Whistler Music Search returns with 12 more hopefuls 

Bands and solo acts fill Crystal Lounge with song and sound in annual competition

click to enlarge PHOTOS SUBMITTED - Up this week Whistler Music Search 2017 performers (from top to bottom) Vendulka Wichta, Cherry Continuum and Ryan C. Sawka. Also playing is Connor M.Z. Johnston.
  • PHOTOs submitted
  • Up this week Whistler Music Search 2017 performers (from top to bottom) Vendulka Wichta, Cherry Continuum and Ryan C. Sawka. Also playing is Connor M.Z. Johnston.

For eight years, the Whistler Music Search at the Crystal Lounge has been an annual showcase of Sea-to-Sky bands and solo acts.

What's more, it has changed lives, either by encouraging new performers to come forward into the light, or by convincing more seasoned musicians to take a risk, quit the day job and play full time.

But there are changes afoot this year, with longtime host Jon Shrier stepping down after four years and previous music-search winner Rachel Lewis picking up the microphone. Lewis was also a judge in a previous year.

"This is my third involvement in the competition. It has all been a fun experience," she says.

Winning it the competition "six or seven years ago" enhanced her musical career.

"I moved here 10 years ago and I was already playing music in town for a few years, singing backup in Kostaman's reggae band. When I was 19, I started playing on my own," Lewis says.

"I had been performing in competitions since I was eight and jumped on any opportunity to get in one. And I wanted to be better known in the community and win the title."

The prizes for 2017's crop of talent include playing shows at the Crystal Lounge, $1,000, and a photo shoot with Lewis's photography company.

She adds the fact that the musicians create a set's worth of material helps them grow as musicians.

"If you are starting out, this is a great place to get your name out and get stage experience. The people with more material and stage experience will likely go further in the competition," she says.

Whistler Music Search is held over four consecutive Thursdays in October. Week 1 takes place on Oct. 5, week 2 on Oct. 12, and week 3 on Oct. 19.

The final, which will be made up of winners and wildcards from the previous weeks' rounds, takes place on Oct. 26.

The performances start each night at 9 p.m. Admission is free for the first three weeks, $5 for the final.

The judges this year include Jason Chaulk of Bunker 7 Productions studio in Pemberton, Whistler musician and DJ, Lozen, professional skier Austin Ross, and Whistler Question editor Alyssa Noel.

Week 1 competitors:

• Cherry Continuum is a Squamish-based trio that plays progressive-jazz, with Connor Gray on guitar, Orissa Miller on bass, and Connor M.Z. Johnston on drums. The band's influences include the Alex Skolnick Trio and Nubiyan Twist.

• Singer-songwriter Nick Bird comes from a small town on the northwest coast of Tasmania. His influences include Dallas Green, Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffett.

• Ryan C. Sawka is a B.C. singer-songwriter whose alt-rock style is inspired by Gord Downie and Eddie Vedder.

• Singer-songwriter Vendulka Wichita joins the 2017 competition, after writing a new album.

Week 2's competitors are Paddy Fraine, Georgina Dacheff, Chris Drummond and Julian Price.

Week 3 sees Marcus Ramsey, Erik Van Meerbergen, Caitrin Madden and Chris Chayko hitting the stage.

Lewis says that there are quite a few performers this year from overseas.

"We were joking that we could change the name and call it 'Australia's Got Talent! They are very welcome," she says.

Shrier is sorry to miss this year's music search.

"There is always such a good blend, and I tried to be there for them and coordinate the night. The artists apply to take part in droves and they end up being turned away. That is incredible," he says.

"Every year got better. Those who take it seriously show up early, dress the part and do the work. The talent was always special — whether it was the winner or just someone standing up for the first time. You don't have to win to feel that joy.

"I saw some really choice performances and I'm really grateful."

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