both jobs, especially when people sing along, whether it’s at a concert or along with the radio: “I love meeting new people. I've become a lot more outgoing since I started touring in my late teens, so that's the number one thing I like about touring or working a day job, whatever it may be.”


In terms of his musical influences, Andrew credits his parents for taking him to “concerts, choir rehearsals” and “anything musical” from an early age. According to Stricko, both of his parents are also very talented: “My father was a professional keyboardist/synth player, and he can shred the accordion really well! My mom is amazing at piano and can sing in ways I wish I could!”

Like many other young people before him, Andrew was also inspired by The Beatles: “I knew that I wanted to be a 'professional' musician pretty much my entire life. I remember the first time I saw a Beatles cover band at the ‘Festival of Lights’ in my hometown of Peterborough.... I wanted to be on stage. It's funny and crazy to think that over 20 years later I headlined the closing night of that festival with Faber Drive.” Crazier still, Andrew has now travelled with his new band to Abbey Road and its recording studio namesake, which have become some of his most memorable moments as a fan and a musician, but that’s not all:


“I feel I've had an unrealistic number of memorable moments when it comes to me and music,” says Stricko, “but if I had to pick, I'd say the first time I saw Sum 41 play in 2003 at ‘Ottawa Bluesfest’. The most memorable moment to date touring is tough, but I'll share this one: I just started playing with this new band named K.I.D. and we just got home from a UK tour.... The first night of the tour we opened for Bleachers (including members of Fun.) at Dingwalls in London (look it up!). The venue has an insane history and playing with Bleachers was destined to be amazing. The show was packed and there were kids in the crowd singing our songs as we were playing them! Never in my life did I really think I'd be across the world and people would know who my band was, it's insane!”

Andrew has achieved a lot in a short amount of time. Around the age of 19, he met the members of British Columbia’s award-winning band, Faber Drive, and he soon became their drummer: “I was playing with this band from Toronto, Hello Operator. We ended up on Faber's ‘Seven Second Tour’, became pals and the rest is as they say history.”

After more than five years on tour with both bands, Stricko began to feel “burnt out” and took a much needed break from the music industry, but drumming still remained a part of his life: “After I left Faber Drive, I had a couple jobs, but I was mostly teaching drum lessons in my hometown at the same store I took lessons from as a kid. It was very rewarding and nice to give back in a sense. I want nothing more than to help someone realize that they can do this too! Accomplishing your dreams IS possible and you shouldn't stop for anything or anyone.”

Along with teaching drums, Andrew “spent almost two years working random crappy jobs”. He recalls that he “definitely needed to reset” himself and find the “passion” and “fire” he had for music once again in order to continue accomplishing his own dreams. Stricko “snapped out of the funk” he was in when his friend, Miles Holmwood of the band, Stereos introduced him to Kids in Despair: “[He] was raving about them telling me how I should play their drummer in their music video etc. I got in touch with the band and we hit it off. I auditioned for them along with my friend Adam [Dugas], who played bass in The Envy and our lucky stars aligned! I've never been happier to be playing music than I am now.”

When asked about his advice for others, Andrew Stricko responded with the following: “If I could offer any advice to anyone who wants to do what I do, what another band does or whatever the thing, BE YOURSELF! Work hard, put in the hours, learn your instrument well, write lots of songs because practice makes perfect. Take it seriously, but have fun! I never thought when I was watching the tribute version of Ringo Starr that twenty-something years later, I'd be walking across Abbey Road myself on a day off during a tour. Crazier things have happened! Believe in yourself!”

To see more pictures from Andrew’s experience in the UK, you can follow him on Instagram.

For more information on K.I.D. please visit

I've got my degree – now what?

By Dave Robilliard and Brennan Connolly


Fond memories of their time spent at the DWFoM were vivid in the minds of both Dave Robilliard (BMus'04) and Brennan Connolly (BMus'08) of Duo Percussion as they opened the Fridays at 12:30 concert season in September. Along with the Fridays at 12:30 concert, Duo presented a workshop for undergraduate and graduate music students on entrepreneurship, titled “I've Got My Degree…Now What?” Geared towards musicians, the seminar covered topics such as marketing, networking, touring, sponsorship and creating your own opportunities.

Both Robilliard and Connolly completed their MMus degrees in percussion at Oklahoma City University and upon returning to Canada, the pair reconnected to form a chamber percussion ensemble that has taken off over the last couple years. In fact, the group has gone from playing just a few local education con-certs to performing for national and international audiences. They have also gained sponsor-ship from Pearl/ Adams

Drums & Concert Percussion as well as Dream Cymbals & Gongs. Most recently, the duo was nominated for “Best Percussion Ensemble” in 2014 by Drum! Magazine, in which they finished second to the world-renowned Blue Man Group. 

Duo Percussion is a professional percussion pairing known for their eclectic and high-energy performances. Using traditional and non-traditional percussion instruments, they present diverse programs of classical, contemporary and Canadian music. Duo Percussion is dedicated to expanding the percussion duo repertoire and attract-ing new audiences. “We're trying to change the way that people experience a ‘classical' concert, ” said Connolly. “We're trying to approach concerts in a different way. We have a unique sound palette and niche to fill and we are trying to engage audiences of all ages on a level that makes them feel that they are just as much a part of the performance experience as we are. ”  

The pair has appeared as guest artists with the Bell' Arte Singers, the Guelph Chamber Choir and the Oriana Women's Choir. Other solo appearances include the Ontario Percussive Arts Society's Day of Percussion, Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, New Hamburg Live! Festival of the Arts, Bach Music Festival of Canada, and the University of Guelph.

Not only are they busy per-forming public concerts, Duo Percussion also has a pas-sion for fostering creativity in young people. With concerts and workshops tailored to suit various educational levels, Duo Percussion has been able to help inspire and enhance the abilities of many young audiences by exposing them to a unique genre of music and immersing them in the world of percussion. This helps students realize the limitless possibilities of percussion music and motivates them to develop their exploratory and creative skill set, which helps their musician-ship to grow. Duo Percussion was first engaged to perform at a secondary school in Clinton, ON and with an outstanding response, the demand for the group was immediate. Now frequently engaged by schools throughout the province, Duo Percussion has grown to provincial and national recognition as evidenced by their keynote performance at the Ontario Music Educators' Association Conference and their residency at MusicFest Canada ‘The Nationals' .

In addition to their ensemble performances, Robilliard and Connolly are active freelance musicians and educators in Southwestern Ontario. They perform regularly with orchestras in the region, and together comprise the percussion section for the Jeans ‘n' Classics Rock Symphony. They have performed in shows at the Stratford Festival and the Grand Theatre along with many other local theatre groups. As educators, Robilliard has been adjunct faculty at both Western and the University of Windsor, while Connolly is the percussion ensemble director at Wilfrid Laurier University. In addition, they both direct percussion ensembles at local high schools and maintain active private teaching studios in their respective cities.

In the spring of 2016, Duo Percussion will tour the mid-west United States with concert appearances and workshops in Oklahoma and Texas. They are also taking bookings for the education concerts and workshops. For more information, visit:

Article originally appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of Ensemble, the alumni magazine of the Don Wright Faculty of Music at Western University.  Reprinted with permission.

Marketing Assistant Makes it in Music Industry

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Kendra Sauder is a Marketing Assistant for Audio Blood, an artist and brand development company based out of Toronto, Ontario. With the Audio Blood team, Kendra is able to work in her “dream field”, which is the Music Industry. Kendra has worked very hard to be where she is today. Coming from the small town of St. Jacobs, she moved to the big city of London, Ontario where she spent seven years. She currently lives in St. Catharine’s and commutes to the even bigger city of Toronto. She says it’s been difficult, but “hands down, [it was] worth it!” Something that has helped Kendra on her journey is the support she receives from the people she works with:

“My co-workers and the Audio Blood team are all amazing individuals and work together amazingly! They are always supportive of each other and willing to help anyone else out on the team in any way they can. I love that the Audio Blood team is more like a family!” (She even has a furry co-worker, “Dug the Pug” and he gives out advice to bands on the Audio Blood blog!)

Sauder is not only enthusiastic about her immediate “family” of co-workers, but she also loves helping the entertainers that Audio Blood promotes: “I get to work with artists and musicians and help them accomplish their goals.”  Kendra is also “making it easier and more accessible for music fans to reach amazing artists like HIGHS, Amos the Transparent, Royal Tusk and Jeremy Fisher (just to name a few.)” Audio Blood has also worked with Pat Maloney as well as big-name brands/events like The Juno Awards.

It’s clear that Kendra loves her team but she also loves the job itself: “I love so many things about my job! It’s hard to fit it all into one answer…. I also love the fact that my job is different every day, and that no matter what I am working on, I’m contributing to a larger goal and bigger picture. No two days are the same, and I am constantly learning. It keeps me on my toes and I couldn’t be happier about it.”

Kendra Sauder’s path to the music industry began at Fanshawe College in London, where she was enrolled in the Music Industry Arts Program. While she was in school, she was heavily involved in Student Government and event planning, among other things in order to succeed in her career: “I took part in as many music, branding and industry conferences as I could (which is where I first heard about Audio Blood) and was constantly trying to improve my craft while at school. I took time to learn about different companies and positions within the music industry to hone my skills.”

Once she graduated from the program, Kendra had planned to start her own company with some friends in St. Catharine’s, however she was offered a position with Audio Blood and she “couldn’t turn it down!” Sauder was able to assist them with their work at the events for Canadian Music Week. This opportunity proved to be valuable work experience for Kendra as it lead her to her current position as a Marketing Assistant for the company: “During my one-month contract, I pushed myself to go in early, stay late and do whatever was needed to get the job done. After my contract was up, I was asked to stay on. I guess the short version is, ‘I fought for it.’”

Finally, when asked what advice she had for those interested in working in this field, Kendra Sauder answered, “Play hard. Work harder! The music industry is an amazing place, but it takes determination, drive and a lot of gusto to make it. Work your connections, and fight for your goals.”

If you would like to learn more about Audio Blood, you can visit their website at    

Independent Artist Goes Global

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Patrick (also known as Pat) Maloney is one of the lucky people who can say, “I do love my job!” Raised in Ottawa, Pat works as a self-employed musician. It’s been a long journey for him to get to where he is today, but it is a journey that has taken him around the world doing what he loves—making music.

Maloney got his start in music as a child, where he played piano and later a drum set in high school. He then moved to London, Ontario to attend Fanshawe College for its two-year Music Industry Arts program. He ended up staying at Fanshawe much longer than he had originally planned because after he graduated, he became a Fanshawe College employee!

“I got a job with [the] Fanshawe Student Union promoting events on campus” says Pat. “That job put me in touch with a lot of industry contacts.” In addition to his “day job”, he also played drums for a band which had several other members. Eventually, Pat knew it was time to go solo and depart from the band and the college where he had worked for six years, thanks to the networking he had done with people in the music industry.

In 2013, he played 170 shows across Canada in all 10 provinces, as well as touring college and university campuses in the United Kingdom. Of this experience, Pat tells us,

“I book the Canadian tours myself, and travel England with Tony Lee, the Hypnotist. I spend most afternoons making cold calls to bars and sending emails to book myself. In these early stages of my career, I probably land one show for every 5 emails I send.” Although low numbers and low pay can be discouraging, Pat’s fan-base continues to grow and he couldn’t be happier with his job. However, when he first left London for Toronto, where he currently lives, he wasn’t sure how it would all turn out:

I was worried about the money at first. But once I had my first bad month [over with], I was still happy and alive and I still didn’t have to go into an office [for work]. I could still focus on my passion! It was worth being a little strapped for cash!”

Luckily for Pat, the cash came rolling in when he reached out to his friends, family and fans for help to fund his second album, Repotting, the follow up to his solo debut, Root Rot. Earlier in 2014, Repotting was crowd-funded online through and he says that “it was a great feeling to know that there are people out there willing to shell out a few dollars for a record they haven't even heard yet! There is very little financial support for independent music, so it's nice to know the fans are willing to step up.”

When asked why he loves his job as a self-employed musician, Maloney was quick to answer, “I love that I work for myself, and that I get to play music every night. I get to share what I love the most with audiences all over the world!”

Visit Pat Maloney’s website for upcoming tour dates and more information



Twitter: @_patmaloney  

Instagram: _patmaloney