Free studio time, cash and the chance to perform on a big stage are all up for grabs for teen musical acts in Canada.
Canada’s Teen Jam is a new contest underway to introduce up and coming musical acts to Canada’s music scene. To enter, contestants must enter a video of them performing music. It could be a cover or an original, in any genre. The musicians must be between the ages of 13 to 19 at the time of entering the contest. The contest is open to solo acts or bands of any genre.
Mark Higgins, a music festival producer, founded the contest this year.
“This program is not only going to make the teens feel happy, it’s going to give the audience something new to look forward to a year and a half from now when they start seeing all these new bands popping up in festivals and supporting roles, and eventually becoming headliners,” he said.
Higgins believes the music scene in Canada badly needs fresh musicians.
“I wish I would have thought of it before, but I didn’t. So it’s here now and it’s here to stay and it’s going to grow and grow and we’re going to get a lot of great musical stars come out of this program.”
Canada’s Teen Jam will provide a $1,000 cash prize for the winning band, and $500 for the winning solo artist. Plus, the winners will receive free studio time, and a spot to perform at the Wayback Festival in Kitchener.
The contest is open to all teens in Canada, said Higgins.
“It is absolutely important that the teens are the group that are the next generation superstars, and we’ve got tons of support for hockey, and football all these programs and arenas and places for young teens to go and become themselves – foster confidence all that – but there’s nothing for musical teens,” he said.
“Every little community that’s been neglected has a few real hidden gems. This is an exploratory process, but we want them and they don’t have to be afraid,” he said.
The contest opened last month and continues until July 15, the week before the Wayback Festival. That said, Higgins suggests contestants enter earlier rather than later.
Among those who’ve entered the fray is a 19-year-old rock artist who performs under the name Avalon Stone, though her actual name is Avalon Bridger.
Stone has been performing since she was 10 when she joined the School of Rock. She formed her first band when she was 12 or 13, she said.
She entered the contest with a video of her performing a live performance video with three originals and three cover songs.
“I thought it was a great opportunity. I love things that support young musicians,” she said. Stone is pursuing her music full time.
The band Full Throttle, comprised of Max McGill, Evan Levite and Kaelin Chase in Grades 11 and 12, entered the contest as well.
They named their band Full Throttle because McGill is also a dirtbiker.
“I ride motocross, and full throttle is like a big term in those parts,” said McGill. “Going fast, going hard and we like our band motto to be kind of very energetic, 100 per cent all the time. So we thought we’d go with full throttle as our name.”
They decided to apply to the contest when they heard about it through McGills’s dad, who saw it online.
They agree performing in and promoting their band is work, but work they enjoy.
“[For] people who create things. It’s almost fulfilling when you know, you start with an idea and then you bring it into band practice and we build the song and then we go play that song and people are singing it. And then we go record it and you hear it with all the production stuff. And it’s just rewarding. It’s just what we love to do,” said Chase.
Higgins says he’s already received a good number of contestants, and he’s impressed with the talent and variety so far.
When going through contestants, Higgins said he’s looking for the feel of the performance.
“You can’t fake music. You can’t. You either have that feel, or you don’t. So the other thing I say a lot is ‘excellence does not require perfection.’”
The Wayback Festival comes to Kitchener July 22 from 1-3 p.m. for Canada’s Teen Jam and 6-11 p.m. for Kim Mitchell and Sass Jordan at Carl Zehr Square in front of Kitchener City Hall.
Full Throttle’s advice to anyone who might be thinking of entering the contest?
“Just keep going, follow your dreams. Do what makes you happy. You know, we love being a part of this Canada’s Teen Jam, because it lets other teens know that you can do it. If you want to pursue music, go for it, go all in and don’t feel like you have to hide that,” said McGill.
“My advice is to go for it,” said Stone. “Just try and explore all of the avenues that you can and get yourself out there and just really experience all of what live music has to offer.”