Board of Directors

We are pleased to present the CMAOntario Board of Directors, and as always wish to acknowledge the Founding President Rob MacArthur and Founding Patron Linda Wright for their definitive roles in the Country Music Association of Ontario. As well we would like to thank Past Presidents Sam Arraj, Cathie Faint, Bruce Good, Barry Haugen, and Heather Ostertag  for their dedicated contributions towards building this organization, and all of our past directors.

Executives

Steve Kassay

President


Following a few years on the road chasing the rock star dream, Steve moved from playing music to playing records. His radio career has taken him through stations and various broadcasting companies in Toronto, Central and Southern Ontario, and nationally syndicated live shows - in production, programming, on-air, Music Director and Program Director capacities. Now Vice-President, Programming for Durham Radio Inc., Steve manages operations for KX-96, KX-947, 94.9 The Rock, CKDO, 929 The Grand and CIWV-FM. From Country to Rock to AC formats, the common denominators for Steve are a passion for radio, music and the performers whose style make it all happen.

Michel Benac

1st Vice President


Born in Ottawa, Michel Bénac is a franco-ontarian singer-songwriter, known as the frontman of LGS. In 1991, Michel founded Purple Hive Music Group / LaFab Music. Since 1999, LGS has released 5 albums and Michel has made a name for himself on the franco-canadian music scene. He was nominated for at the 2009 JUNO’s and received 15 Trille Or Awards. Before LGS, Michel was the frontman of Michael B and the Power, where he worked with Gilles Godard in Nashville. In addition to music production, Michel has hosted the TV show RadArt for 3 seasons, Vendredi tout est permis on Radio-Canada and the drive home radio show on Unique FM. He sat as vice-president on the board of the APCM for 4 out of 8 years, on the ANIM board for 2 years and has been président of the Festival de la St-Jean in Ottawa since 2014.

Patrick Duffy

2nd Vice President


Patrick Duffy is the Creative Director for Attention Design, a firm he established twenty years ago to service the music industry. His awards as a designer – nine CCMA awards for Album Design and more than two dozen nominations - suggest that he might be a better designer than drummer, his original career choice. A past Consulting Art Director to EMI Music Canada, and in the same role for almost ten years with the CCMA, he is currently a principal designer for Canadian Music Week, and a member of the faculty at both The Harris Institute (Toronto) and Durham College (Oshawa) teaching graphic design.

Adam Clark

Treasurer


A Kingston native, Adam went to Toronto to attend Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan) to pursue a career in accounting. While he remained an introvert during his formative young adulthood, Adam quickly fell in love with the live music scene, compelled to seize any and every opportunity to lose himself with the crowd regardless of the genre. Upon graduation from his program, Adam returned to his hometown of Kingston, ON and now works for former treasurer Sam Arraj at "Seeds & Company". Adam was looking for a way to give back, so when Sam offered him the position of Treasurer, Adam was eager to accept, and looks forward to becoming better acquainted with the country music scene.

Brian Allen

Secretary


A veteran of the business, Brian was a member and principal songwriter for the band Toronto in the ‘80s, logging 4 platinum albums. Following the band’s breakup, Brian saw success as a co-writer of “What About Love” which propelled Heart to a 10 million seller. Attic Records recruited Brian as head of A&R, a post he held for 15 years. In addition to overseeing the label’s artist roster, he produced several artists for the label, yielding 2 double platinum sellers each for Lee Aaron and Haywire. Following Attic, Brian moved to SOCAN as Manager of the International Department. In 2002, Brian founded his production venture, AMPLUS Productions. Brian is a member of Canadian Country Music Association, SOCAN, CMRRA, Songwriters Association of Canada, Toronto Blues Society and Toronto Musicians’ Association. He has served on committees for CIRPA (now CIMA), CCMA, CARAS and chaired the Music Advisory Committee at Humber College. Brian has taught music business courses at Metalworks Institute and is frequently a guest lecturer and panelist. He has served as Secretary on the Board of Directors of the Country Music Association of Ontario for 3 terms. Today, Brian’s core businesses are songwriting, producing and consulting. Productions include 5 albums for Juno winner Robert Michaels, Marshall Dane’s “Running Stop Signs” (Country Music News # 11 album of 2011), Mike Lynch’s “Road Map” (Country Music News # 5 album of 2011), and Darrelle London’s “Edible Word Parade” (via EMI). Brian has earned 25 gold, platinum and special achievement awards as an artist, producer and songwriter. “What About Love” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in September of 2021.

The Directors

Amber Bell

Director


With over 15 years of music industry experience, Amber’s background is in both label and management relations. In her current role as Director of National Promotions at Open Road Recordings & RGK Entertainment, her focus is on radio promotion and overseeing DSP relations and strategies. Before joining Open Road and RGK in 2016, Amber was on the team at Dale Speaking after graduating from Durham College’s Music Business Management program in 2007. As the National Promotions Manager, her role evolved as she worked with various artists and radio formats for radio promotion campaigns. Throughout Amber's career, she has been able to achieve #1 singles on Canadian radio for Dean Brody, Tim Hicks, Hunter Brothers, Bush and Rival Sons. Artists she has worked with throughout her career include Madeline Merlo, Doc Walker, The Road Hammers, Jessica Mitchell, Chad Brownlee, Jess Moskaluke, Jimmy Rankin, The Sheepdogs, Arkells, Alexisonfire, City and Colour & many more.

Brooke Dunford

Director


A fan-first, Brooke’s introduction to the music industry came as a festivalgoer starting at Boots and Hearts 2012. She quickly fell in love with discovering new artists, the heart-warming emotions that come from our community of fans, and the lifestyle cultivated by a five-day camping event and officially joined the Republic Live team in 2016.
In 2018, Brooke moved on to developing new brands for the company, including the Big Sky Festival. Acting as the marketing lead for the company’s largest event to date, Canada Rocks with The Rolling Stones, her now expanded role at Republic Live to includes talent buying for both the venue as a whole and the Boots and Hearts Music Festival.

Burt Gidaro

Director


Burt is a passionate entertainment lawyer with extensive music industry, film, television, OTT, and agency/marketing law experience. He began his entertainment career in the business affairs department of Breakthrough Films & Television. He was then recruited by EMI Music Canada to serve as the Head of Business Affairs. He subsequently served in the business affairs department of Universal Music (Canada) and later served as General Counsel to PolyGram Entertainment’s Canadian affiliate (“Once Were Brothers, Robbie Robertson and The Band”), as well as Head of Operations for New Metric Media (“Letterkenny”). Burt’s career has been focused on the cultivation of relationships and building partnerships through growth-driving deals. He is also a musician and a lover of film and television, no matter what medium delivers them.

Stacey Lee Guse

Director


Stacey Lee began singing before she could speak. Ever since then, her life has been rooted in music. Stacey Lee has enjoyed a very diverse career on stage and in studio with numerous Canadian country artists, including Jason McCoy of The Road Hammers (featured on his single, "I Lie”), Jason Blaine, Deric Ruttan and Michelle Wright, John Landry and Beverley Mahood to name but a few. As a former member of Junonominated country sensation, LACE, Stacey Lee had the opportunity to tour all across Canada, the U.S. and into Europe, under the tutelage of David Foster. Most recently, Stacey Lee can be found as the featured vocalist of the award winning- Canadian swing supergroup, The Western Swing Authority, along with husband Shane Guse. Together they sing an eclectic mix of Western swing, jazz and traditional country standards and original “new classics”. With the WSA, she has backed up numerous Canadian artists for the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA’s) and the Country Music Association of Ontario (CMAO). She has shared the stage with legends such as the late Merle Haggard and Vince Gill, and was thrilled to perform for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and many other top industry professionals at a private party for Bob Doyle, longtime manager of Garth Brooks, for his 70th birthday party in Nashville. Stacey Lee is a 6-time nominee for Western Swing Female at the Ameripolitan Awards in Memphis TN. She is a past winner of The Academy of Western Artists award for Western Swing Female vocalist.

Lindsay Hyslop

Director


With over a decade of industry experience, Lindsay has worked in both label and management positions in Nashville and Toronto. Currently, Lindsay is the Director of Marketing for Anthem Entertainment in Nashville overseeing all aspects of marketing strategy and execution for Anthem Records’ label roster, working directly with artists and partners. Prior to Anthem, she managed the marketing, brand partnerships and streaming for RGK Entertainment Group and worked in Digital Marketing for Universal Music Canada. Throughout her career, Lindsay has worked closely with top domestic and international country artists including Dean Brody, Gord Bamford, Madeline Merlo, Sam Hunt and many more. She has developed great relationships with top Canadian brands including Molson, Giant Tiger, Palm Bay and more to generate additional revenue and exposure for her artists.. In 2016, she partnered with Toronto based animal rescue to organize a multi-artist photo shoot surrounding the CCMA Awards. The Top Country Sounds & Rescue Hounds 2017 featured Canadian and International country artists, receiving millions of free promotional impressions from Canadian radio and press outlets. It was sold on TopCountry.ca and raised over $10k for TEAM Dog Rescue. Lindsay also works closely with all Digital Service Providers to help artists receive millions of streams and prominent featuring in Canada and beyond.

Industry Advisory Council

Sam Arraj


Sam Arraj is a CPA, CA and the owner of “Seeds & Company”, an accounting practice that serves a broad rage of sectors, with a specific focus on music and entertainment through their “Rock N Revenue” brand. Sam’s financial expertise specific to the music and entertainment industry is an asset to the CMAO. Formerly President of the Country Music Association of Ontario and an on-going music fan believes in giving back to the community, which is why he has served on the CMAO board since 2011. In addition, Sam publishes a blog focused on the music industry called Music Biz Finance (www.musicbizfinance.com).

Tracy-Ann Gagnon


Tracy-Ann Gagnon n'a pas commencé à jouer de la guitare à l'âge de 4 ans. Au secondaire, elle n'a jamais fait partie du groupe de l'école et n’en a pas fondé un avec ses amis. Bien qu'elle ne joue d'aucun instrument, elle a toujours été attirée par les arts et la culture et savait qu’elle voulait en faire une carrière. Tracy-Ann est actuellement responsable des communications et marketing Label chez LaFab Musique, une maison de disques et de gérance d’artistes qui se concentre à promouvoir et répondre aux besoins des artistes francophones de l’Ontario. Dans le cadre de ses fonctions, elle a la chance d’accompagner les artistes d’un océan à l’autre et de coordonner de nombreux projets et événements tels que les réseaux sociaux, les tournées, les albums, les vidéoclips et des vitrines. Elle est particulièrement fière de son rôle dans l'inclusion de la communauté francophone et la création de la catégorie “Francophone artist or group of the year” au Gala de la Country Music Association of Ontario. *** Tracy-Ann Gagnon did not start playing guitar at the age of 4. In high school, she was never in the school band and did not start one with her friends. Although she does not play any instruments, she has always been drawn towards the arts and culture sector and knew she wanted to make a career out of it. Tracy-Ann is currently Head of Communications and Marketing at LaFab Musique, a record label and artists management company that focuses on promoting and meeting the needs of Francophone artists in Ontario. As part of her functions, she has the opportunity to support artists from coast to coast and to coordinate numerous projects and events such as social medias, tours, albums, music videos and showcases. She is especially proud of her role in the inclusion of the Francophone community and the creation of the “Francophone artist or group of Year" category at the Country Music Association of Ontario award show.

Jen Goheen


Jennifer has over 20 years of Marketing & Brand Management Experience. Having contributed to both sides of the music industry by beginning her career working with young artists on the development side of the business to her current position on the venue/booking side. She has spent the past 8 Years, as the Producer/Director of Marketing at one of Canada's largest country music festivals The Havelock Country Jamboree. One of her key responsibilities is Talent Buyer for the events they hold on the grounds.

Andy Hawke


Andy Hawke has worked in the Canadian music industry for over 15 years. Through that time he has worn many different hats and gained unique skills and perspective from each position, including label, distributor, management, marketing, event booking/promotions, and as a performing artist. Andy is a strong supporter in the fight for artist rights and offering fair and equal opportunities that help foster long-term relationships.

Dale Peters


Dale Peters first love is music as it continues to grow stronger every day. He was raised in a family where they had a piano and organ. Thrilled to have taken four years of piano lessons only to move himself into the church choir where he found out that singing was not his calling. During his late teens/early twenties he worked with a music retailer in Calgary and Edmonton until hired by BMG (formerly RCA/Arista) in 1984. Dale worked with BMG for 20 years then went out on his own to work with artists calling his company Dale Speaking. He has had great success learning the ropes as an entrepreneur taking the skills (radio tracker, marketing, sponsors/branding, publishing, artists and relations, built relationships with Radio Broadcasters) of his BMG days. Dale Speaking has been thriving since 2004, with his main client MDM Recordings. Always challenging himself learning about social media platforms/advertising and DSP's. Success include working with Paul Brandt, Jimmy Rankin, City in Colour, Arkells, BushX, Bobby Wills, Don Amero, Jess Moskaluke. Today his success continues with MDM helping them with skills aforementioned with his main job as radio tracker. Two #1 singles (Jess Moskaluke, Tyler Joe Miller) this year during the early part of COVID-19.

Derek Schwartzentruber


Derek Schwartzentruber is a former Booking Agent for bars and festivals, former band manager, and has been a Professional DJ for the past 26 years. He owns Schwartzentruber Music Services along with his wife Tammie. He is also National President and Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Professional DJ Association, Canada’s largest DJ Association. As President, Derek is responsible for various duties including, overseeing the daily operations of the Association and managing a group of regional team leaders, rewriting the Bylaws and making amendments on an annual basis. He has organized and hosted the last 4 Annual General Meetings for the Association, and all the leadership conferences. He is also experienced in budgeting, online training through zoom and hosting workshops. In addition, Derek is the Negotiator for the CPDJA with Connect Music, a division of Entandem. (Socan, Resound & Connect).

Tina Simpkin


Spending the better part of her career in the entertainment industry, Tina started out as a Marketing Manager in Toronto (for Sony Music and then Universal) and then moved to Los Angeles with MCA Records (part of the Universal family of labels) as a Marketing Director. Working with artists such as Shaggy, Semisonic, Sammy Hagar, Soul Asylum, Mary J. Blige, Kardinal Offishall, Live and more, she’s helped shape the careers of many artists. In addition she also led and implemented one of the first urban street teams in Canada at Universal Music which became one of the premiere labels in the genre. This all led her to head up the Canadian Entertainment Relations division of Gibson Brands in Toronto for 10 years. Bringing music together with fashion, sports, wine, food, and major events across North America. At Gibson, Tina became very involved with marketing and artist development across all genres and worked closely with the JUNO Awards, the CCMA's and a number of regional and national associations. Passion for music and experience have led her to working with some of the best clients that include Indie Week Canada, Cavendish Beach Music Festival, PRS Guitars, Crooks Rapids Countryfest, Leanne Pearson, Amanda Rheaume, Petric, River Town Saints, Big City Lights, Coty Robinson and Lemon Cash.

Francophone Advisory Council

Kristine St-Pierre


Nicole Lefaive


Reney Ray


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