Submitted by Marc Cohen, Event Master Of Ceremonies
I have had a great many opportunities in my life, each rewarding! Measurably, Stellulafest 2012, presented by Stellula Music in Schools on Thursday May 17th, ranks among the top. An incredible youth event that was effervesced with mentorship and wisdom of life changing proportion and design. I was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. Backstage, witnessing the remarkable interaction between each of the 14 rural youth contestants, I was in awe.
The event, The Electric Guitar Challenge, judged by some of Canada’s finest industry leaders, was a unique opportunity for rural youth to compete for the title, Canada’s Best Rural Youth Electric Guitar Artist. And they did, surpassing any and all expectations; each young musician a winner in their own right! You see, many of these rural youth don’t often have an opportunity such as this, free of charge; fully appreciated; attracting youth from as far north as North Bay, Owen Sound, Midland, Penetanguishine, Orillia, Angus,Walkerton, Coldwater, Oro, Barrie and points between.
The event began earlier in the day. Gathering at Georgian College in the Gryphon Theatre, more than 200 rural youth from across central and northern Ontario were mentored by industry leaders like Toney “Wild T” Springer of David Bowie fame, the Canadian Singer Songwriter Justin Saladino, who traveled from Montreal, Singer Songwriter, Jacob Moon, the brilliant fiddler, Aaron Solomon, electric guitarist Donna Grantis from Toronto and Eugene Rae, one of Canada’s leading producers and mandolin artists.The mentors spoke and played and the youth watched, captivated, soaking up the knowledge and wisdom being shared.
The day flew by as the anticipation mounted for the evening’s competition. The challenge that would crown a title, but change each of the lives involved. Mine was one of them! Backstage, as the excitement mounted for the competition, the encouragement being shared between each contestant was incredible! Each helping the other to tune guitars, sharing tips and well wishes only illustrated the overwhelming impact such a competition has on our youth.
The guiding light behind the scenes, Deb Brown, Founder and President of Stellula Music In Schools. Since its inception as a non profit in 2008, Stellula has been mentoring rural Ontario youth. Bringing world class, elite musicians into the community to mentor young developing youth musicians, donating musical instruments, sound equipment and the opportunity to express themselves in ways often only dreamed of and imagined. Deb was the lead backstage, organizing each contestant, with her ultimate goal of impacting the lives of each. Her dedication far surpasses just the music, allowing the youth to develop and showcase their art and talent.
You could see it, hear it, feel it as they interacted with each other. Each contestant filed in with precision to perform on stage in front of the filled theatre and the judges; One after the other, like pros, displaying their incredible fluidness with the electric guitar, proud to be a part of something so big. The excitement mounted as they judges deliberated, to choose the three top finalists. When I had the honor to announce them, each congratulated the other. The three then had the opportunity to play a piece of their choice. Again, the judges deliberated. Before the announcement, the contestants and the audience had an opportunity to see the exquisite talents of Justin Saladino, Jacob Moon and Aaron Solomon perform. Again, flowing from their hearts into our youth, style, technique and accomplishment went the extra mile. The youth in the audience sat captivated, watching, learning, and eager to apply this great knowledge to their own art.
After the artists’ sets, the winner was announced. Third place, Darren McGill of Elmville, Ontario; Second place, Dustin Legault of Angus, Ontario; And First Place, Jayden Grahlman of Owen Sound, Ontario. The first prize cache, a Brian May Electric Signature Guitar, a Amp courtesy of St, John’s Music in Toronto, Studio Time at Rae Studio in Waubaushene, Ontario and a mentorship with a electric guitar instructor. Toney “Wild T” Springer summed the evening up best on his facebook page after the event, “I had a blaaaasssst wit guitar wiz kidz yesterday. i gonna be honest, i ain't no Judge Judy as much as i luv her... every1 is a winner... every1 rocked.... peace, T!” Each of the young musicians have taken with them great knowledge, new friendships, new levels in the art of music and incredible industry contacts. They themselves, each, have the capacity of touching a great many more lives as they move forward with their talent. Stellulafest achieved its goal of enriching the lives of each of the rural youth that participated. This is only the beginning! I cannot wait for Stellulafest 2013! Spread the word! Submissions begin January 2013!
Barrie Examiner Article