Pickering High, the music gold mine

Photo by Asim Peverz

Matthew Samuels, better known as Boi1da, speaking at the International Music Software Trade Association Festa.

Pickering High is a gold mine for talent.

Charlotte Arnold and Munro Chambers were a part of Degrassi, Mark Spicoluk is a Canadian musician. Sara Ghulam was Miss World Canada in 2007 and Eon Sinclair is the bass player for Canadian band Bedouin Soundclash. All are former Pickering High students.

Pickering High School is mostly known for being the former school of Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph, but many talented people from Toronto’s hip hop scene come from the school.

Matthew Samuels, better known as Boi1da, is an alumnus. Samuels has worked with some of the biggest names in hip hop: Drake, Eminem, Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Rihanna and many more.

Boi1da isn’t the only successful music producer out of Pickering High. Fellow music producers Tyler Williams, known as T-Minus, Jordan Evans, and Matthew Burnett have all done work in the industry before.

T-Minus has done work for Drake, Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Ludacris toname a few. Evans has produced for Drake, Eminem, Jamie Foxx and more. Burnett has done work for Drake, Keri Hilson, Tyga, DJ Khaled and more.

Samuels was a guest speaker at the International Music Software Trade Association Festa which took place at Ryerson on October 15th. The main focus of the event was to discuss purchasing music software legally. During the event, Samuels talked a bit about his rise to success.

Samuels was gifted a Casio keyboard as a teenager. Samuels said he was walking home from school one day when a friend told him about the music software Frooty Loops, also known as FL Studio, he downloaded it and that is when he started producing music. Once he gained confidence at music, Samuels entered his first ever Battle Of The Beat Makers competition. He was only 17.

Samuels won the competition at only 17 years of age but then won twice more for a total of 3 wins. From this event, he says he got a lot of exposure and made a lot of connections, which led to him meeting artists like Drake.

The Battle Of The Beat Makers competition involves 32 producers from all over Canada. Each participant plays 3 beats each round for 45 seconds in a head-to-head challenge. Three judges vote on the best beat as they hear it and the winner then moves on. Ultimately, it comes down to the one winner. Each judge in the competition has industry credentials. Former judges include 9th Wonder and Metro Boomin.

This past year, Samuels was one of the judges, alongside T-Minus and Ebony Oshunrinde, also known as WondaGurl.

One of Samuels’ biggest produced hits early in his career was Drake’s song “Best I Ever Had”. This song really helped both Boi1da and Drake’s careers. The song peaked at number  2 on Billboard Charts.

For Samuels, making music is about more than just about making money. “I love music, yeah I get paid for it, and obviously I have to run a business and what not but at the end of the day, I still have passion for it,” said Samuels at the conference.

Pickering High School has an annual Matthew Samuels Award they give to one student during graduation. “Every year we send him music clips or introductory, original compositions that our students make. He judges them and picks one award winner and gives them a cheque towards their future schooling,” said Tania Craig, a Guidance Counsellor at Pickering High. She adds, “He definitely gives back to the school.”

The 2014 Winner of the Matthew Samuels award winner, Troy Murrell, says, “He wanted a 5-minute creative project of music, pictures, beats and anything me and my partner Brian (Betty) did a music video collage with 5 different songs and submitted it.”

It is safe to say Samuels has inspired a generation. It is only a matter of time before the next star music producers come out of Pickering High.