Many people don’t know me. I’m not a musician, I’m not a famous producer. So why am I the CEO of Nimbus, a school committed to changing lives through music? Here’s my story…
When I was around 10 years old, I snuck into my brother’s room, put some vinyl on his turntable, and plugged in his headphones. I discovered music. The song that did it was “Blinded By The Light” by Manfred Mann.
By junior high, I had discovered Queen and Supertramp. By senior high, I found the Cars, the Police and the Clash. I started doing sound for bands. I even made a business card claiming to be a sound engineer. I was okay, but not great.
My career took me in a different direction, working first in the nonprofit sector, and then in software, designing enterprise systems for large non-profit organizations. I learned a lot in those 25 years.
In the meantime, my daughter was born and started singing. By 9, she was writing songs, by 10 she was performing, by 11 she fired me as her “Dadager” – I was thrilled.
When she was 14, we attended a workshop at the Cantos Music Center (now the National Music Center) for underage artists. One of the presenters who skyped in was Garth Richardson, one of the founders of Nimbus. I remember leaning over to my wife as we sat in the back, whispering “It would be interesting to work for those guys”.
Within a year, a mutual friend had recommended me to Nimbus to do some consulting on their operations. I’d fly out to Vancouver for a few days each month and try to give some helpful advice. After a few months of this, Garth sat me down and told me I needed to stay and do a six month contract. My daughter and wife were well settled in Calgary. My daughter was half way through grade nine, with the friends she had grown up with since kindergarten. So we decided to live in two cities for the six months.
The six months turned into three and half years of living in two cities. My daughter continued to pursue her music, writing songs, and weekly vocal coaching sessions with Brian Farrell.
In the process of helping Nimbus expand and evolve, together with the founders, the instructors and the whole team, the goal was always to make something great. In every step along the way, I asked myself if the changes we were making would help someone like my daughter.
After three and half years of living in two cities, my daughter graduated from highschool (she was valedictorian), and my wife and daughter finally joined me in Vancouver.
Without expectations on my part (remember she fired me as the Dadager when she was 11), my daughter started attending Nimbus. We made a deal that we would not bring attention to the fact that she was the CEO’s daughter. It took some of her classmates months to figure it out. She didn’t get any special treatment, she got the same experience I spent those three and half years building for every student.
My daughter is almost complete with her time at Nimbus. She has learned, become more confident, and is prepared for her career as an artist. It will be hard. She will have to work at it and want it.
Part way through those three and half years, I started thinking about the industry my daughter wanted to pursue as a career. To be honest, it looked fractured and broken. So I started imagining not just the school I would want my daughter to attend, but the industry I would want her, and others, to succeed in after graduation from Nimbus.
I now sit on a lot of committees. There are municipal committees, provincial committees, there are networks of friendships. But the driving goal is to build an industry that can support those who want to have a sustainable career creating music. I’ve been blown away by the passion and inclusivity of so many amazing people who I now see as the true champions of the music industry.
So why am I so committed to music? It’s more than just my daughter, although she was the catalyst that motivated all this.
Music changes lives. Music is the most ubiquitous, diverse expression of our humanity that intersects every walk of life, every person and every genre. Music makes us feel, it helps us remember the significant events of our lives, it empowers us to process emotions, it inspires us to be the best versions of ourselves.
I still remember the feeling of listening to “Blinded by the Light” that first time.