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By John Moxey
Short cut link to Gin Wigmore interview
Candace Avery, founder and director of the ISC.
Founding a competition sounds like a huge undertaking. What was your role in the creation of ISC?
I am the founder and director.
How did the ISC start?
I made the decision in 2001 to start a songwriting competition because it could offer opportunities to artists to have their music heard in an international arena. I wanted to give songwriters the chance to move their careers forward and gain exposure. I know how difficult it is for an artist to penetrate the music industry, and I believed that ISC could help.
How did your experience with both BMA and NEMO compare with setting up the ISC?
Setting up ISC was easier because I already had the professional contacts to start the competition. Also, my experience in putting together NEMO and BMA gave me the requisite knowledge to create ISC and execute it according to my vision. Additionally, from my years doing other events, I knew and understood what artists needed and what they are looking for.
The ISC continues to grow year on year. What makes it so successful?
I think there are many reasons for the success of ISC. ISC provides a legitimate opportunity for artists to reach industry ears and gain exposure for their music. It is increasingly difficult for artists and songwriters to reach the kind of people who can help their career. The high profile and prestige of ISC's judges are what makes ISC stand out from other songwriting competitions. Plus, all ISC staff members are musicians (or ex-musicians) and extremely qualified. So, not only do we have a good grasp of the music industry, but we also truly care (and are passionate about) about songwriters and artists, and helping them is our mission. I think this comes through and is recognized.
You have started several successful music competitions, festivals and awards. What made the ISC special enough to make it your main focus?
I wanted to focus on ISC for a number of reasons. Firstly, I really believe in it and knew that it needed my full-time attention. Also, I wanted to switch gears to ISC because ISC is all about the purity of the music, without a lot of the business and political aspects that were entailed in NEMO, etc. Loving music has always been the impetus behind being in the music industry, and somewhere along the way I found myself straying from my “true love" - listening to music and being involved in the musical aspects of the music business. ISC achieves this for me.
Although NEMO was very gratifying for me because of the educational aspects vis-a-vis the conference, I love ISC because I get to listen to so much great music.
Do you think songwriting competitions make a difference?
Yes, I do. Even if you're not a winner, the actual submission process forces you to go through a series of steps which can be beneficial for some beginning songwriters. If you are a winner, then the overall benefits can be exceptional. Take for instance our Grand Prize winner this year - she was a virtual unknown, and it has altered her life, literally. She is now pursuing a career in music full-time. That said, the degree of impact varies from winner to winner - and often can even depend on how proactive the winner is about promoting and using the win. Winning any kind of competition is a feather in your cap and another step toward pursuing your goals as an artist or songwriter.
Does the ISC take up all your professional working time?
Yes, mine and a staff of full-time employees.
What is your most satisfying achievement so far?
I have had an ongoing relationship with Berklee College of Music (I'm an alumnus) whereby we have, over the years, given away full scholarships to teens to their Summer Music Program. I love being able to do this because it offers an opportunity to a kid (who otherwise would probably never have it) a chance to go to one of the most prestigious music school s in the world - tuition, room and board paid for by Berklee and ISC. This has been very gratifying.
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