Ava Carich says she is both “exhausted and thrilled” after being named winner of the Roadhouse Live Youth Talent Search for 2016.
The latest results were made public shortly after the final concert in the Roadhouse contest last Sunday at Blue Frog Studios.
It’s been a year of vindication so far for the 17-year-old South Surrey singer, who finished in third place in the 2015 Roadhouse competition, just a narrow span of points behind winner Josh Bogert and second place finisher Richard Tichelman.
In February, the Elgin Park Grade 12 student also took first place in the solo artist category of the Peninsula Arts Foundation’s Peninsula’s Got Talent contest.
In addition to prizes such as gift certificates for equipment from Long & McQuade, Carich will also receive studio time and career development sessions and an opportunity to be showcased at the city’s Canada Day and Sea Festival celebrations.
A further sign that Carich’s star is in the ascendent is the fact that she – like Tichelman – has already been signed for one of the TD Concerts at the Pier showcases this year (she will appear Aug. 6 in a lineup that includes CBC Music Searchlight winner Desiree Dawson, Jordan Klassen and Dustin Bentall & The Smokes).
But there is no denying that the Roadhouse win is a major feather in her cap.
“This is my fourth year of competing (in the Talent Search) and it’s been great being able to evolve and grow up and experience the influence it has had on me,” she said.
“I’m also really proud of the way everyone else has performed and grown.”
Carich dedicated one of the songs she sang at the final, Wicked Game, to one of the contest’s most energetic supporters, late Roadhouse owner Dwayne Jacobsen, who succumbed to cancer in February.
“It was also my way of thanking his family for continuing the competition,” she said.
Second place went to Semiahmoo Secondary student Mireille Perez, 14, a singer/multi-instrumentalist who plays flute in the Grade 9 stage band, electric and upright acoustic bass in the Grade 9 jazz band and also sings anthems for the senior boys’ basketball teams home games. Third place winner was Neliah Jillings, 13, another keen competitor in the contest circuit, who first made her mark at age 10 by qualifying for the finals of the Valley Voices before going on to be a finalist in the BC Talent Search and finishing second in the Vancouver Voice competition last year. .
“They were really amazing,” Carich said of both competitors.
“They really poured their soul into their performances and I was glad to see them place – I only wish there was a spot for everyone.”
Among a strong field of finalists who also performed for judges Dennis Pook, Heidi McCurdy and Deanna Wegenkitti-Baker were singers/instrumentalists Groleau Brothers (pianist Cameron, 12 and guitarist Logan, 10); International Softball Championship anthem singer Cassidy Poulton (19); guitarist Caleb Jankola (16); and singers Serena Manhao (15); Catherine Wade (13); McKayla Carse (11) and Hannah Poulton (18).
The 2014 winner Curtis Heimburger, who leads the rising Peninsula-based band Switch To Black, returned as opening act for the contest finale.
After graduation this year, Carich plans to do online classes with Berklee College of Music, while continuing to hone her performance skills locally and put together a first professional recording – and maybe even pursue some acting work.
As someone of First Nations heritage – she is Coast Salish on her father’s side – she’s also been proud to participate in aboriginal events in the community, including this year’s Pow Wow at Earl Marriott Secondary.
Carich said she knows she has been very fortunate this year – particularly after having to nurse her voice back to full vigor after a tonsillectomy last year.
But she’s also giving herself some credit for her hard work to reach this point.
“I’m actually really proud of myself and my ability to grow and work,” she said.
And there’s abundant evidence of her growing confidence as a performer. Although she is a careful songwriter who doesn’t usually rush to share new pieces before they’re ready, she actually debuted a brand new song, Dance With Me, at the final.
“For some reason my rule did not apply – I was writing the lyrics two hours before I went on stage,” she said.
“I was a bit nervous about that, but I think I managed to pull it off,” she added.