Shalom Life | February 14, 2015

Top 20 Under 40 – Jonah Kanter

Part-activist and part-musician, Kanter has worked with some of Canada’s highest profile politicians, government departments, and non-profits.

By: Ashley Baylen

Published: February 13th, 2015 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom Life is proud to present our 5th annual Top 20 Under 40 list. Over the next 20 days, we will showcase 20 individuals of diverse talents and backgrounds that have made a significant contribution to their field both locally and globally. From entrepreneurs to philanthropists, entertainers to doctors, this list places a spotlight on a small sampling of the spectacular, innovative, and passionate Jews that call Toronto home.

Top 20 Under 40: Jonah Kanter

Age: 31

Like all inspirational entrepreneurs and activists, Toronto’s Jonah Kanter is very difficult to fit in a box. He works professionally in the music industry in various roles, but also devotes his time and passion towards non-profits and politics.

Jonah, the youngest brother of last year’s Top 20 Under 40 inductee Dan Kanter, doesn’t even know how to answer the age-old question, “What do you do?”

“I can get flustered when asked this because there's no simple identifiable profession to sum up all of what I do. Usually, I just say — self-deprecatingly — I'm one of those musician-activist types. Love 'em or hate 'em, most people at least know what I'm referring to. And then, if I have a moment, I can go on to explain what I do in music as a songwriter, producer, mixing engineer, and performer; and in politics as a writer, analyst, and creative campaigner,” he explains in an interview with Shalom Life.

Jonah, a graduate from University of Toronto’s Masters program in Global Affairs, has worked with some of Canada’s highest profile politicians, government departments, and non-profits, including his former role as writer and creative campaigner at Free The Children.

Most recently, he served as an advisor to former Senator Romeo Dallaire, focusing on international human rights policy and peace building. He wrote Senator Dallaire’s farewell address, an accomplishment he considers one of his greatest.

“Over the years, the General has given countless speeches and no doubt remains one of Canada's most prolific speakers and motivators, but this speech was different. Political diplomacy was out the window as he wanted to make clear his message to Canadians upon embarking on the next stage of his career and his life,” Jonah shared.

That speech, described by the National Post's Christie Blatchford "a cri du coeur — in places funny and modest, but fundamentally so tough-minded that in our careful and conventional country, it takes your breath away," can be read in full here.

In addition to working closely with the government and charities, as previously mentioned, Jonah is a “lifelong rock/alternative musician and singer.” He has performed with artists including Justin Bieber and Fefe Dobson, and this past summer, wrote and produced songs for YTV’s hit series ‘The Next Star’.

Jonah presently dedicates his life to his two main passions; politics and music… but it wasn’t until his final year of high school that he even realized his affinity for the former.

“In mid-March of my final year of high school. At the time, I was dead set on becoming a computer programmer of all things and had already been accepted to the University of Toronto to study computer science. It was also March break, and most of my friends had just left town to go on some sort of fun grad trip. I had decided earlier in the year that I would forego the trip in order to save money for home music recording equipment, which I purchased that month,” Jonah begins.

“And so there I was at home, slightly begrudging my friends off having fun in the sun, but with a week off to write and record some new songs. The question was, what about? Well, it was 2003, and at that moment, the pending Iraq War was unavoidable. Up to that point, I wasn't all that political, but I wanted to know more about what was all over television, radio, and newspapers. This process of discovery then came out in the music,” he continued.

“I later went on to study computer science for a year at the U of T not fully realizing what had been born in me that March. But it didn't take long to come out. The next year I switched to political science, and two degrees and many-a-song later, here we are.”

Jonah also noted that in addition to wanting to become a computer programmer, he had great aspirations to be Michael Jackson.

At only 31, Jonah hopes to continue making contributions to both politics and music for decades to come. He also plans to focus more on his personal life over the next few years.

“In 5 years I'd like to be married, and in 20 years I'd like to be coaching my kids' football team.”

Described by his friends as “loyal, reliable, talented, and as someone who knows who they are,” Jonah has definitely found his niche in the world. Although he admits that it’s “cheesy”, he wants to be remembered “as someone who made some kind of real contribution, however small, to making the world a little better.”

Lastly, Jonah offered up some helpful advise for those interested in pursuing either politics or music.

“I'm far from having it all figured out myself, but I will say the following. In Canadian politics, learn French (or English if you're a native French speaker). Learn both and you win. In music, zero in on your style, but be strategic about it. Figure out what is lacking in a particular genre and identify how you plan to fill the void.”

Find out more about Jonah at www.jonahkanter.com.

Or find him on social media.

Twitter

LinkedIn

SoundCloud

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