Our Kids Have Talent success stories continue

The Okanagan music competition is now accepting applications from musical youth ages eight to 18.

Our Kids Have Talent is gearing up for its fifth successful season.

Any musically-inclined youth ages eight to 18 are asked to get their applications in for the Okanagan-based talent contest, which is supported by the non-profit North Okanagan Music Festival Society.

“We’ve had over 500 kids enter the past five years. Many of them haven’t seen a mic before and suddenly there they are in the top 10 and it’s such as surprise to them,” said OKHT founder and organizer Kath Raeber.

“Many of our entrants have pursued careers because of OKHT.”

Some of those past finalists include Sean “Blues Puppy” Riquelme who was 14 when he won second prize at OKHT in 2011.

“That same year, Buddy Guy was playing in Kelowna and he handed-picked Sean to open for him,” said Raeber.

Other OKHT past finalists who have done well  include Vernon-based boogie-blues pianist Brandon Schmor, who played at the opening ceremonies for the 2012 B.C. Winter Games; singer-songwriter Beamer Wigley, now nine, who recently went on tour performing 10 gigs in 15 days, and opened for country star Shane Yellowbird; and 2010 winners Sam and Luke, who recorded an album in Nashville with Colin Linden.

And the stories continue as Vernon’s Matt Harwood-Jones, who placed in the top 10 in 2010, recently saw his drumming cover of Gangham Style go viral on YouTube.

“Another one of our finalists, Nikita Afonzo of Penticton, was invited on stage to sing with Keith Urban. He saw her in the audience, asked her to come up and gave her the mic, and he sang harmony with her,” said Raeber.

This year, the Bourbon Street Bar and Grill in the Prestige Hotel has sponsored to hold the OKHT finals on March 9.

“There will be cash and prizes, swag bags, recording opportunities, and we’re looking at a scholarship at this point as well as any other contributions from any generous businesses out there,” said Raeber.

All entrants will also have the opportunity to perform at Lavington’s Back to Earth Community Harvest Festival as well as Vernon’s YAA Fest and Sunshine Festival and the Summerland Action Festival.

“We get them gigs throughout the year and not just kids who win,” said Raeber.

Auditions for OKHT take place on Feb. 23 and 24 at St. James School hall in Vernon. Applications are now online and can be accessed at ourkidshavetalent.com.

“As applications are already coming in, we are looking forward to another successful and self-esteem building event for our musical youth for 2013,” said Raeber.