MusikOttawa is a competition hosted by the Carleton University Music Department that showcases students of the singer-songwriter studies. The seven finalists each took turns performing three-song sets, or approximately 15 minutes, to a sold out crowd of proud parents, excited friends, and supportive musicians. I was honoured that Ottawa Showbox was to be a member of the panelist to select this year’s winner.
The finalists, Alex Harea, Dylan Phillips, Sarah Bradley, Kelsey Hayes, MacKenzie Di Millo, Jillian Kerr and Ty Hall, covered quite the gamut musically. There were solo acts (Phillips and Kerr) as well as full bands ranging from three-pieces to five musicians crowding the stage. They were equally diverse in style and genre, from classical guitar picking to country story telling to songs infused with jazz, ska, pop and reggae elements and more. There was something for everyone in attendance.
It was quite the challenge to pick a winner, and luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one who struggled. Many of the judges had a trouble picking a clear-cut winner. When all was said and done there were two winners for the first time. Jillian Kerr and Kelsey Hayes shared the honours and each received $400 and a full day working with Dean Watson at Gallery Recording Studio (that Dean is such a generous man). Kerr won us all over with her small town valley charm, wonderful voice and story telling lyrical content. Kerr’s song “Downtown” was one of my favourite songs of the day. Hayes wowed the crowd with her incredibly powerful voice, catchy music and very relatable yet clever lyrics. “Thursday Night” has all the elements to be heard all over the radio airwaves.
Events like OttawaMusik are amazing. You get to discover the amazing current and up and coming talent that fills this city. The other five finalist, Alex Harea (The Harea Band), Dylan Philips, Sarah Bradley (Fevers), MacKenzie Di Millo (Monday I Retire) and Ty Hall, should all hold their heads high. Each one of them received a first place vote from at least one panelist and they all played very well. I would like to give a huge shout out to Harrison Singer who played bass for three of the seven acts – that is very impressive.
Below are some of my favourite songs from the evening, that I could find. Have a listen and discover some of the great talent in Ottawa.