‘Music makes me happy so why would I do anything else?’: Young performers emerge from COVID and onto the stage

·3 min read

When COVID-19 struck, Niagara’s burgeoning music scene was all but wiped out. As the virus recedes, a fresh crop of rising stars is ready to burst onto the scene and onto the stage.

“Nashville North.” That’s how open mic organizer Victor Morgado describes west Niagara and its musical landscape, which has been blossoming for the past five years.

However, the “whole scene died when COVID came,” as musicians were unable to play in small venues, where they developed and showcased their talents.

But now, Morgado asserts, “live music is back with a vengeance.”

In Grimsby, Beamsville and Vineland, there are more than 10 music venues regularly hosting live music and Morgado proudly labels the area as a “hotbed for up-and-coming musicians.”

Those musical virtuosos are still in their teens, but are ready to put COVID behind them and make a name for themselves.

Below, we cast a spotlight on three young musicians and their plans for their post-COVID musical careers.

SEAN HAMAD

Sean Hamad is only 16, but has, by his reckoning, already written hundreds of songs.

During the pandemic, from his home in Grimsby, he wrote a song a day for an entire year after teaching himself how to play guitar on YouTube.

His mother, Shideh Houshmandi, said it was “music therapy” for Hamad. After a bad day at school, he went home and played music to unwind.

He doesn’t own a phone, doesn’t engage in social media. “I just play music,” he said.

“That’s my life, all I want to do is play music.” When he was younger, he didn’t know what he wanted to do when he got older, but now he’s found his true calling in music. “It makes me happy,” he said, “so why would I do anything else?”

Now, he makes money playing gigs, and regularly features in open mic nights around Niagara. He composed music for the school musical, and even has a set lined up for Happening in Grimsby this month.

BRAYDEN DOUCET

Braydan Doucette, a 19-year-old from St. Anns, knows exactly how important music is to him: “It’s the biggest thing in my life since I was two years old.”

Doucette started playing with his “pop-pop” when he was young and later enrolled in the Fun School of Music, where he was learned vocals.

He then took part in the Almost Famous music camp at Hamilton’s Studio 410, and was mentored by Brian Melo, the 2007 winner of Canadian Idol.

Now, Doucette is a regular on the post-pandemic open mic circuit in Niagara and is in the process of recording his first record at Studio 410 this summer.

Morgado is convinced Doucette is “on the verge of stardom.”

KALAM ELGERSMA

Kalam Elgersma is a 17-year-old percussionist from Grimsby, who also had his live music career put on hold during the pandemic.

He started playing drums when he was four years old, and started branching out into other percussion instruments like the vibraphone and the marimba.

Prior to COVID, Elgersma regularly played live music with his bandmates Doucette, Beau Fischer and Marcus Aiello. But those performances were put on hold, and like everyone else, they switched to Zoom, with mixed success. “It sometimes fell through due to internet connection,” he grinned.

But now, coming out of the pandemic, he and the band have a host of shows lined up, including Happening in Grimsby.

And he’s also secured a place at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, which boasts famous alumni such as Quincy Jones, John Mayer, and Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer of Aerosmith.

Elgersma plans to go into production work, and to create and record albums. He’s even trying his hand at orchestral composition.

So, if you turn on the radio in a few years time and hear these names, just remember their journey started right here in Niagara.

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News

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