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

Introducing Shawn Meehan of “Me and Mae”

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

For Shawn Meehan, music is “not really a job but a way of life”. Shawn is a member of the British Columbia-based country band known as “Me and Mae”. (The name of the band is a play on words with Shawn’s last name as well as the name of a former band member.) Collectively, the band now has six members. Over the last few months, however, Meehan and his band-mate, Colette Trudeau have traveled as a duo promoting their latest single, “Feel Good Feelin’ ” while visiting radio stations across Canada. As seen in the photograph, Colette and Shawn included London, Ontario as one of their tour stops. They did a performance and an interview with Gary Taylor at BX93’s “Green Room” located inside the Covent Garden Market. (Country artists perform at the market almost every Thursday afternoon!)

During the promotional tour, Shawn says that he learned the importance of “getting out there” and connecting with those in the radio industry across the country, which he thoroughly enjoyed. As he put it, I love performing …. I love traveling and meeting new people and living in hotel rooms!”

Shawn is no stranger to life on the road. Having moved around Canada as a kid, he said that it was these types of experiences that helped him prepare for touring today. A few years ago, Shawn moved from Quebec to Toronto to attend Humber College’s music program: “I [was] playing gigs since I was 13 years old. I rarely ever said no to any opportunity. Humber College was tough to get in. They accepted 25 guitar players a year and 500 auditioned.” Shawn also noted that the journey to becoming a pro recording artist is not for faint of heart.

In addition to making connections with fans and radio personnel in a live setting, Me and Mae also has a strong social media presence. On Thursdays, the band will post event updates via their Facebook and Twitter pages. Each week they also present “Me and Mae Mondays”. Every Monday, a different member will get to do a “virtual show and tell” so that everyone can get to know them better through their photographs and stories.

Meehan credits The Eagles as a “huge influence” on his career: “I grew up listening to rock and country rock. I didn't see my Dad often growing up, but when I did he always had the Eagles playing in his car. So the Eagles are very dear to me…. I'm a huge fan! They hold the bar for me. We strive to be that great! I did play in rock bands for years but came back to country about five years ago when I started Me and Mae.”

In the early days of Me and Mae, Shawn was also a guitar teacher. He literally had a star pupil, Carly Rae Jepsen. According to Shawn, “she was a great student and very nice person. She actually co-wrote the first Me and Mae single called ‘Love Me, Leave Me Lonely’”. For Shawn Meehan, it has been very rewarding to see Jepsen’s career take off and he is sure to see much more success of his own with Me and Mae. For more information, please visit

Birth of (tuba) cool

In the waning hours of Tuesday, December 1, Jarrett McCourt sent out a Tweet that, perhaps, no Canadian tubist has ever written:

When you play a world premiere for a party of VIPs including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ... #miamibeachparties.

But don’t let the guy playing for VIPs downplay his own ‘very important’ status among up-and-coming tuba players.

Currently, McCourt, BMus’13, is a member of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Fla. He is the first Canadian tuba player to earn a seat with the group and the only tubist on the current roster.

Earlier in the year, McCourt also became the first tuba player to win the Montreal Symphony’s Standard Life Competition, Brass Category, in the 75-year history of the program.

A lesser publication might say those are accomplishments to ‘blow your horn’ about – but not us.

We’ll just say that McCourt is racking up the accomplishments - quickly.

Over his young career, he has performed with several ensembles, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Flint Symphony Orchestra, National Repertory Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of the Pacific, Windsor Symphony Orchestra, Motor City Brass Quintet and University of Michigan Symphony Band.

McCourt has either won or advanced at eight competitions in the past three years, including the Leonard Falcone International Tuba and Euphonium Competition and concerto competitions in Ontario, Quebec and Michigan. If McCourt keeps up at this pace, one day, we suspect, Brangelina will be tweeting about being at a party of VIPS, including Jarrett McCourt. #tubalife.

This article appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of Western University’s Alumni Gazette. Reprinted with permission

Meet Misha and Dave: From Forest and Field

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

“From Forest and Field” (FFAF) is described by one of its co-founders, Misha Radojkovic as “a very long term musical collaboration between Dave Beverly-Foster and I”. Performing together since they were teenagers, From Forest and Field is the culmination of several years of practice, performances and friendship between Misha and Dave. As Misha explained it, “We're both music writers, and over the years [we] seem to have developed a method of mixing and sharing our music…. It's very easy to get together to make or discuss music. Back in high school, it was common to randomly break into percussive jams and I don't think that's changed much”.

More recently, Misha and Dave began to branch out from the comfort zone of their regular jam sessions and are now playing in public with more frequency. Currently they are looking forward to their Earth Day performance-- April 22, 2016 --  at The Garafraxa Café in Durham, ON which will celebrate the café’s one year anniversary.

In addition to performing, both musicians are also very passionate about the environment. While attending the University of Waterloo for Environmental Studies in April 2014, Dave embarked on a 12-day journey home near Chesley, ON. Usually this trip would take a few hours by car, but Dave camped and walked the entire way by himself! “I left on a Monday morning and I arrived the Friday after the next.  In those twelve days I traversed 200km.  It was quite a journey. Sleeping in whatever forest cover I could find (usually cedar swamp), I lived through every element that Southern Ontario could cook up: floods, rains, snows, winds, extreme heat, and bugs. I walked over rail, trail, and hard road.  Through forest, field and town, I got to know the land and the people like never before.” Dave has written a travelogue of his adventures which is currently being edited. The hope is that one day it will be a book!

Misha has been working away at seasonal jobs repairing barns in the warmer months and repairing instruments in the winter. He picked up this skill in Tugaske, Saskatchewan where he took “a course on constructing flat top guitars”.

Whether they are performing together or with others, Dave and Misha are always musically tied together. “We have a weekly jam with about ten neighbours, and the music we play there is very fun and interesting” Dave explained.  “There tend to be more traditional songs there, and the older average age of the group definitely reflects in the repertoire.  FFAF is different in that we've played different music in different groups, but the two of us have been the one constant that entire time, for about a decade now. Our musical styles have grown in complement to one another.”

“FFAF has always been my focus” Misha added. “I spent the last few winters out in BC and found some folks to jam with and performed the odd show, but that time was also used to write songs I intended to record with Dave.”

“Personally, I have never quite taken the plunge of using music as my single method of making money, but what is amazing about getting paid for music is that we would be making music either way” Misha continued. “…. Fair wages for musicians are very important. Some people have the idea that musicians should volunteer and getting paid is a bonus, but that's just not fair.” 

In addition to unfair wages, other challenges can sometimes include a lack of inspiration and a lack of listeners. “Sometimes the music isn't just meant to be. In some situations, people will try to force it to happen and it just doesn't come out good.  There's been a fair number of occasions where [we] have met up to jam but … we just end up shooting the breeze, and it's okay!” said Dave. In the times where spectators seem to be disengaged, Dave takes the opportunity to talk to the audience as well. “It seems to have become my role to do some loud fast-talking to help the audience hear the more important details, like where they can buy our album.” (You can do so by contacting them on Facebook.)

When asked for advice, Misha noted that making music with others is the most important while Dave actually recommended for others to not follow in his footsteps. Then he added, “But if I can't convince you otherwise, busking is key.  It helps you develop the careless abandon required to make yourself publicly vulnerable, and it gives you long stretches of practice to improve your musical stamina.  And, to emphasize what Misha said, play with others.  There's a certain type of rhythmic synergy you can only develop by playing with others, and learning to hear others is essential to becoming a better musician.”

If you can, please support these local musicians by attending their Earth Day show in Durham or at a future event near you!

Making Connections in the Music Industry

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Tim Fraser has been the Events and Activities Programmer for the Fanshawe College Student Union for the last three years, taking over the role previously occupied by Pat Maloney. Tim mentioned that he is still referred to as “The New Pat” all these years later, however he has been successfully making the position his own by booking big name acts for the college such as Dallas Smith and Fred Penner. Tim has often been a guest lecturer for the Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe (where he was once a student) and more recently he has also helped Sheridan College book performers for their events.

In addition to his work as the Events and Activities Programmer, Tim is the owner and Creative Director of Murdoch Music Management, a company he runs with his wife, Tanya Chopp-Fraser.  “We are an artist management and music industry consulting business. I kind of started it myself, as I come from the music industry.” Tim jokingly added that he made Tanya join him as a business partner. However, her marketing skills proved to be a real asset to Murdoch Music. “My wife is very, very smart. [Tanya] works in marketing…. She came up with the name of the company and the logo… so really, I kind of think it’s her company and I help her with it. That’s probably how it should be, but yeah, it’s just the two of us”, he explained. Together they have interviewed artists such as Frank Turner and Northcote for their Murdoch Music podcast, available on iTunes.  

Not one to be star-struck very often, Fraser said that his most memorable guest on the show so far was children’s entertainer, Fred Penner. Penner did a show at Fanshawe in 2015, and much to Tim’s surprise, he also agreed to an interview.  “I [got] an email from Fred! It was just like, ‘Hey Tim, looking forward to the show! I would love to sit down and chat with you!’…. I lost it. I screenshotted it, and posted it, and texted it to my brother and my parents! I was like, ‘Oh my God! This is weird! I can’t believe I’m at that point now where I’m getting an email from Fred Penner!”

In addition to Fred, Tim noted that having done interviews with people like Lindi Ortega, Eric Alper and the President of FACTOR have added credibility to his podcast and so it has become easier for him to interview other people in the industry. All he does is ask, usually via email. Fraser tries to reach out to the publicity contacts listed on an artist’s website, especially if they are on tour in London. “The worst they can say is no, and then you don’t get to interview them.”

On the managing side, Tim acts as the booking agent for singer-songwriter Ken Yates and the two-man circus freak show, “Monsters of Schlock”. Although he couldn’t mention the artists involved, Fraser is excited to expand his roster very soon, because for him, it’s the best part of his job! “I really love the artist management and consulting and helping people write grants. That’s the whole reason I started that company… to help artists with the monotony and the business side, because a lot of really creative people aren’t good at business. It’s a completely different mindset and work ethic, too.”

A life-long musician himself, Tim grew up playing classical violin and was involved in the Suzuki music program. At one time, Tim could be found playing in orchestras but he now only “dabbles” with the violin. He traded it in for the guitar, and later, a saxophone. “…High school hit, hormones started kicking in and I thought to myself, ‘I can’t land a girlfriend playing the violin! This is so nerdy!’ …So I taught myself how to play the guitar. I’m now in my 30s and look back on it, and I see people like Tim Chaisson who plays violin very well, and my wife wishes that I still played the violin.”

Fraser began writing and singing his own punk rock and ska songs in high school and eventually toured Canada as a member of the band, Angry Agency. Now as the person who is responsible for bringing acts to Fanshawe and other venues, Tim has been both the performer and the promoter. He uses his personal experiences to help make better events for everybody involved.  “It helps a lot coming from the performing side of things just because … I’ve been on the other side of it. So it helps with all the hospitality stuff and the planning of it. I know that when I was an artist touring around, what I would’ve wanted to know from the promoter…. I really do pride myself in how I treat artists and performers when they come on campus. I make a concerted effort to make sure they’re comfortable and having a good time…. A lot of people don’t realize [the performers] are actually people and they’re providing a service so you’ve got to treat them well,” Tim explained. Part of making an artist comfortable involves following their rider and using common sense. For example, Tim said that if someone asked him for a Diet Pepsi, he wouldn’t give them a Coke Zero.

Tim Fraser’s advice?  “Take any opportunity that you can get, work your ass off, do a good job and just be nice to people. Treat people with respect and don’t burn your bridges-- the entertainment business is a very, very small world where a lot of people know each other and a lot of people talk.  I’ve seen people lose clients and lose work.”  Tim gave up three well-paying jobs to work as an intern for True North Records six years ago in order to get a foot in the door. He has no regrets because the connections he has made helped him become “a viable member of the Canadian Music Industry”.

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.” 





Children’s Dreams Made Real: The Story of The Enchanted Cottage

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Caleigh Allen is the creator of Ever After Entertainment in Atlanta, Georgia. Together with Jenna Bell and several other actors and artists in Atlanta, Caleigh’s company creates an entertainment experience like no other. The goal is to create “The Enchanted Cottage” a fairy tale venue where children and their families can enjoy a magical experience with their favourite characters, without the high costs of a theme park. Currently, actors involved with the company spend much of their time in character and on the road driving to birthday parties, meet-and-greets and charitable events. After two successful years in business, they are ready to find a physical venue where children visit The Snow Queen and her sister or even a mermaid! Pirates, princes and superheroes are also part of the company where they strive to have “Children’s Dreams Made Real.”

Recently, Jenna participated in an “AMA – Ask me Anything” on Reddit to describe what it’s like to work as a princess. It snowballed to other websites including the Facebook page of fitness guru, Richard Simmons. “That was such a cool moment!” Jenna laughed, “Caleigh sent me a screen shot and I just couldn’t believe it. Even more amazing was that he posted an article, based off another article, based off my Reddit and I realized, ‘Wow…This is really spreading. People are actually interested in what we are trying to do here!’ I was afraid when I offered to do the AMA that I would get no questions at all, so to see the support has been so uplifting.”

“This project is very near and dear to our hearts,” both women explained. “…We realized there really isn’t a ‘home’ for this industry. People work out of rented office buildings, or their houses, and we thought, ‘what if we made a place where we can all come together, as a co-op and benefit?’ Everyone can be involved with events… and whatever fantastical things we think of, at a lower cost, to help cross promote and allow these small businesses to get exposure and grow.” Part of their mission also includes working with sick children and their families.

Essentially, the idea for Ever After Entertainment came from Caleigh’s childhood love of fairy tales and her father’s success as an entrepreneur.   “I have a degree in Musical Theatre and a love for all fairy tales …. Add those two together, and you get an adult who started a princess entertainment company! ….My father was always a role model for entrepreneurship. He [made] his own company that eventually was dissolved into Technicolor and Sony with him near the top. …When I was younger I didn’t realize he set the stage for me to succeed. His advice for me [was] ‘Don’t stop believing, never stop growing, and love what you do.’” she explained. As her dream becomes a reality, Caleigh finds it most rewarding that she can share the experience with her dad, and that she is able to represent women in the workforce.

“… As a woman especially, it’s so much harder for us in the world of business to be taken seriously and to succeed. The fact that I have been successful in this cutthroat world with a princess company means the world to me; and to have my father support me is everything. In addition to being a “full-time princess”, Caleigh also makes and sells her own flower crowns.

Jenna joined the company on a whim and describes herself as a “part-time princess” because her character work only takes place on weekends.  “During the week I work as a digital artist, doing graphic design and computer animation. On the weekends I am usually spending my time as The Snow Queen-- and sometimes as a few other princess favourites as well. I graduated with my BFA in animation, with an obvious interest in fairy tales, and a desire to be a Disney animator. I ended up moving to Atlanta to work for Turner Broadcasting, and during a huge Halloween parade I decided to dress up as The Snow Queen. Well, I couldn’t walk ten feet without people stopping me for pictures, and was eventually approached by someone holding children’s events at a nearby ice-rink. They needed a Snow Queen character for the parties. At first I was timid about it all. I’ve never acted in my life.and  kept asking my friends, ‘Is this weird? Do people do this?’ Finally my good friend Kyle urged me to give it a try, and I thank him for that push…I met Caleigh and other wonderful people in this industry and it’s become a part of my life [that] I don’t think I can live without now.”

Jenna even took her role as The Snow Queen to Thailand, which is also how the cottage came about. “I had planned to go to an underprivileged school to deliver school supplies, but when my guide found out what I did on the weekends she was ecstatic.… I put on a blue dress from my backpack, and she wrote ‘The Snow Queen’ in Thai on my name tag. The kids were shy at first, but soon as she told them ‘who I was’ they all came running toward me and basically tackled me with hugs and kisses. It was just wonderful. I wasn’t there long, but by the end of it our guide brought over the principal and translated his thank you to me. He bowed and told me those kids will never have a day like this again, and that I brought them an experience they will never forget. It meant the world to them. It was such an interesting perspective for me because I’m just me you know? [I’m] just playing this character. It’s amazing how you can bring hope in the simplest ways, and after that I was inspired to do more. I came home … and reached out to Caleigh and said ‘So I have this idea for a cottage….’ We’ve been working towards that dream ever since.”

Despite what seem to be very magical jobs and goals, there are many challenges as well. Caleigh notes that “Making magic for children is usually great [but] every so often, it’s not. Sometimes you have crazy parents or clients who try to make your job harder, but you can’t let them! I love to perform and I love entertaining kids, so that’s definitely not the hard part. Usually the scheduling and dealing with fussy clients is a lot worse than the children.”

Jenna finds that her biggest challenge is “commanding a room full of strangers” because “Some kids believe, some don’t. But if you can convince the non-believers that you’re ‘real’, then you’ll be leaving on a high note…and in the good graces of the guests, which means recommendations for more events.”

 “… Many parents ask for us to just come in with this grand entrance of singing and dancing, but we have to explain, even though we are the child’s ‘favourite character’ that will still scare them.... It’s better to ease into it, because the kids can be nervous too! From there we read stories, sing songs, take pictures, and participate in games. ….We may be there for anywhere from an hour to four hours, and we have to always be in character and make sure each family walks away with a smile” Bell continued.

Despite the challenges, most of their days end happily ever after, making it all worth it for Caleigh Allen and Jenna Bell.  For more information you can visit their website and like their Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter (Caleigh / Jenna) on Twitter and for updates on The Enchanted Cottage.

Sarah Burke and the World of Rock Radio

By Nancy Delorey

Sarah Burke is a recent graduate of Fanshawe College’s Broadcasting-Radio Program. She spends her afternoons on London’s Best Rock FM 96 and the occasional weekend on 1021 The Edge in Toronto. She explains the love for her job comes from people – the people she interviews,  the people she connects with, and the people she meets. 


What is your current title? 

FM96 Afternoon Drive Announcer at London’s Best Rock FM96 / Part-time Swing Announcer at 102.1 The Edge Toronto

What exactly do you do for FM96?

I host the FM96 afternoon show weekdays from 2-6pm covering current events, music news, and sports to cater to a male dominant rock audience.  I often interview guests from the community or FM96 bands. For instance, Colin Mochrie from “Whose Line is It Anyway” was on the show before his “Improv All Stars” performance at Centennial Hall this week.  Monster Truck guitarist Jeremy Widerman was on the show, prior to the band playing before the Blue Jays versus Yankees game at the Rogers Centre.  The frontman and guitarist from Finger 11 came on the show live from Mount Brydges Rockin Wheel music festival.  The story is much the same with my content for 102.1 The Edge as I prepare for a role in a larger radio market.  On average I fill-in for one weekend a month in Toronto to help relieve announcer vacations and time-off.


What's it like working in radio?

Radio is kind of like day-camp.  Yes, you have somewhere you have to be everyday and you may need to prepare a lunch, but you always look forward to it.  Radio is really a daily conversation about what the people in your audience are already talking about.  When the Blue Jays are on a winning streak, across the country people are freaking out that their only Canadian baseball team could finally be making the post-season this year.  When 69 year-old Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister announces that he’s switching from Whiskey to Vodka, “for his health”…every guy who grew up on Motorhead is laughing. Everyday I ask myself these three questions: 1) What are people talking about today? 2) What can people relate to that’s going on in my life right now? 3) How can I make someone smile?


What is the best part of your job?

The best part of the gig is talking to people. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the guitarist or the singer of the band.  Sometimes the best part of the gig is talking to a Londoner you’ve never met on the phone, who shares your same love for the Toronto Maple Leafs and calls to tell you how excited he is to have Mike Babcock as the new coach.  Sometimes, it’s a couple of guys starting the night shift in a factory that call to say they have the station blasting at work. Sometimes, you end up hosting a charity event and sometimes, you’re introducing a band on stage at a music festival.  It’s different every day and it’s always exciting.


Name the coolest thing you have been able to do?

I’m going to have to narrow it down to three

     Interviewing Dallas Green of City and Colour

     Watching Neil Young rock Budweiser Gardens from Tie Domi’s suite

    Doing live radio shifts on the radio station I grew up listening to, 102.1 The Edge.


How has your time at Fanshawe impacted your career?

The Fanshawe Broadcast-Radio program has always been noted as one of the best in the country and that’s the reason that radio stations are quick to accept your request to intern or look at your resume before others. They know you already have the necessary skills.  The program basically has you job shadowing as you conduct interviews, learn to edit them and make contacts in the community.


What has your time at FM96 taught you?

My time at FM96 has taught me that broadcasting is not about the host and being in the spotlight. It is always about the listener, your #1 client.  If you’re telling a personal story on-air, a listener MUST be able to relate or it’s not worth telling. If you can keep your listener informed, engaged and entertained, you’re doing it right.

Reprinted with permission from Fanshawe College Alumni News. All rights reserved. 

Coordinating Christmas: Craig McRae’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Craig McRae plays many roles in life. He is a husband, father, musician, and a Master of Ceremonies for many of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life events. He is also the owner and operator of an ATM company. On top of this, he runs Canada’s largest vocal competition and perhaps most notably, Craig describes himself as Santa and Mrs. Claus’s “tallest elf”.

Craig became one of Santa’s many helpers by following in his father’s footsteps as the Band Coordinator for “the world’s largest and longest running children's parade”— the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.  This year is the 111th anniversary of the magical event and Craig is very proud to have been a part of it for most of his life:

“I have worked the parade since I was about 10 years old.  I used to help my Dad, George McRae, with his bands. He is a retired High School Music Teacher from Malvern Collegiate Institute. He always had his band in the parade, and I was a band helper! My father was involved with the parade for 60 years, and when he retired from teaching, he became the parade's band coordinator, a position that had not existed before, but the [organizers] realized that music was a very important part of the parade! I was always his right hand man, and when he retired after 60 years, I took over that position! (One funny note -- I've never actually seen the parade as a spectator --I've always worked it, and enjoyed doing so.)”

“I look after all aspects of music within the parade. This involves scouting and hiring all the bands (usually between 20-28 bands) and organizing them within the parade, with months of planning on a huge, well-scripted parade lineup. I try to set certain bands up within certain sections of the parade, to try to match up colour, style, and size with whatever else might be contained within that certain section. It is a ton of work, and it does take all year, but in the last 2 months [prior to the parade] things really heat up!”

In total, Craig is in charge of approximately 2500-3000 musicians, with some coming as far away as Ohio! In the past, bands have also travelled from Kentucky, Georgia, Texas and California to participate with many Canadian bands along the parade route.

Something that people might be surprised to learn about the spectacle according to Craig is that they “literally start prepping for the following year's parade the moment the parade ends.” So everyone involved has to think about Christmas year round. They also collect data from every aspect of the procession in order to continue its successful run.

“We track all bands/times/people/weather/events that happened during the parade, and start to see what worked, what didn't work … and what we should do to improve next year! Then we start to look at what bands to re-hire for next year, and then spend the next year fielding calls from bands all across North America. Usually anywhere from 40-70 bands contact me to see who should be in the next year's parade!”

The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is well known for its hugely creative floats: “All the floats are re-created and recycled each year,” says Craig, “but the one that is the oldest and my favourite, is the Mother Goose float; many years it's been a Canadian goose – but it's just elegant and beautiful.”

And what’s a Santa Claus Parade without Santa? Over the years, Craig has become good friends with Santa and his wife, but admits that he probably didn’t make “the nice list” this year, even though he has a special connection…

“The fact that I get to visit the North Pole on a regular basis and meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus is the most exciting thing of all - I've known them for a long time, and they trust me, which I appreciate…. The two of them are really so nice, and it's a pleasure to be able to know them so closely.” In addition to working with the famous couple, Craig’s favourite part about working at the Santa Claus Parade is seeing all of the hard work come to fruition each year:

 “Once the parade starts moving, [it’s an] absolutely beautiful sight, seeing hundreds of thousands of kids and families enjoy such a beautiful thing. It is beyond words, and beyond magical!”

If you’d like to join in on the magic next year, Craig explains how you can help. “The parade is a non-profit, volunteer organization, and we LOVE volunteers! It's been running for well over 100 years and is the world’s largest and longest running children's parade. Anyone that wants to help can contact us here!”

If you are planning to attend the event but haven’t done so before, here is Craig McRae’s advice for watching The Toronto Santa Claus Parade in person:

“Be prepared for a long day! Bring chalk for kids to draw on the road, Santa reads all the signs the kids make and dress warmly even if it's warm out; Bring food and mostly, bring smiles and happiness and something to sit on!” Click here to visit the parade’s official website for more information.

You can also watch the parade from home on your TV, computer or mobile device on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 4:30 ET/PT on CTV, and 5:30 p.m. AT on CTV Atlantic, and on CTV GO. The parade will also be available to watch online after its initial broadcast in case you miss it! You can even tweet to Santa if you’d like, @TOSanta

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. 

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

Big Screen Brothers

By Janis Wallace

Hollywood has plenty of examples of successful brothers – Joel and Ethan Coen, Beau and Jeff Bridges, heck, there’s even four Baldwin brothers. Now, Western can add two of its own to that list – Wayne and Scott Lemmer.

“When we were kids, there was no indication we would both end up in film,” Scott said. “Working in the entertainment industry was always sort of a fantasy with no tangible path of getting there. It was certainly nothing I thought would happen to us so quickly.”

However, that is exactly where they landed.

Today, Scott, BA’01 (Visual Arts), is an animator who has worked for Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar. He counts among his credits a shelf full of parent must-haves including Rio, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Turbo, The Croods and Ice Age: Dawn of Dinosaurs.

Wayne, BMusA’02, is a sound editor and re- recording mixer. His credits include Oscar- winning films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Black Swan, as well as blockbuster fare like Transformers, X-Men: First Class, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kick-Ass 2.

The Ilderton, Ont. brothers were raised by parents who supported their creativity, especially their mom, Dawn, an elementary school music teacher and gifted musician.

“They encouraged us to play music, draw, paint and build stuff out of whatever was around the house,” Scott said. “I also really enjoyed the magic of cartoons and animation, but I never imagined there were actual jobs creating that stuff.”

 “I think there was little doubt about what I wanted to study in university,” Wayne said. “Music was my biggest passion.”

At Western, Scott enrolled in Computer Science, but switched to Visual Arts in second year.

“I was in a pilot class for animation,” he said. “It was a basic introduction to technique and history and it was super interesting. I took a class in 3D software with a friend and enjoyed it. So, I focused on that during my last year.”

After Western, Scott studied at the Vancouver Film School. His first job took him to Dallas. A series of studios and films followed. He’s been with Dreamworks for more than two years, and lives five minutes from the studio with his wife and toddler twins.

The final year of university was transformative for Wayne, who, until then, thought he would be a performer.

“I took a course in composing digital music,” he said. “I was assigned to go out into the world and record non-musical elements, take them back to the studio and create a musical soundscape. I spent long nights struggling to make something cool and musical. But I loved every second – time just seemed to slip by effortlessly. I think after that I knew I was hooked on working in the studio.”

Wayne attended the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (OIART) and focused on sound for film. “It just grabbed me. It engulfed my life. It was an exciting new venue for me to create and perform art.”

As a sound editor, Wayne watches the rough cut of the film, making notes on the story and what will need to be recorded. Like his student assignment, he then goes out in the world and records sounds to manipulate in the studio. “Guns and cars are a good example of things that exist in the world,” he explained. “However, giant robots and T-Rex’s do not. That’s where you can really have fun creating something new and interesting.”

 When he switches to re-recording mixer role, he finalizes the soundtrack. “I think it’s best explained as ‘performance art.’ That’s when the dialogue, music and effects all come together on the stage. This is where careful choices are made to enhance the film. You can really focus on the track and work with the director to bring his vision to life.”

As an animator, Scott tracks motion on screen.

“You want to replicate the performance that honours the actors. That is a tough thing,” he said. “It’s like ‘digital puppeteering.’ It’s similar to old 2D, frame-by-frame poses and refining the action. You see the character come to life. It’s surprisingly rewarding, this feeling of completion when you see what you’ve created.”

In the early years of his career, Scott said it was a bit of a novelty. “At first it was cool to see the names (of actors) but after a few times it’s more about the shot. You’re working on making it look good. The animation has to look good, be appealing and move well, and show the acting, meaning and intent of the shot.” For Wayne, the challenge/reward is in telling the story. “There is so much technology, detail and complexity in what we do. Sound is one of many crafts required to make a film. They all should have one goal, and that is to emotionally support the film and help tell its story. A film comes to life when you add sound."

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

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.