Could you tell me about your childhood? When and where were you born? Do you have any siblings? Is there anything about your childhood that stands out for you?
I was born and raised in the west end of Ottawa, in Kanata. I am from a family of 6, It’s a very busy household; I have 3 younger sisters i.e. There are always lots of activities happening in my house, lots of noise and most of all lots of love and a real sense of family. Not only was I surrounded by my immediate family but also by my extended family that lives in the Ottawa area. We are a very close nit family who usually finds any reason to have some sort of a family get together or celebration.
Is there any person or persons that have influenced your personal development, helped form who you are today?
My parents, they are my role models, they are my inspiration, their encouragement and the support inspires me to do my best at whatever I choose to do without the fear of failure. My parents instilled in me the value of hard work and have showed me how to be a leader. They taught me to treat people fairly and with respect, no matter their job or social status. From them, I learned the value of perseverance and to never give up. No matter what challenge is in front of me, never to wavers and continues to focus on the end goal and push forward.
How and when did you decide on pursuing music as a major part of your life?
At age seven I auditioned and won the chance to sing “O Canada” at my elementary school grand opening in Kanata. It was huge, there were a few hundred people there, including a few local TV stations. Once I stepped on that stage I knew right at that moment, that this was something I wanted to pursue. My parents were very supportive yet very cautious; they are very big on education, so they sat me down and gave me a detailed overview on the volatility of a music career, and the importance of having backup plan. They basically told me if I wanted it bad enough I had to fulfill the following obligations: learn an instrument and maintain an “A” average in school. These are rules that I still live by today.
Can you describe the milestones that have marked your musical career? Did you study music in an academic setting? Could you tell our readers about any Awards you’ve received for your music?
I’ve had some huge milestones over my music career, I’ve appeared on the Oprah Network (Gayle king Show), played all across Canada and in the USA, and have shared the stage with some amazing and well-known international musicians, and most recently performed at Canada walk of Fame gala and festival. However each and every time that I step on stage or perform in front of an audience, I view it as a major milestone. Music is my life and I’m very thankful that I have this opportunity to share my love of music with others.
Did you study music in an academic setting?
I am currently studying music in High school, however every musical instrument that I now play, was self-taught at first, some of them I later took lessons to improve on my technique.
Could you tell our readers about any awards you’ve received for your music?
I started performing at a young age, entering lots of local and international competitions. I do have several trophies and awards for song writing and singing from different competitions including, Competition Superstar, Pick the Stars and The Quebec Ontario Music festival, where I walked away with a total of 16 awards over a two period, and was awarded one of the festivals highest awards “most promising” both years. 2014 has been a very exciting year for me as well, I was selected top 6 emerging Blues artist by the Toronto Blues Society, a music mentorship prize winner in the Canada’s Walk of Fame RBC Emerging Artist Music mentorship program. A recipient of an Art child award, A Global alliance community Builder award and was featured on the cover of the July/August issue of Ottawa Women’s Magazine. Some of my other performances includes, Ottawa Blues festival, Youth day Festival Toronto , Unity Festival Toronto and Canada Walk of Fame Festival just to list a few.
What school do you attend and what grade are you in?
I go to All Saints Catholic High School in Kanata, and I’m in grade 12
How do you manage to combine a very busy music performance schedule with your school work?
I’ve been extremely lucky so far, most of my shows are on the weekends or during summertime, and when I do have to travel during the week, my teachers are very good about giving me the required school work ahead of time.
Are you dating or are you too busy to factor that into your daily life?
No, I’m not dating, I have no time for dating at the moment. Right now I’m just focus on my music and my education. Dating is not a priority in my life right now.
Outside of music, do you have any other interests or hobbies?
Well! My schedule is pretty full, I’m on 3 sports teams at my school, I’m also a part of the school’s Student music council, mental health awareness, Arts council, prom committee, Book club, concert band, jazz band and show choir. But when I do find the time, my favourite pass time is reading, I love to disappear into a good novel. I’m really into sci-fi fantasy, but lately I am starting to appreciate the beauty of sophisticated writing from classic authors, such as Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and Mary Shelly. I enjoy several other activities outside of my music and reading, my only problem is deciding what to focus on. I love to explore, learn and try many different things. Sometimes upon awake I will proclaim “today I shall prevail in-insert activity here-, and none shall stop me!” I have taken part in several activities such as sports, crystal growing, paper engineering/kirigami(making pop up books), animation, clothes design, sewing clothes, making short films, jewelry making, programming video games, spooling, and so on.
What are your plans for the future? Go into music full time as a professional or keep it as a side bar while you pursue another career option?
This is my final year of high school, so I will be going to university next September. I definitely will continue to pursue a career in music however I do have a passion for computer programming/ computer animation so I will be pursuing career in computer science as a side bar.
At your age, you act, look and sound like a seasoned professional. How do you manage to maintain this persona while still living your life as normal teenager?
It’s all about balance. I love keeping busy with my music and education but I also realizing the importance of having balance in my everyday life. Fortunately for me I’ve been blessed with an amazing family support system and like minded friends that helps to keep me grounded.
What was your biggest challenge?
I haven’t had any significant challenges in my music career thus far; things have been pretty good. I am exactly where I want to be at this point in my life. The only minor challenge is trying to manage my time during the school year. As education is my main priority, I’ve had to turn down a few major gigs during the school year.
Parents often complain that there appears to be a divide between them and their children, especially as the latter move into their adolescent and teenage years, when conflicts seem to arise frequently. Have you experienced this with your own parents? If so, how did you deal with it?
Not at all, thankfully I haven’t had to deal with any of major conflicts with my parents. Sure there’s small stuff like forgetting to do your chores or playing your music too loud but all that’s just a part of growing up. Everyone that knows me personally, knows of the close relationship I have with my parents. I think what helps to prevent that divide in my family, is ongoing communication. My parents always make sure that we sit at the dinner table every night to have dinner together, (unless we’re travelling) it’s not just about having dinner but a means for communication. It’s where we take turns talking about our day, upcoming events and crack jokes. I find this helps to facilitate and promote ongoing child /parent communication.
Listening to your music, it appears to be targeted to adults rather than people of your own age. You seem to have been more influenced by mainstream, jazz, blues, even folk music; what some may call old-time music exponents, rather than hard rock, heavy metal, hip hop and other genre that appeal to the younger generation. Do you agree with this assessment?
This assessment is somewhat correct. However, when making music I really don’t set out to target any single demographic. I do draw influences from just about every and anything. It could be from a movie I’m watching, to the way I’m feeling at that moment or sometimes when I pickup an instrument I’ll start playing and an idea will just come to me out of nowhere. I have been influenced by several genres including jazz, blues and folk but also reggae, R&B, rock, heavy metal, hip hop, etc. I am further influenced by every new thing that I hear, I also believe that jazz, blues, and folk music can be appealing to a younger demographic if given the chance. Many of my songs capture several genres that could appeal to all ages. For example, one of my songs has jazz instrumental parts, blues vocals, and a hip hop drum beat. My compositions are a mixture of all things that influence me.
Have you recorded any CD’s? How were they received? What can your many fans expect from you in 2015?
I usually perform mostly original material at my shows, however I have not release a CD as yet. I am currently working on an EP which I hope to release next year. 2015 is shaping up to be a very big year for me. In the next few months I’m hoping to have my EP completed, in January I’ll be playing the annual blues summit in Toronto, also in January I’ll be going to Memphis, Tennessee to represent the Toronto Blues Society in the International blues Challenge. February will be jam packed as well with several winter Blues and Jazz festivals.
Looking at young black people in Ottawa, what do you see as their biggest challenges? Crime, unemployment, school drop outs, racism, other? How do we overcome them?
It is hard for me to answer this one. It’s difficult to say, because the black community in Ottawa is so divers with many different ethnicities, cultural, religion and languages. I.e. I’m not sure what the biggest challenges are for each individual group within our community. However, many young people in the community does face significant challenges and multiple barriers to success on a consistent basis. Some feel that we do not have access to necessary supports system, services and opportunities in order to succeed. As a community I believe that we can collectively do more to provide the right combination of cultural-sensitive support and opportunities for our young people to succeed and overcome whatever challenges they may face.
Finally, do you have a message for readers of Black Ottawa Scene?
I would like to say a very big thank you to the readers and the community, for your continual support of me and my music over the years. I cannot express how grateful I and for your support.