Welcome to the VIP Ignite podcast.

I’m your host Deneen White! 

Today, I am so excited to introduce you to Candyce Raiford. 

She is a musical prodigy and I cannot wait for you to hear her story.

Hi Candyce, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today!

Candyce: Hi Deneen! Thanks for having me.

Deneen: Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to have you.

I tell everyone at the very beginning of the podcast that this is probably going to be the fastest 30 minutes of your whole entire day.

So can we start by you telling my audience a little bit about yourself?

Candyce: Yes! My name is Candyce Raiford…

  • I live in San Diego, California…
  • I’m 29 years old…
  • I’ve got two kids…
  • I play music…
  • I compose music, I engineer music, produce it…

Anything sound related, I do it!


Deneen: That’s awesome.

How did you first get interested in music, Candyce?

Candyce: I started playing when I was about two years old.

It just came to me naturally, really.

Deneen: Awesome.

What is it about music that lights up your soul?

Candyce: I don’t know–I feel like whenever I get the urge to play, it’s as if I’m connecting to God in a sense.

I’m not trying to sound all religious or anything, but it’s just a way that I speak and communicate with others.

Maybe they get a feel for what’s on my mind, or how I’m feeling.

Deneen: That’s awesome. I love that.

I feel like music is a universal language that anyone can understand.

Not everyone can speak it, but everyone can understand it, if that makes any sense.

Candyce: Definitely.

Deneen: So you’ve been playing music since you were a young child?

Can you walk us through your musical journey?

Candyce: My mom actually told me that she saw my interest in music before I was even one.

I was rocking back and forth to a song called Ice Ice Baby.

It’s funny because I still rock heavy with that song today.

So shout out, Vanilla Ice!

When I was two, I received my first pink xylophone with little penguins on it, and I’d just tinker away.

I learned the Wheel of Fortune theme song, and after that it was the Jeopardy theme song.

I’ve played around on little pretend instruments, and my mom got me my first little keyboard at seven.

I started learning those songs and then I actually taught myself how to play piano with lights.

As time went on I saw a viola and actually thought it was a violin; I picked that up, and started learning that.

Then I wanted to learn how to play the bass because we were playing Grease Summer Nights, and we needed a bass player.

But the orchestra teacher didn’t think that I could teach myself how to play bass.

Fun fact, I actually learned how to play left handed!

After that I just decided I’m done with the bass.

And I’m done with the violin.

I’ll pick up the cello because it’s the same, right?


Throughout the years, I guess I was able to teach myself clarinet.

And in sophomore year of high school I decided I wanted to be in band.

The band teacher probably didn’t have much help for me, so I sat in the last chair, and gave it a couple of months.

Within those couple of months I challenged for first chair and won.

I held first chair for that ensemble as well as the middle ensemble, all the way through senior year.

So I did that!

Then I learned the sax, and I played with Jeff Coffin in a high school concert.

I was in the community orchestra throughout this time, just doing things for the community.

I got to premiere my first concerto when I was maybe 13 or 14, I believe.

All this time I’m still practicing, still doing all this.

Then I knew I wanted better for myself where I lived.

I took an audition for the Marine band, and I got it.

I had people tell me that I wouldn’t be able to make it, but I made it!

I don’t really know what else to say because I’m constantly growing as a musician, just picking up instruments, songs, and projects.

Deneen: That’s awesome, Candyce!

For something that you said, I need clarification: You said you learned how to play piano by light.

Can you explain this to me?

Candyce: *Laughs* 


So my grandmother gave me one of her keyboards and when you push the keys, they light up.

Every key lights up, and there is a mode on this keyboard where you can actually teach yourself how to play the songs on that piano or the keyboard by where the lights are going.

You learn one hand, and then you learn the other hand.

Then there was a mode where you can even do two hands, and you can’t move on until you get the light patterns right.

The first song that I ever learned on piano by lights was Rondo a la Turka, by Mozart; otherwise known as the Turkish March.

You can ask my mom, and she will tell you that song gets on her nerves to this day.

Deneen: Because you played it so many times.

Candyce: Yeah!



Deneen: I love that you’re sharing your story, and your passion for music is palpable through the airways.

It’s awesome to hear that passion.

The one thing you said that really struck me, Candyce, is that you’re always learning and always growing.

You’re always picking up new instruments and always learning.

I think people are beginning to understand that more, the importance of always learning and growing.

What is an instrument that you’re tinkering with right now, that you’re working on?

Candyce: Actually, I’m bettering my piano skills right now because I’ve always learned to play by ear.

Now I’m actually sitting down and delving into the music that I have.

Right now I’m studying Beethoven.

I’ve got his book of sonatas, and I’m learning the 14th Sonata in C sharp minor.

I’m actually learning how to play that with the proper finger placements.

I guess you could say, I’m just learning how I actually should have been taught before.

I’m teaching myself for real.

Deneen: That’s awesome! *Laughs*

I’m going to ask you a question that may seem silly to you because you’re a musician, but how did you learn how to read music?

Candyce: I started learning how to read music in sixth grade.

Once I chose my instrument, that’s when I started learning how to actually read the notes, keys, and timing.

It was actually through an essential elements book.

It teaches you everything that you need to know, and all the notes are written out in a kid version that makes it easy for kids to understand.

Deneen: That’s awesome!

I talk to a lot of aspiring musicians and it’s amazing to me how many people don’t know how to read music.

Personally, I was in a band growing up, in the choir.

Reading music was one of the things they taught us right at the beginning.

I had to learn how to read the music before I could do anything.

It always astounds me when people who don’t know how to read music say they’re a musician.

I’m like, “Oh, okay. That’s interesting.”

It seems like it should be a basic thing – for example, if you want to be a writer, you have to know how to read and write.

Anyway, that’s my little musical interlude there!

Here’s a question for you: what are your goals with music for yourself and for your family?

Candyce: Well, a long term goal is I want to make history as the first female African American film score composer.

Because I’ve been doing research and, unless someone can point me in the right direction, I have not seen any African American ladies who write for film in the industry.

We all know Hans Zimmer and Mark Mancina and everyone else, but we don’t hear of any women, let alone African American women, in particular.

So that’s one major goal that I really want to reach.


Deneen: That’s fantastic! So Candyce, how does someone like yourself find out about VIP ignite?

Candyce: I found out through Instagram!

When I saw Alicia Kaback and I clicked on more info I started getting a bunch of emails and thought, “Oh my goodness, this is spam.”

I even said that on one of the webinars.

I said, “I thought this was spam! I’m so glad that you’re real!”

And she said, “No, I’m not spam.”

It just went from there.

Deneen: *Laughs* That’s awesome.

You’ve been with our company for a couple of weeks now, and I’m sure you’ve done research on other companies and organizations, since I know you’re a researcher.

What is it about VIP Ignite that made you think, “You know what, this is something I have to pursue!”

Candyce: Definitely the coaching.

You guys are in touch with tangible people in the industry.

You’re not just claiming to be able to get people to the next step, you actually have legitimate resources on hand for anyone who’s willing to take that step.

So I’m excited for the coaching and the mentorship.

I’m excited for someone to say, “Hey, you need to be doing your passion this way,” or “You need to read this.”

Or tips like “Maybe you should not wear your hair like that.”

Just someone who can point me along the right direction.

I feel VIP Ignite has those credible resources.

Deneen: I love how that flows along with everything you said.

The way that you approach music, that’s the way that you approach your career as well.

You want to be mentored, you want to be coached, and you’re someone who can take direction.

So if you’ve met with an industry professional and they said, “Candyce, now this is awesome, but maybe you could tweak this or that,” you’d be more than happy to tweak this or that.

You wouldn’t be someone who would fight back and say, “No, no, no, that’s not the way I’ve done that.”

Obviously if it works, you’d say, “Oh, okay, thank you so much for your advice.”

So I heard that you’re very coachable and that you’re excited we provide the opportunity for you to be coached, which is fantastic.

I know that you’re going to our June event in Los Angeles–what are you most excited about for the event?


Candyce: Honestly, I’m most excited about getting to perform.

I know at some point we’re all going to be showcasing something that we’ve been working on.

We’re not just going to go and sit, listen, and hand out headshots.

I’m excited to perform and bring to the table things that I’ve been working on.

This way the guests and speakers know that I’m serious.

I’m not just there to say, “Oh my gosh, I met this person.”

No, I’m there because I know that I have a purpose, and I know that my talent is going to start changing my life as well as other people’s lives.

That’s what I’m excited for.

Deneen: That’s awesome.

You said “changing other people’s lives”–is there a specific group of people that you are hoping to influence through your career?

The reason I ask this question is one of the biggest indicators of success that I’ve found over interviewing well over 250 people on this podcast is that the people who have the biggest “why” or the biggest reason behind what they’re doing (besides wanting fame and fortune), are the ones that are the most successful.

So, who do you want to influence?

Why are you doing this?

Candyce: Well, there’s three parts to this question, so there are three answers.

One is I grew up as an at risk youth born into the foster care system, and then aged out of the foster care system.

If you think of a delinquent child, I fit a lot of those descriptions.

Just because I was talented, does not mean that I did not have struggles, because I struggled.

I don’t know how I graduated high school, but I did.

One thing that I want to do is become an example for children who grew up in hard times.

Children with absent parents, who are neglected or abused, all of those intense scenarios.

Especially for kids that look like me with brown skin, I want to be that beacon of light and let them know that just because you like classical music, it doesn’t matter what you like.

If you stick to your dreams, regardless of what you’re going through, you can make it out. 

I want to show them that I made it out, and I’m still making it out, so that they can do it too.

Another thing is, I want to get to a point where I can give back to the people that were there for me because I was a bit of a hard child to manage in schools.

I want to give back to the teachers because they don’t realize that they do save kids’ lives–they saved mine.

Then thirdly, I want to go back and clear my mom’s records.

She was a child, literally 12 years old when she had me.

She turned 13 a month after I was born.

So you could imagine what kind of examples I may have seen as she was growing up a kid while raising a kid, so she was never given a fair chance, in my opinion.

I want to go back and with whatever money I have left over or saved up, and get her record cleared because she never had that chance.

No one ever sat down with her, even though she was out in the streets.

It doesn’t matter.

Someone should have pulled her away and mentored her and gave her things that she needed to be a better person.

She’s had to do everything on her own.

Those are my three most important answers.

I have two kids, so everyone knows that with the job comes the money for taking care of the children.

But that’s a given.

Other than my kids, those are my three main points.

Deneen: It sounds like you were put on this earth to be a world changer. 

Not just someone who creates music, but someone who’s meant to change the world.

Again, I’ve interviewed about 250 people on this podcast, and that is definitely one of the biggest and wisest dreams that I’ve ever heard.

So wow.

Anyone who’s listening, maybe you are someone who is dabbling in the entertainment industry, and you just want to be famous or make people laugh, I want you to rewind the podcast and listen to Candyce.


Because that is the definition of someone who has a reason to be successful and to push through when things get difficult.

I very rarely get rendered speechless on the podcast anymore, Candyce.

But I think you’ve just rendered me as close to speechless as I’ve been in a long time.

Thank you for being so detailed about your why.

I know that there are so many children out there who need someone like you to be an advocate, someone like you to be someone that they can look up to.

The reality is, the entertainment industry is awesome and there are so many fantastic people in the entertainment industry.

But everybody needs someone that they can look up to.

I was excited for you to be successful before, but now I’m even more excited because you’re trying to speak for people who don’t have a voice, including your own mom.

That’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

Candyce: Wow! Thank you so much.

Deneen: You’re welcome.

So are you ready for the trick question on the podcast?

Candyce: Sure? *Laughs*


Deneen*Laughs* You’re thinking, if there’s a trick question, does that mean there’s a trickier one?

One day, when you hit that pinnacle of success, there are going to be people who want to interview you for magazines.

If you could hand pick any magazine to be interviewed for, what magazine would you want to be featured on and why?

Candyce: Oh man, you guys are going to hate me for this because I don’t really read magazines.

You know, if anything, I’d love to be featured on The Game Informer. 

I love video games, and I want to be interviewed for video games because I have a unique way of creating sound design and soundscapes.

I feel that when people start catching onto what I can actually do, they’re gonna want to see and know what my tricks and tips are.

Because we all have our own ways of making sound effects, and it’s not just going through audible.

Deneen: That’s so true.

It’s awesome–by day you’re practicing Mozart, and by night you’re making soundtracks for video games. 

How cool is that?

Talk about multifaceted. *Laughs* 

So as you know, the audience for the podcast are primarily people trying to get into the entertainment industry.

For those who are aspiring musicians looking how to improve their craft, what tips would you give them, Candyce?

Candyce: One is to always learn, and always reach out. 

Even if you feel that your idols or people you look up in the industry are busy, don’t hesitate to send them a message.

Ask them if they have a chance to check your work for feedback.

Another thing is to read books.

You can always find knowledge from “the greats” from books.

Another thing is don’t give up.

You’re going to get a lot of no’s.

People are going to look at you like you’re crazy.

People will probably tell you that you need to get a real job and a real life, but don’t ever give up on your passions because the moment you believe you cannot get anywhere, that’s when you can’t succeed.

If you keep pushing and growing, progress is going to happen and you’ll say, “Whoa, look at me. I’m succeeding!”

I say, keep pushing forward, regardless of what you’re going through.

Always find a way.

If you can’t find a way, if you can’t find something positive out of a negative situation, then you probably are not really that good anyway, if you ask me.


Deneen*Laughs* And there was our lunch comment on the podcast.

It’s very true.

Not only do I think that giving up is an indicator that you’re not that good, but it’s also an indicator that you’re not that dedicated.

The thing about whether you’re a musician, an actor, or a model, is you have to love the craft.

You have to love all of the parts of the journey that lead you to wherever you’re going.

If you get to a point where you get into that negative head space where you just can’t find anything positive about it, then it’s an indicator that maybe this isn’t for you.

It may be you’re not talented, but maybe this isn’t for you.

Maybe you need to find something else.

I had Robert Galinsky on the podcast about two or three weeks ago.

And at one point he said, if you have a plan B, just go to plan B because you really don’t have a plan A.

If you’re thinking, “I’m going to try this music thing, then something doesn’t work, so I’m just going to be an accountant…

Then just cut out the middleman and go be an accountant.”

You have to be so dedicated to your craft and love your craft so much that on the plan A bad days, you still believe you’re living a better and happier life than you would be on a good day of your plan B.

Candyce: Exactly! I can attest that I’ve always been focused on my plan A.

When I was five I wanted to be a concert pianist.

Then that changed over the years.

But now that I look back, I’ve always stayed on that path.


I even said, “Oh, I’m going to go to college and get a degree.”

Well, guess what?

My school shut down a few months before I was supposed to get a degree, but now I’m here with you guys.

I look at it as, I don’t have a plan B because my plan A is always changing, but it’s keeping me on that same path and is actually putting me where I need to be.

Deneen: There’s this saying that we have at VIP Ignite from a book by Ryan Holiday.

The saying is, “the obstacle is the way,” and that’s exactly what you just exemplified.

One of your dreams was to get a degree in music, then your school shut down, and now here you are.

Instead of throwing in the towel when your school shut down and just saying, “I guess it’s accounting is for me.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with accountants, anyone.

I’m not insulting accountants. *Laughs*

But, instead of thinking, “Nope, this isn’t for me. I’m going to go get a job.”

I’m going to go be an accountant.

I’m going to go work at Target or something like that.

You instead think, “If this isn’t the way, then there’s another way.”

I love that you exemplify that.

Obviously, you’ve overcome a lot of obstacles growing up, and while most who had the same obstacles would have just thrown in the towel or whatever, you’re instead using those obstacles as a place of strength.

Your obstacles of being in the foster care system and turning that into the reason you want to help other people in the foster care system is just one of those examples.

With every obstacle, you believe there’s always another opportunity.

I love your resilience, Candyce, because again, that’s an indicator of success.

I feel so honored that I had the opportunity to interview you on the podcast now, and I can’t wait to interview you in a year and in two years and in five years, just so that we can all see how far you’ve come.

You’ve come so far already, but podcasts like this really excite me because we get to see that progress.

Candyce: Awesome. I can’t wait to give you updates!

Usually whenever I get excited, I get really motivated.

I start sharing only with those that I’m close with and with people I’m excited about being around, so I can’t wait to show you guys what I’m really about.

Everyone can talk big, but once people see and hear what I can do, they’re going to think, “Whoa, where have you been?”

Deneen: Well watch out VIP Ignite podcast listeners, because the best is yet to come!

Candyce: *Laughs* Yeah!

Deneen: Look, Candyce, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast.

Your story has truly inspired me, again, in a way that I haven’t been inspired in a long time.

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Thank you for giving me your time this afternoon and I literally can’t wait to hang out with you in LA.

I can’t believe we have to wait that long, but I can’t wait to actually have the opportunity to sit down and meet you and hear you in person, and to see what you can do.

Candyce: Thanks for having me. I can’t wait either.

Deneen: Have a fantastic rest of your day, Candyce.

Deneen: I’d like to thank everyone so much for taking the time to listen to the VIP Ignite podcast.

If you enjoyed my conversation with Candyce, please make sure you hit subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or anywhere the podcast can be found, because I do have a lot of amazing guests lined up for the next couple of weeks.

If you are interested in learning how to network with industry professionals at a live interactive experience, please visit our website @ammsociety.com where you can get registered for our next live webinar and get qualified for one of our upcoming events.

Thank you so much and have a great day!