New Ottawa charity sends talented 11-year-old to Junos

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New Ottawa charity sends talented 11-year-old to Junos

When Ariana Boyer was handed her free Juno tickets Friday morning, she was totally shocked — even if she didn't immediately know what they were for.

"At first, I didn't know what it was, surprisingly, since I'm so into music" said the 11-year-old Ottawa girl.

"As soon as I [found out] what it was, it was like, 'Oh my God! I'm going to the Junos. I'm going to see all these Canadian singers.'"

Boyer received a pair of tickets from Kids Up Front, an organization that's given out more than 1.5 million event tickets to children in cities across Canada during its 17 years in existence.

The tickets were the first the organization had handed out in the capital, however, and marked the launch of its Ottawa chapter.

"They thought — since I'm so interested in singing, and that's my passion, and I love my music — they thought that it would be nice if I could go," she told CBC News. "So they picked me."

Boyer began singing when she was only four years old, according to her grandmother Beatrice. For years, she was too shy to show off her voice in public — until her grandmother convinced her to perform at a fundraiser at Ottawa's Churchill Alternative School a few years ago.

"She just let it out. Everybody stopped that was there and just started looking at her, and [they] were just blown away," her grandmother said. 

Then, last summer, her mother died.

'Very difficult times'

Her mother's sudden death at the age of 30 was completely unexpected, Beatrice Boyer said. But her granddaughter's love of singing, she said, has helped her process the resulting emotional upheaval.

She even insisted upon singing at her mother's funeral.

"It has helped her through some very, very difficult times in her life. Even though she's a young girl, she's been through some very rough stuff. And it has helped her tremendously to have that," Beatrice Boyer said.

"We're grateful for the opportunities that she's been given. And this is another one that's just been amazing."

Big Weeknd fan

Now, the talented Grade 6 student at Kars on the Rideau Public High School will be in crowd Sunday evening at the Canadian Tire Centre, were artists like Drake, Alessia Cara and The Tragically Hip will vye for Canada's top music prizes.

Boyer says she'll be taking the "older sister" she's been paired with through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada for the past four years.

Despite the long list of Canadian talent nominated for Junos this year, one artist, Boyer said, stands above the rest: Toronto hip-hop star, The Weeknd.

"I love his voice. In general, his voice is very good without editing. He's very natural. He's just an amazing artist."