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Searchlight 2016: Meet the judges

Editorial Staff

This year, Searchlight has three amazing judges who will help pick the final four contestants to perform on the first ever Searchlight TV special on CBC-TV in May. Rock, country, folk, pop, hip-hop and many other genres have seen Dallas Smith, Sarah Blackwood and Maestro Fresh Wes showcase their immense talent over the past few decades, and now, they are ready to hear you.

Get to know the Searchlight 2016 celebrity judges below.

Dallas Smith

Whether it's with an ear-worm rock song or flexing his songwriting chops as a beloved country musician, Dallas Smith has blazed a path across genres in Canadian music for nearly two decades. Smith achieved widespread success in the early 2000s with his Juno Award-winning band Default, then spent the next decade rocking shows all over the world. In the past few years, he's earned accolades as a solo country artist, winning the 2015 Juno Award for country album of the year and the 2015 Canadian Country Music Award for album of the year for Lifted.

Sarah Blackwood

Few bands have been busier in the past few years than Walk Off the Earth, and Sarah Blackwood's singing and multi-instrumentalism are a big reason for the band's success. It's not unlikely to see Blackwood play a dozen different instruments throughout the course of a performance. Walk Off the Earth blew up in 2012 when the group posted a cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" to its Youtube channel, which now has nearly 2.3 million subscribers and more than 540 million views. Walk Off the Earth has also released six albums, including last year's Sing it All Away, and has earned the respect of the entire Canadian music industry with Juno nominations and a slew of Canadian Radio Music Awards, including the 2014 SOCAN song of the year award for the song "Red Hands."

Maestro Fresh Wes

He's known, quite simply, as the godfather of Canadian hip-hop. Maestro Fresh Wes's foundational work through the late 1980s and 1990s helped to put Canadian hip-hop on the map. In 1989, Maestro's breakthrough single "Let Your Backbone Slide" became the first hit single in Canadian hip-hop history. You'd be pretty hard set to find a hip-hop artist from the past 20 years who doesn't credit Maestro as a key inspiration, and he continues to not only make music, but support the up-and-coming hip-hop acts in Toronto and nationwide.

Introducing the Searchlight industry panel

Another new feature we are adding to Searchlight this year is the industry panel, comprised of people from media, A&R, publicity, artist management, SOCAN and the Polaris Prize. These judges will grade submissions during the regional finals of Searchlight and help determine the 25 regional artists that will move on to the national round. The panel consists of:

George Stroumboulopoulos, The Strombo Show

Dan Boeckner, Wolf Parade, Operators

Craig Mannix, A&R manager, Sony Music Canada

Candy Palmater, The Candy Show

Sheri Jones, artist management, Jones & Co.

Eric Alper, host, director of media relations, label relations, eOne Music Canada

Tony Tarleton, general manager, Cadence Music/Fontana North

Ken Beattie, founder, publicity director, Killbeat Music

Andrew King, editor, Canadian Musician magazine

Mike Miner, executive producer, CBC digital, unscripted content

Zach Feldberg, executive in charge of production, CBC digital originals

Mitch Pollock, producer, music coordinator, q on CBC Radio

Barbara Sedun, A&R executive, SOCAN

Mark Macarthur, executive producer, music programming, CBC Music

Ben Aylsworth, executive producer, video, Backstage Pass, Searchlight TV, CBC Music

Jacquie Lee, series producer, Backstage Pass, Searchlight TV, CBC Music

Amanda Parris, host, CBC Arts, Exhibitionists

Laura Simpson, artist consultant, promoter, the Syrup Factory

Alexandre Courteau, journalist, ICI Musique

Dave White, host, CBC Radio Yukon

Jeanette Cabral, producer, music programmer, CBC Radio 2

Katherine Duncan, host/producer, CBC Radio 1 & 2; Jury foreperson, Polaris Music Prize

Brad Frenette, executive producer, editorial, Searchlight, CBC Music

Jesse Kinos-Goodin, producer, Searchlight, CBC Music