A quest to find a Vernon-based singer to give her father a birthday serenade from afar has led a Vernon high school grad turned Hollywood actress to a creative idea.
Former Vernon Secondary student Dominika Juillet currently lives in Venice Beach, Calif., where she’s launched a career as an actress working alongside such stars as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jessica Alba, Mischa Barton and Charlie Sheen.
Juillet was on the set of a film in Montana when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, meaning she couldn’t travel home to Vernon for her dad’s 70th birthday due to concerns that she wouldn’t be allowed back across the border amid travel restrictions.
Juillet reached out to the Morning Star, hoping to find an artist for hire in the area who could treat her father to a song from outside his window.
Emails from a number of interested local artists poured into the Morning Star inbox, including singer-songwriter Andrew Allen.
However, as the saying roughly goes, you can give an artist a fish and feed them for a day, or you can teach them how to fish and watch them spread joy for years to come — or at least for the duration of the pandemic, which has made it both difficult for artists to secure stable work, and has by definition left many people isolated.
Instead of offering a local artist a one-time gig, Juillet created a Facebook group dedicated to folks in the Vernon area who are interested in hiring a local artist to surprise a special person on a special occasion.
“When I came up with this idea I thought, this would be an amazing business and a really good-hearted gesture of human kindness that would benefit the artists singing because they get to do what they love, and also bring smiles to these people who are isolating at home,” said Juillet, calling in from the U.S., where she’s been able to find steady work doing commercials during the pandemic.
After joining the Facebook group, artists can make a post describing what sort of music they do (opera singer, guitarist, cover band, etc.), then verify the area within which they are happy to perform. Others can then use the group to find a suitable musician (professional or amateur) to get in touch with for a gig.
Christmas has come and gone this year, but the group isn’t limited to the holiday season. Artists could be hired for birthdays, anniversaries or even just as a pick-me-up.
“I think for all of us who are artists right now, the pandemic makes you feel incredibly useless,” Juillet said. “I look at doctors and nurses and I know the arts have an important place, but it’s just very hard to feel like you’re as much of a contribution.”
The Facebook group, titled Songs From Outside: Covid carolling and outdoor serenades of Vernon and area.