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Meet the judges for the 2018 Canadian Music Class Challenge

Grant Lawrence

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

From elementary to high school, the Canadian Music Class Challenge wants to showcase your class's take on one of these great Canadian songs from our list for this year. Whether your music program is traditional, classical, vocal, instrumental, rock 'n' roll or somewhere in between, we can't wait to see and hear what you come up with.

After the final submission date of Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, our panel of celebrity judges takes over to pick the best performances in our seven different age categories. And today, it's time for you to meet the judges!

Ashleigh Ball

Ashleigh Ball is a celebrated Canadian musician and voice actor. Best known as the magnetic frontwoman for Canadian indie-pop band Hey Ocean!, Ball released her first solo EP, Gold in You, in 2017. Ball lends her voice to many beloved characters in an array of cartoons, such as DinoTrux, LEGO Elves and My Little Pony.

“Music was my everything growing up," says Ball. "From playing ukulele in elementary school to flute lessons to show choir ... if it wasn’t for the teachers who believed in me back then, I wouldn’t be doing what I love today."

Dina Gilbert

Recognized for her energy, precision and versatility, Dina Gilbert is music director of the Kamloops Symphony in B.C. and the Orchestre symphonique de l'Estuaire in Quebec. Hailing from Beauce, Que., Gilbert is regularly invited by leading Canadian orchestras such as the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Orchestre métropolitain, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre des Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal.

Gilbert is also the founder and artistic director of the Ensemble Arkea, a Montreal-based professional chamber orchestra that presents innovative interpretation of orchestral music. With this ensemble, she has collaborated many times with young Canadian composers, premiering more than 30 works, and has also conducted studio recordings for films and video game soundtracks. Over the past years, she has conducted orchestras in the United States, France, Romania, Estonia, Japan and China.

"Music gives you the power to surpass yourself, to connect with people and to fully live and express a wide range of emotions," Gilbert says. "I wish all children would all have the opportunity to learn this universal language that transcends words and boundaries."

Odario Williams

Odario Williams is a Guyanese-born entertainer, raised 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 as a broadcaster: he is currently the host of Afterdark on CBC Music.

"Music has always been my form of therapy," he says. "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."

Julie Nesrallah

Whether regaling us with stories as 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," says Nesrallah. "Mrs. Darwood recognized my talent at a very young age; she introduced me to a voice teacher with whom I studied until the day she died. And she sent me to audition for a professional opera company at just 12 years old (I got in and was given a solo part). Without Sylvia Darwood, who knows where I would be today? Years later, when I was offered my first professional opera contract, I phoned Mrs. Darwood and thanked her from the bottom of my heart."

Which classes will the judges pick? Find out when our winners are announced on Dec. 18 on q with Tom Power CBC Radio 1 and Mornings with Raina Douris on CBC Music!

More to explore:

Watch pop star Lights shock a music class learning her song

What is the Canadian Music Class Challenge?

Canadian Music Class Challenge key dates

Need new instruments for your music class? Check out Band Aid