Meet the judges for the 2021 Canadian Music Class Challenge

This year we have a MusiCounts teacher of the year, a hip-hop artist, a composer, a gospel choir conductor and an opera singer.

A MusiCounts teacher of the year, a hip-hop artist, a composer, a gospel choir conductor and an opera singer

Our judges will choose the winners of the 2021 Canadian Music Class Challenge. (CBC Music)

For our seventh straight year, CBC Music and MusiCounts are searching for greatness, fun and innovation in music classrooms and programs across the country.

From elementary to high school, the Canadian Music Class Challenge wants to showcase your take on one of these great Canadian songs from our list for this year. We can't wait to see and hear what you come up with while maintaining the COVID safety guidelines within your province or territory, so gather all your classmates and show our judges your best creative, live-off-the-floor performance.

Watch all of this year's submitted videos here.

After the final submission date of Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, our panel of celebrity judges takes over to pick the best performances in our different age categories. Now, it's time for you to meet the judges!

Carter Chiasson

Educator, musician and producer Carter Chiasson is based in Cape Breton, N.S, where, for the past nine years, he has taught high school music and technological arts in Eskasoni First Nation, the largest Indigenous community in Eastern Canada.

Chiasson's original film and music projects include the creation of original musical works for the National Orchestra of Canada, performances at United Nations events and for Canadian delegates at the Pan American Games, and the quarantunes video "Ancient and Forever" featuring students and musicians from across Cape Breton singing in four different languages. In 2020, Chiasson was awarded the Juno Award for MusicCounts music teacher of the year, which honoured his work in music education.

Cait Nishimura

Cait Nishimura is a Canadian classical composer, musician and educator based in Waterloo, Ont. Known for writing melody-driven, programmatic music, Nishimura has quickly established herself as a prominent voice in the concert band community. 

Her music has been presented at the Midwest Clinic, MusicFest Canada and numerous other conferences and festivals across North America, and she has become increasingly popular with new works regularly commissioned and performed around the world. Nishimura is committed to creating contemporary music that is approachable, relevant and enjoyable for all, and she is passionate about setting a positive example for future generations of musicians — especially those from historically underrepresented groups — through her creative work, her social media presence, and her dedication to mental health awareness. She holds degrees in music and education from the University of Toronto.

Darren Hamilton

Darren Hamilton is a secondary music educator at the Peel District School Board. He is also a PhD candidate in the faculty of music at the University of Toronto, where he founded and directs the undergraduate gospel choir course. Hamilton's research interests lie in formal gospel music education and equity, diversity and social justice in music curriculum. His article "#BlackMusicMatters: Dismantling Anti-Black Racism in Music Education" was published in the Canadian Music Educator journal. He has performed and recorded with the Juno Award-winning Toronto Mass Choir and Juno Award-nominated Youth Outreach Mass Choir. Hamilton is the founder and artistic director of the Waterloo Region Mass Choir, a community gospel choir based in Kitchener, Ont. When not teaching or conducting, he is an active clinician, presenting workshops at the annual Ontario Music Educators' Association conference and Toronto Mass Choir's PowerUp Gospel Music workshop.

Creating a space for diverse musical expressions is so important in today's music classroom.- Darren Hamilton


Odario Williams

Odario Williams is a Guyanese-born entertainer who grew up in Winnipeg. Today, Williams resides in Toronto and is the lead vocalist for the award-winning hip-hop collective Grand Analog. As an entertainer, Williams wears many hats, describing himself mainly as a storyteller. Aside from being an actor, songwriter, producer, teacher, journalist and poet, Williams is no stranger to the CBC airwaves: he is the host of Afterdark on CBC Music.

Music has always been my form of therapy. Being creative kept me grounded when life would get the best of me. I'm grateful to have found music in my life ... or I should say, have music find me.​​- Odario Williams

Julie Nesrallah

Whether regaling us with stories as the host of Tempo on CBC Music or completely enthralling us with her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice, Julie Nesrallah has earned her spot among Canada's arts and entertainment elite.

In 2014, Nesrallah was awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for her cultural contributions to Canada. She has sung on stages all over the world, even performing "God Save the Queen" for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Nesrallah has also performed her solo recording Impressions de France at New York's illustrious Carnegie Hall. Her musical tastes span as far and wide as her vocal range, and she can't wait to hear the variety of arrangements that come from Canada's music programs.

Sylvia Darwood was my public school music teacher and she didn't just change my life, she proactively set me up for a life in music. Years later, when I was offered my first professional opera contract, I phoned Mrs. Darwood and thanked her from the bottom of my heart.- Julie Nesrallah

The top 10s will be announced on Dec. 7, while the winners of the 2021 Canadian Music Class Challenge will be announced on Dec. 14. Good luck!

The Canadian Music Class Challenge has returned for 2021. (CBC)