The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) today announced music industry veteran Denise Donlon will be awarded the 2018 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award for her long standing commitment to Canadian Music.
The Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award recognizes industry leaders who have vastly contributed to the growth and development of the Canadian music industry. Named after famed Canadian publisher and trailblazer Walt Grealis, this year’s award will be presented to Donlon at the 47th Annual JUNO Gala Dinner & Awards Presented by SOCAN on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia.
With a career spanning close to 40 years, Donlon has been an integral part of Canada’s music scene. Recognized for rising through the ranks at Much Music, Donlon transformed the cultural landscape as host, producer, Director of Programming and later Vice President and General Manager. She went on further to become the first female president of Sony Music Canada, where she worked alongside many of the country’s music elite, including Céline Dion, Leonard Cohen, Chantal Kreviazuk and Our Lady Peace. Her passion for Canadian cultural expression was further realized as Executive Director then General Manager of CBC/Radio-Canada English Radio.
Her journey throughout her various careers with artists such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Tragically Hip and more are chronicled in her memoir ‘Fearless As Possible (Under the Circumstances)’. Donlon’s continued commitment to Canadian Broadcasting has earned her countless accolades over the years including two Gemini Awards, Canadian Women in Communications’ Woman of the Year Award and an induction into the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame. Additionally Donlon is a Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music, a Fellow of the Canadian Geographical Society, and a Member of the Order of Canada.
“We are thrilled to name Denise as the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award recipient this year and to celebrate her extraordinary career. Denise’s exceptional business savvy and artistic excellence has made her a woman to admire, watch and learn from both within and outside the music industry,” said Allan Reid, President & CEO, CARAS/The JUNO Awards and MusiCounts. “As a talented and fearless leader, whose deep understanding of the media landscape has resulted in groundbreaking Canadian programming, Denise has helped advance the careers of so many of this country’s dynamic musicians and artists.”
“When Allan called to tell me of this wonderful recognition, I almost drove off the road.” said Donlon. “I consider myself extremely lucky to have been involved in the evolution of this creative industry. Thank you to CARAS and all of the incredibly talented artists and executives with whom I’ve been honoured to work. Canada is truly an Arts Nation. Long may we thrive.”
Donlon began her career in the Canadian music scene in 1985 as a host and producer of Much Music’s The NewMusic. In a few short years she rose to the executive level, appointed MuchMusic/CityTV Director of Music Programming in 1992 and Vice President and General Manager in 1997, where she integrated social justice issues into programming from Much Comes Out to the Gemini Award winning Election coverage. In 1998 she played a key role in the launch of MuchMoreMusic. In 2000, Donlon accepted the role of President of Sony Music Canada, overseeing promotion, marketing, production, manufacturing and distribution.
Highly regarded as an industry leader, Donlon eventually left Sony Music Canada and took on the role of executive director of CBC Radio’s English-language services, a position she held from 2008 to 2011. In 2013 she returned to on-camera, co-producing The Zoomer with co-host Conrad Black. Her impressive and storied career led her to document her journey in her memoir, Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances).
Donlon’s inspiring journey is complemented by her devotion to humanitarian efforts. She has lent her time to several charitable initiatives over the years, working with organizations such as War Child Canada, MusiCounts, Waterkeepers, Live 8 and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Similarly, she contributed to the Clinton Global Initiative as the event producer, an initiative that raised over $21 million in one night.
Her professional and humanitarian achievements have been widely recognized, earning her significant accolades across the industry. In 1997 she received the Outstanding Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television Toronto, earned the Humanitarian Spirit Award at Canadian Music Week and was named Canadian Music Week’s Broadcast Executive of the Year three consecutive times, from 1993 to 1995.
In 2009 Donlon was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Powerful Women and that same year she won The Rosalie Award at Canadian Music Week. Donlon’s achievements as a female executive in a male-dominated field have also earned her top accolades within the world of business and literature. She won the Peter Gzowski Literacy Award of Merit in 2001, has two honourary Doctorates, and has been named Woman of Vision from Wired Women.