Charity strikes a chord with Canadian musicians

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Even Justin Bieber gives to charity.

Actually, there's a bevy of Canadian artists and musicians that are heavily involved with giving back to their communities across the country, and yes, the Biebs is one of them.

This charitable spirit in the music industry is highlighted every year at the JUNO Awards via the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' (CARAS) Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. This year, Montreal-based band Simple Plan will receive the 2012 award for their work on the Simple Plan Foundation at the April 1 awards ceremony in Ottawa.

The foundation's aim is to "help young people in need, by easing their often difficult passage to adulthood and by supporting the victims of life threatening illnesses," according the band.

The band's foundation has contributed to a number of charities including War Child Canada, the Montreal Children's Hospital, Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta and Dans la rue.

"To be recognized by CARAS and the JUNO Awards is a true honour for us. As a band we have been very fortunate to receive the constant support of our fans, which has allowed us to continue doing what we love for the last ten years. Because of that, we believe that it is extremely important for us to give back, and the Simple Plan Foundation is our way to do this. We are very proud of all of our Foundation's initiatives," the band said via a statement late last month.

Charity from coast to musical coast

CARAS also administers a national charity called Musicounts, which exists to ensure Canadian children, regardless of socio-economic circumstances and cultural background, have access to music programs in their schools. This is accomplished in the form of grants and scholarships awarded by the charity to various public schools nationwide.

Here's where Bieber comes back in. The mega-selling teen pop sensation endorses and gives back to Musicounts, as do a plethora of other Canadian artists. It's likely the single largest high-profile musical charity in Canada.

Allan Reid, director of Musicounts, told CharityVillage® that artists such as the Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber, Blue Rodeo, Nikki Yanofsky, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, Billy Talent and The Tragically Hip have all helped contribute to the charity.

And while many artists have given their time to create public service announcements on behalf of the Canadian charity, many have also contributed cash.

One of the most anticipated offerings from Musicounts is its annual Teacher of the Year Award, bestowed upon a music teacher recognized for the instructor's tireless and inspirational work with their students.

One band or artist sponsors that award each year with a $25,000 contribution towards the prize. This year it will be Canadian country singer Johnny Reid. Ten thousand dollars goes to the teacher, another $10,000 to the school and $5,000 goes back to Musicounts for operational expenses, Reid said.

Rush, don't walk

And what list of Canadian musical luminaries would be complete without a little info about prog-rock icons Rush? The Toronto-based band has also been involved with its share of charitable activities over the course of its career.

Most notably, in 2008 the band donated $100,000 toward the building of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, currently under construction in Winnipeg and slated to open in late 2012 or early 2013.

The band is also involved with New Jersey-based charity, Little Kids Rock, similar in mandate to Musicounts.

Still on the theme of giving back to children, Canadian country music star Shania Twain launched her own charity in 2010, Shania Kids Can, to help children who come from troubled homes better adjust in school and social life

Good west coast karma

Meanwhile, out in British Columbia., the Music B.C. Industry Association (MusicBC) recently launched its fourth annual Peak Performance Project, named in part for a collaboration with local radio station PEAK 100.5.

This initiative consists of a six-month musical boot camp where BC artists attend an industry boot camp and perform for juried showcases. After which, the top five will be chosen on November 2, 2012, before a grand finale concert in Vancouver.

The project is slated to run for seven years, during which the association and the radio station will invest $5,290,000 in order to develop new and emerging BC music artists.

"The PEAK Performance Project is designed to educate, promote, develop and hopefully launch the careers of some of BC's up-and-coming artists. It also hopes to foster the BC music industry and create a sense of community amongst music professionals," MusicBC said in a March 6 statement.

A nonprofit musical bridge

Though not beholden to any Canadian charity in particular, Canadian folk-rock icon Neil Young is renowned for his contributions and steadfast support of California's Bridge School for children with speech and motor impairments. Instructors and caregivers in both Canada and the US have used the school's techniques, resources and pioneering of assistive technology to help children communicate.

Young and his wife Pegi have hosted and organized the famous Bridge School Benefit Concerts for the past 25 years. The annual concert brings together luminaries of the North American music scene for an acoustic performance. Aside from Young, other Canadian artists who have performed at the concert include: Arcade Fire, Daniel Lanois, Cowboy Junkies, Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan and The Barenaked Ladies.

Making the music count

Back to Reid at Musicounts in Toronto, where the charity's director also mentions that his organization is partnered with 12 colleges and universities across the country. Each year, one post-graduate candidate from each institution is given the Fred Sherratt Award consisting of $3,500 and a trip to Toronto to attend a reception for all 12 recipients and spend an educational day at MuchMusic and CHUM Radio.

"Canadian artists get involved with [Musicounts] all the time. Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, is a big supporter and the man behind Juno Cup," Reid said.

The Juno Cup is the charity hockey game contested by a team of National Hockey League celebrities versus a squad of Canadian music artists. It is played on the Friday prior to the Juno Awards gala.

He said Musicounts has raised close to $5 million since its inception in 1997.

If I Had A Million Dollars...

Considering the charitable spirit demonstrated by all these Canadian artists, and many others too numerous to mention here, perhaps all of us can put one hand in [our] pocket[s] and give back, so that we can all get ahead by a century.

Hallelujah.

Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf is president of WordLaunch professional writing services in Toronto. He can be reached at andy@wordlaunch.com.

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Photos (from top) via iStock.com. All photos used with permission.

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