Chad Richardson never doubted that his life would be in music. “I always knew that if I got a job doing something else, I would wither away,” he says with a laugh.

Still, it was cooking – not music – that lured Richardson, SOCAN’s new General Manager, Los Angeles Division (and lifetime SOCAN member), away from his hometown in Newfoundland after he graduated from high school.  “I left because of my B-plan,” he admits, describing a two-year stint at chef school in Paris that left him just enough spare time to begin writing songs. “By the time I was done in France, I knew music was what I had to do.”

“My two favourite things in the world are songwriters and Canadians!”

Richardson headed home to Canada, where he briefly studied music in Montreal. He began singing in karaoke competitions to support himself, once winning $2,000 worth of oversized tires (which ended up as furniture in his apartment). Soon Richardson cut his first demo tape. Misunderstanding a form rejection letter from a major label, he then moved to Toronto, convinced he was about to break big. “I interpreted the letter as ‘I will give you a record deal,’” Richardson laughs.

In Toronto, Richardson actually did begin to have his breaks. After releasing his first album independently, he won the Q107 Homegrown contest, which provided the funding for album number two. When he signed a record deal with Aquarius/EMI, this album, The Legends Of Brud, came out. During the making of Brud, Richardson spontaneously auditioned for the Canadian production of the Broadway hit Rent. “My bass player dared me to do it,” says Richardson, admitting he’d never acted before and was unfamiliar with the show. “15,000 people auditioned and I got the lead.”

Richardson was transferred to New York to spend several years starring in the Broadway production of Rent, but he knew it was music, not acting, that still had his heart. He moved to Los Angeles to focus on writing and producing music, as well as managing other songwriters under his company Arrive At Eleven Productions. A gig with independent music publisher ole followed, during which Richardson played an instrumental role in signing such high-profile artists as Steven Tyler and Timbaland.

He also re-vamped a series of international songwriting camps, making it easier to scout and support new talent, and resulting in more camp-crated songs being recorded by high-profile artists. Some of those camps actually changed songwriters’ lives. For example, a friend told Richardson about Edmonton-based soul-roots artist Scotty Hills; after Richardson checked out his music, he invited Hills to try his hand writing for Rihanna at a camp in Los Angeles. “I felt he honestly believed in what I was doing and wanted to see me succeed,” says Hills. “I thought, ‘Here’s a guy who’s passionate about music and willing to take chances.’”

Richardson is excited about embarking on this next phase of his career – particularly the chance to seek out opportunities for Canadian songwriters while helping them do their best work.

“When SOCAN called and said, ‘You’ll go from supporting your own roster to helping all Canadian songwriters,’ that was it for me,” he recalls. “My two favourite things in the world are songwriters and Canadians!”–

The day Toronto composer Jordan Pal learned he was the National Youth Orchestra of Canada’s 2014 RBC Foundation Emerging Composer-in-Residence was unforgettable: news of his appointment landed just as he was bringing home his newborn child. Several happy, if sleepless, weeks later Pal was deep into writing the NYOC-commissioned work that will premiere and be recorded during the orchestra’s summer 2014 season. With a piece on the summer repertoire of Boris Brott’s National Academy Orchestra of Canada – a composition premiered by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2012 – Pal is hyper-aware of the integral role so many youth orchestras now play in the life of Canadian composers.

“Our mandate is to bring fresh ideas from young composers to our professional training organization.” – The NYOC’s Barbara Smith

And while Pal has written for prestigious professional ensembles, the NYOC commission is not without challenges. “It’s a 104-person orchestra, so it’s tricky for them to find repertoire that uses everyone – percussionists, two harps, full strings, winds in fours, you name it,” he says. While the NYOC may continue to commission established composers, executive director Barbara Smith says the shift to the composer-in-residence program “fits nicely with our mandate – to bring fresh ideas from young composers to our professional training organization.”

Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra artistic director Dinuk Wijeratne, also an active composer and performer, said the NSYO has long been committed to commissioning works by Atlantic composers; Derek Charke’s Concerto Grosso, for example, “was a fantastic piece, written with a lot of savvy for the youth orchestra,” Wijeratne says.

“When you look at pre-existing works, the majority are written for pro orchestras,” he continues. “I have a list of people whose music I would like to play but have to find pieces that are suitable.” Last year NSYO performed the late Malcolm Forsyth’s Natal Landscapes, and next season’s repertoire includes Andrew Staniland’s Voyageur. Wijeratne is also excited about the NSYO’s emerging composer competition, open to Canadian undergrads enrolled in a degree program: “We really hit the ground running last season with Roydon Tse, who wrote a fresh piece for this past season, and this year’s winner is Joseph Glaser, also from UBC.”

Many youth orchestra conductors also compose. This past May, the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra’s intermediate orchestra premiered a new work by its conductor Jin Zhang, who has written works for previous VYSO seasons. And the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra (in Montreal) has performed works by the likes of Denis Gougeon and Norman Symonds, as well as compositions by its artistic director Stewart Grant.

The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, nearing its 50th anniversary, not only records, but also regularly performs internationally. This July, the group delivers the world premiere of the commissioned work A Dream of Dawn by busy Toronto composer Kevin Lau at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Competition in Vienna, Austria, on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.

“Our thought was the work needed to commemorate the event,” says NBYO president Ken MacLeod . “The piece will become the theme of our whole season, and we’ll perform it at all our concert locations across New Brunswick.”

Kandle first appeared on the Montreal music scene a few years ago with an EP that made her one of the revelations of 2011. It was like a blond angel had descended from the sky to enchant humans with original compositions built on folk and blues, giving rise to rocking guitar riffs. This tantalizing musical appetizer was followed in March 2014 with In Flames, Kandle’s first full-length album.

Reminiscent of Marissa Nadler, Lykke Li or Nick Cave’s dark romanticism, the solid voice, direct style and musical sensibility displaced on that album are a far cry from the admittedly limited performing gifts Kandle possessed in earlier days:

“When I started out,” the 23-year-old musician recalls, “I couldn’t sing a single note! I was able to create a song, complete with words and music, in 10 minutes flat, but performing it was another matter. I was singing out of tune, and that made me so miserable! And I come from a musical family… My sister, my cousin, my dad, everybody sings! 

“When I started out, I couldn’t sing a single note!.. I was singing out of tune, and that made me so miserable!”

“So I started recording myself. I would play a song back, identify what was wrong, and record it again. My goal was at least to stop singing out of tune, and that finally happened. Then I started developing my technical skills – broadening my voice range, controlling my vibrato, hitting more notes. And also defining my own personal style. I had no musical training, so it was trial and error, a self-teaching thing.”

Montreal is what Kandle calls her lucky town. She settled there three years ago after completing her début EP. Her musical partner Sam Goldberg, who produced her new album and is a member of Broken Social Scene, believed in her. “He told me if I came to Montreal, he could help me get a band together, and we could start performing live,” says Kandle. “Back in Victoria, I was still ‘Neil Osborne’s daughter’ [her father being a member of 54.40], so I wasn’t taken really seriously as a musician… But I’m hungry for that kind of life, I’m looking forward to touring and playing live shows. I’m raring to go! Montreal was my ticket for a new beginning. I dove into the void hoping for the best.” And, as it happened, she hit the ground running.

One thing that certainly helped is that Montrealers are musically curious and great emerging music fans. “It’s such an inspiring and exciting city! Here, people support local artists, they give us a chance,” says Kandle. “People come to hear what we have to offer, our songs are being played on radio. This is so important when you’re just starting out. I found the same openness in France when I was there a few months ago. There too, people go out to discover new music, whether they know the artists or not, and if they like your band, they’ll buy the album. Playing for this type of audience is a blessing.”

How can such a luminous and sparkling artist with a smiling voice create songs that – without being the least bit musically heavy  – connote such darkness? “For me, this is part of a therapeutic process,” says Kandle. “Since I don’t like harbouring dark thoughts and sadness, I let them out into my songs… I get inspired by the people around me. And not just boys and love stories either! I sing about the way things affect me. I revisit these feelings onstage.”

Could there ever be too many female role models in the music industry? “There are so few women anyway! In this business, being a woman is both an advantage and a disadvantage,” says Kandle. “One the one hand, it’s harder for us to be taken seriously as musicians, but, on the other hand, when the time comes to publicize my music, I’m being offered full spreads in fashion magazines, and this is where some readers first hear about me… So there is eventually a kind of balance, I guess.”

For Kandle Osborne, finding her own voice was a priority, but she also needed to be able to have her say on the creative side of her recording, something that her father, as co-producer, helped her with immeasurably. “This industry is dominated by men, and they don’t mind telling you exactly what you need to do,” she says. “My father was with me in the studio during the recording sessions, and he kept telling them, ‘Look here, this is Kandle’s album. Let her make her own choices!’ Whenever I ask him what he thinks about something, he turns the table and asks me, ‘What do you think about this and that?’ He’s proud of his daughter, he enjoys watching me grow… although he’ll be the first one to tell you that I certainly did not choose the easiest path.”