Dede Kelly has a lot for which to thank her Richview Collegiate Institute classmates.
They encouraged the Grade 10 student to enter the first ever Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Idol Challenge and when they felt she was not listening to them, they took it upon themselves to sign her up.
Last week, Kelly emerged runner-up in the inaugural competition at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.
“It’s sort of funny, but I did not even want to be in it,” she said.
Kelly, who attends Redemption Faith Ministries, is now glad she did. She also proved that she could raise her game at crunch time.
“I was surprised that I made it this far because I didn’t think I sang up to my full potential in the semi-finals,” she said. “But I am a very confident person and I enjoy challenges…I have several family members who sing well so I am following in that tradition. It’s a family thing.”
Kelly was one of 12 finalists in the competition that began last November with school-based competitions to select their Idols who advanced to last month’s regional finals. A total of 27 schools participated in the competition.
Talene Francis-Prettie of Malvern Collegiate Institute and Kristianne Ramos of Don Mills Collegiate Institute were the winner and second runner-up respectively.
With the support and expertise of Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex, the TDSB launched the initiative last November to provide students with the opportunity to take part in a singing competition and explore careers in a range of sectors, including business and marketing, fashion and image design and technology/multimedia through the music industry.
“I am absolutely amazed by all the talent we have seen,” said TDSB Director of Education Dr. Chris Spence who conceived the idea for the Idol Challenge. “Like everyone else, I watch the TV shows like American and Canadian Idol and I wanted to do a little spin off from that for our board. The response was so fantastic that we will try to grow it and see where it goes. I think it’s going to be an annual affair.”
Toronto School Administrators Association chair Luther Brown said the Idol Challenge presented students with a platform to showcase their artistic abilities.
“It says to them we value your talent and we want you to show it off,” said Brown who is also a radio host. “It allows the kids to believe that their talent is respected in a different way.”
Weston Collegiate Institute principal Deborah Blair and some of her teachers accompanied 48 students to support Vincentian-born Grade 12 student Gabridone Neverson who migrated to Canada just three years ago.
“She’s a student that we have been able to recapture through this event,” said Blair. “Gaby was not doing too well in school prior to the contest. Now, when I see her in the hallway, she has something positive to talk about and it’s something we could celebrate with her.”
Jarvis Collegiate teacher Kirk Moss said the competition helped lift the spirit and self-esteem of students.
“Their sense of belonging and worth in the school environment was elevated,” he said. “But more importantly, it has given them the belief in themselves to expand upon their artistic skills and possibly pursue them as a career.”
The judges were Flex, record company executive Zack Warner, artist manager Jake Gold and music journalist Karen Bliss.